The Healthy Homeschool Marriage Part 4: Agree To Be United!

MarriageBlogHop

To read the other posts in this series click here.

No one has to tell you that homeschooling is different from the mainstream.  While it is still becoming ever more popular year by year, to homeschool still means you and your family are taking the road less traveled.  I’ve heard it often said that homeschooling is a lifestyle and every year that my children grow I think I understand that statement more and more.

To make a homeschool marriage work I believe both parents need to embrace all the wonderful and the ugly that comes with being a homeschool family and cling to each other tightly to ride the wave.  

United

Be United Against The Naysayers

You WILL hit naysayers and these people can wreck havoc on the homeschool mom’s self-confidence.  While I don’t believe a family should keep a constant guard up in case of attack, a wary eye can do wonders.  I once found myself at a family party where  I had somehow managed to get trapped, literally, in the corner blocked in by tables chairs and people.  A family member who I truly barely knew, hadn’t seen in forever, and only ever saw very infrequently decided this was the time to question my family’s choices.  This lady artfully picked apart everything from my lack of a traditional career, to my family size, to our homeschool and my qualifications to teach my own children, to the number of activities and friends my children have, to my faith.  All the time my husband stood just a few feet away.  I gave him every high sign, glaring eyeball, stare down I could manage.  Inwardly I was screaming HELP ME OVER HERE!  Each time he looked over at me he somehow saw two people engaged in a delightful conversation.  UGH!  I cried in the van the whole way home.  That single conversation shook my confidence for a week. Ridiculous I know!  Just as ridiculous was how MAD I was at my husband because… you know… he should have read my mind and raced to my rescue.  Ok now wouldn’t it be sweet if our husbands could read our minds?  After I got over the whole incident and stopped weeping that perhaps I was ruining our children after all we developed a hand signal just for times like these.  Oh, and now I’m careful about getting trapped in corners too!

Just be aware that people, most of them very well intentioned, will question your choices.  Be prepared to stand together and support one another in moments like these.  A united front goes a long way toward comforting those who are skeptical and it goes even further in warding off those who want to tell you you are doing it wrong.

Be United During the Storms

I can guarantee there will be stormy seasons.  Whether it be something big like a job loss or extended sickness or something not so big like a child who is reluctant to learn to read, there will be times when you will question whether homeschooling is still the right choice.  Difficult decisions will need to be made.  Hard questions will need to be asked.  No matter what you do someone will question your choices.  Be committed to stand together, united, no matter what.  For as I said in day 1 of this series, a house divided cannot stand.  

Stand Together and Embrace This Strange New Lifestyle!

Every family that homeschools is different but I think it is safe to say that once you homeschool you rarely look at the world quite the same again.  Nearly every moment is a learning opportunity!  Embrace this together!  Have patience with one another and your children because the homeschool lifestyle means:

  • Never again is a trip to the grocery store just a stop to pick up some food.  There are too many lessons to be learned about math, health, science, reading… oh the list is endless.  While you don’t need to make a production of every trip, both mom and dad need to be ok with MANY trips becoming a production.
  • Never again will a daytrip or a vacation be just a time to relax.  There IS a learning field trip opportunity around every corner.
  • Simple walks from the house to the car can lead to an entire science lesson.  See that cell phone in your pocket? It’ll soon become a science photo journal as your children stop to photograph bugs and plants and all sorts of fascinating things to identify later.  Make time for these adventures.
  • Your house will never ever look the same.  Science projects, art projects, history projects, maps, compasses, protractors and the books.  We often have something funky growing on the windowsill.  This is LIFE! Oh my heavens the BOOKS!  I’ve never seen a homeschool family leave the library with fewer than 50 books… that is unless they were just there yesterday and already took 50 and plan to come tomorrow to take even more.  Books will now be everywhere all.of.the.time!  Embrace it.
  • Your wallet will always be lighter.  Money will flow out even faster as you foot the bill for museum memberships, field trips, the gas to get everyone there, for curriculum, science kits, and did I mention the books?  You just might want to block Amazon.com from being visible on the family computer.  You think I’m kidding? Ok, maybe it’s just my addiction?  Uh.. nope! I have lots of homeschool friends. It’s all true.

Embrace it all.  Agree as a married couple and parents to those precious children to enjoy it all.  It really just means they are getting an amazing childhood experience and wondrous education.  That’s just priceless and worth every minute.

To read the other posts in this series click here.

Before you go… did you enter the Kindle Fire giveaway?  More info here.

1081168_566294950099378_1276976611_n

 Are you enjoying or massive blog hop?  I am sure am!  There is just so much good homeschooling wisdom in the world.  It feels fantastic to know that I’m not in it alone and that some Momma out there has faced my same challenges.  I challenge you sit back and red some posts from some very fine homeschooling moms out there! 

Summer Blog Hop

;

5 Days of The Healthy Homeschool Marriage Part 3: Play To Each Others Strengths

MarriageBlogHop

To read the other posts in this series click here.

When I’m introduced to new people and the chit chat about…”What do you do?” starts to flow there seems to be an inevitable direction the conversations flows.  (Well, unless they have a thing against Christians or Homeschoolers… but those are posts for another day).  When people hear that I homeschool my 3 children, run a household and a business plus a blog, and then our family ministries they all seem to get this vision of me in a superwoman cape.  They call me patient, and organized, and disciplined and all of these crazy things that I swear to you I really am not.  Perhaps I’m better than I once was… but I am by far a work in progress.

strengths

I do have a secret power.

God created each and every person with strengths and weaknesses.  Everyone has things they enjoy and are passionate about as well as things they’d be very happy to never have to think about.  Some areas of life come easier to while other things are just a pain in the rear to figure out.  Chances are, there are things you are great at or don’t mind doing that your husband would rather never have to contend with and he too has gifts and talents that can bless the family and the children’s learning in areas that perhaps you’d rather pretend didn’t exist!

In our family my husband is my secret power.  I could never comprehend doing all that I do if he didn’t play his part in our daily life.  He has great strengths that so cover my weaknesses and I too can cover his.  What two can do together pales in comparison to what one can do alone. 

His Roles

My husband is really good at getting up early.  The alarm goes off and he doesn’t have much trouble pulling himself from his bed.  I am the TOTAL opposite!  It takes me a good 45 minutes to actually drag myself off of my pillow.  It’s brutal!  As a result my husband has taken it upon himself to generally get the day going for our family.  As the children stumble down the stairs he greets them with warm smiles and a great breakfast.  It’s his special time of day with our children before he begins his work day.  There isn’t a day that I don’t thank God for this gift in my husband.

My husband loves to cook!  He enjoys creating new dishes.  Our five year old shares in the passion with his Daddy.  Mommy on the other hand because a big ball of stress in the kitchen.  I enjoy eating for sure! But the cooking… HA! And cooking with my CHILDREN!  Good God please NO!  My husband cooks dinner most nights and THIS is just another place where my husband saves my sanity.

What about the schooling?  Truthfully that is almost all my own domain.  However!  Sometimes I just don’t manage to get to a special craft or science experiment.  I’m too fried or we just had too much running around.  My husband sees this as an opportunity to get his hands dirty with our homeschool and will happily make the time to get that thing done.  It’s yet another opportunity for HIM to engage with our children.

My Jobs

What about me? What do I do that husband would rather not?  Pretty much everything else!  I’m the researcher.  Anything our family needs to know or buy or create or whatever… it’s my job to learn everything I can and fill him in.  I’m the maid! I keep just about everything clean and tidy.  He hates cleaning bathrooms and things like dusting.  So that’s pretty much all mine.  I create the learning environment for our children.  I keep the social calendar moving.  I’m the one who organizes our lives so no balls are dropped.  That makes him happy.

How Do You Make This Happen In Your Home?

I know making your family function like this is easier said than done.  Somethings my husband does we always knew he would do.  When we were dating many moons ago it become pretty clear that I wasn’t the cook and I wasn’t interested in becoming one.  My husband has ALWAYS cooked for me and I can’t describe how much I appreciate that.

Other things have evolved over time.  His waking up early each morning is routine that we fell into as the children grew.  It works for us.  Other things, like Daddy science projects, came about when we discovered a need and we communicated through it and negotiated until we figured out how to meet that need.

It Is About Service and Sacrifice

Countless times God tells us in His word that we are to serve one another just as Jesus came here to this earth to serve.

  • Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
  • Galatians 5:13-14 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This is a Biblical principal that my family takes seriously to heart.  It is a value we wish to pass along to our children.  My husband is my secret power as he uses his gifts and strengths to help me be the kind of wife and mother God has called me to be.  I pray that I am as much a blessing to him as he is to me.

To have a healthy homeschool marriage it will take sacrifice.  Everyone will have to use their gifts to serve one another.  It will take love, patience, understanding… and most of all… Grace.  But that last one is a post for another day!

How do you and your husband balance each other, serving and assisting the family with your God given gifts.  I’d love to hear more.  Drop a comment in the box or send me a message!

To read the other posts in this series click here.

Before you go… did you enter the Kindle Fire giveaway?  More info here.

1081168_566294950099378_1276976611_n

 Are you enjoying or massive blog hop?  I am sure am!  There is just so much good homeschooling wisdom in the world.  It feels fantastic to know that I’m not in it alone and that some Momma out there has faced my same challenges.  I challenge you sit back and red some posts from some very fine homeschooling moms out there! 

Summer Blog Hop

;

Avoiding The Train Wrecks In Your Home and School That Crack Your Marriage!

It is day two of….MarriageBlogHop

To read the other posts in this series click here.

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post I called Avoid a House Divided.  In that post I really focused on helping your family to create a vision not only for you homeschool but for your entire life.  Today I want to help you…

train_wreck_steam_locomotive_locomotive

Imagine that it is Monday morning following a hectic weekend of running errands, church, home projects, nursing a sick child, helping your in-laws and heaven only knows what else.  You didn’t find the time to clean your own home.  Your big plans for organizing and laying out your lesson plans for the week were shot by everything else that seemed to take priority.  There are mountains of laundry, piles of dishes, no food in the fridge and your children are staring you down and falling into their own version of hysteria because they are wondering what on earth they are supposed to be doing and you don’t know yourself.  You are drained… running on empty and your husband has the misfortune to walk in the room at that moment.  He might even do something crazy like ask you what’s for breakfast.  You nearly bite his head off and he snaps right back.  Before you know it you are bickering over who finished the last of the coffee while your children race around screaming their heads off…  He walks off in huff and you stomp off in the opposite direction.  No one is speaking… except the children who are actually screaming.  You bark at them to find their workbooks and everyone melts into a heap because… “It’s just too hard!” So you melt into a heap of your own!

You spend the day in a bad mood and later on when the children have finally fallen into bed and the house is actually quiet you do your best to lay out your frustrations on your husband but he only scoff’s and says something uncaring like… “Why don’t you just put them in school if so darn hard?”  You roll over, throw the covers over your head, and lay there in a lump of bad feelings until you hear him start snoring behind you, all the while resentment builds.

Not exactly the happy homeschooling household is it?  In fact, I would call this a total train wreck.  This isn’t at all what you dreamed it would be.  I’ve had many days similar to this. How did it come to be this way?  How can you fix this and avoid it in the future?

Feed your relationship with God

Things tend to get this way when I haven’t fed myself with quiet time with my Lord.  If I’ve neglected my own Bible study and prayer time then for some reason the rest of my world starts to tumble down.  If I am praying over my home, my marriage, my children, and my homeschool daily everything just seems to come together much better.  It may still not be perfect, but it is better.

Feed your relationship with your husband

At times I find myself in the midst of a mess and it is already too late to switch tracks and avoid a wreck.  Too much has been neglected.  My husband can seem unplugged and uncaring when I haven’t taken the time to layout how things are going and what is up in my OWN world or to check-in with him and his concerns.   Grab him by the hand if he’s home, or by text message if he isn’t and pray.  Confession… I STINK at this! Currently my husband and I are working very hard on learning to pray together.  Honestly it has taken me years to get to this place.  I never really felt comfortable praying with my husband out loud.  This is a work in progress.  When I get over myself though, boy does it help.

Love On and Guide Your Children

My children turn into melting messes when I haven’t slowed down enough to talk and laugh with them and to let them in on what is up next in our world.  I’ve been too busy and they’ve felt a bit adrift.  If we are already in a train wreck I know that I’ve got to toss out whatever I thought my own plans were for the day.  I’m going to need to focus on my kiddos.  A simple heart to heart can work wonders!  I just need to let them know, in an appropriate way, what is wrong and how they can help.  Before I know it I’ve got my own little team ready to tackle the issues of our day.

Feeding Your Homeschool

Let’s face it.  Homeschool’s don’t plan themselves.  I do like the old adage that if you fail to plan you plan to fail.  It’ SO true!  If your family vision involves homeschooling and you’ve allowed other things to trample over that priority then you really are just asking for trouble.  Church, helping family, and other things in life need to be done of course but don’t let them crowd out the time you need to keep the school chaos under control.  When the schooling is planned there is peace in the home.  Peace in the home leads to peace in the marriage.

Reflect On Your Vision 

In the chaos sometimes we need to look back to what our vision for our family and homeschool is.  Is what we’re doing on a daily basis aligned with that?  Do we need to shift what is being done or do we need to shift our vision?

Mostly… Just Pray 

Of course when I open my eyes the messes are still there, the kids are probably still pitching a fit about something, the school work hasn’t suddenly planned itself… but the peace that I have after praying, especially praying with my husband, makes it that much better.

To read the other posts in this series click here.

Before you go… did you enter the Kindle Fire giveaway?  More info here.

1081168_566294950099378_1276976611_n

 Are you enjoying or massive blog hop?  I am sure am!  There is just so much good homeschooling wisdom in the world.  It feels fantastic to know that I’m not in it alone and that some Momma out there has faced my same challenges.  I challenge you sit back and red some posts from some very fine homeschooling moms out there! 

Summer Blog Hop

 

The Healthy Homeschool Marriage Part 1: Avoid a House Divided!

MarriageBlogHop

This week I’m going to cover the topic of marriage.  Not just any marriage, but a homeschool marriage.  It is my experience that homeschool families tend to operate differently than an average family might.  It isn’t always easy for Mom and Dad to keep themselves sane amidst the 24/7 chaos that is the homeschool lifestyle.  I am hoping and praying that my posts this week will give you all a little food for thought that’ll help you avoid some bumps and smooth out the curves.  I’d love to hear from you!  Do you have any questions or thoughts about homeschooling and marriage?  Please share them with me!  You just might encourage a future blog post! To read the other posts in this series click here.  SO… on to today’s topic!

House Divided

Getting on the Same Page!

The number one way to avoid conflict in any situation or relationship, in my opinion, is to make sure everyone is on the same page!  Mark 3:34-26 says…If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished…

Undertaking the education of your children at home will have a deep and pervasive impact on nearly everything in a family and a marriage.  If you lack the understanding of where your spouse is coming from, what his/her expectations are… you are doomed to run to into at least a few stumbling blocks if not major hurdles.

Before you even begin down this path of suggestions I am about to suggest you must stop and pray.  Pray with your husband and pray alone.  Pray to God this His will be revealed to you regarding your family and your homeschool and the He does what it takes to align your will with His.  Open your heart to God’s message for you.

First step, find the time to sit with your husband and get the two of you united in your family and your homeschool. If you can find a sitter and take off for the afternoon.  Or… sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures… perhaps it is time to allow for an afternoon moviethon.  Whatever it takes because in my opinion, a protected and healthy marriage is the first ingredient in a successful homeschool. My husband and I were blessed to take a weekend away to a bed and breakfast just a few days ago.  We set aside time during our trip just to discuss our family and our homeschool.  Can I make a confession?  I actually would have preferred a nap!  But really, it was time well spent!

1. Agree on a vision for your family…

In an ideal world….

Sit together and dream out loud and even on paper about who you want your children to become one day.  We all want our kids to wind up happy… what do you think are the important ingredients in that happiness? Financial security (and a career?) Self reliance? A great social support system? An unwavering faith?  Some mixture of some of these things?

Ideally, what sort of relationships do you want your children to have with each other? With friends? With you? With God?

How much downtime, free time, play time, family time would you ultimately like to have as a family?

If you could, how might your family change the world?

Write this down on paper.  Be as brief or detailed as you’d like.  I found three great examples for you here. Place your final version someplace where you will see it often like the fridge… or better yet, framed over near your dining table.  Show the world you take this seriously.

Activities

Now that you have a vision for your family, make a list of everything your are involved in and/or passionate about.  Are you a church family with multiple ministries, a sports family involved in multiple sports, an outdoors family busy with hiking or camping, a music family always on the go with lessons and/or performances?  Or are you like my family… passionate about many of these things and so much more?  Which of these activities align with your family’s vision statement?  Which do not? You know that ones that don’t have got to go to make room for more of the things that do.  What’s missing?

Now Your Homeschool

You may want to make another vision statement just for your homeschool!  One that aligns with your family’s vision statement.  But either way.  Start thinking about the sort of curriculum that supports your family’s vision.  If your family has a heart for missions you may want to be sure you spend a good deal of time studying the live’s of great missionaries.  If pursuing the arts is something that is important to your family then you’ll want to dive in that direction.  If finding the time to serve other’s is of great importance then you’ll want to be sure you don’t overload on the academics in order to make room for something so fabulous.

A great question to ask yourselves is… What do we think success looks like and how do we think is the best way to get our kids there? Is success marked by high grades, general happiness, heart issues or something else? How will you know your homeschool is successful.

How About That Budget?

Ok, I did it! I pulled out the B word!  You’ve got to do it though!  You’ve got to agree how much to spend on schooling.  You’ve got a vision for how it’ll be and an idea of what sort of curriculum you might purchase or create.  Now is the time to talk finances.  Be reasonable, graceful, and compassionate with one another and be prepared to revisit this subject often.  Many marriages stumble because of finances… head this issue off as early as you can.

2. How Will The Homeschool Run?

Define The Roles

Will Mom do absolutely all of the teaching and planning, prepping and buying, building and cleaning?  Maybe it’ll be Dad who does it all?  Or will it be more of a shared responsibility.  How will the homeschool responsibilities impact the rest of the running of household?  If Mom is to do all of the teaching will Dad take on other household chores? Decide now, but be open to change as the days and the seasons pass.

What if…

There are so many what if’s in life.  Homeschooling is no different.  If you and your spouse have a general idea of how you’ll handle the what if’s before they arise, there will be much less confusion and perhaps arguing when they do.  Some what if’s to consider…

  • What if a purchased curriculum doesn’t work for us, what will we do? Stick it through? Sell it? Stick it in the closet and buy something else?  
  • What if there is a discipline issue related to schooling?  Who will handle it and generally speaking… how?
  • What if a child struggles in one or more areas?  What will be the general course of action for deciding how to deal with it.  If one parent has the knee jerk reaction to suggest school then there could be a lot of friction in the family.
  • What if the bread winner loses their income?  How will that impact the homeschool?
  • What if one parent disagrees with the other on homeschool style or emphasis or something else related to the educating of the children? How will you work this out and who gets the final say?

There are so many what if’s in life.  But these should get you thinking!

3. Most of all…

Agree that no matter what, your marriage is the priority over the homeschool.  Your children need you both together.  Your loving bond together will go light years toward helping your children grow to become the adults you desire them to be.  Care for and feed your marriage first and always.

What Do You Think?

Do you think it’s important to get on the same page?  How do you and your husband (or spouse) make that happen?  Did I miss anything you think is important to consider?  Please share in the comments!

To read the other posts in this series click here.

Thank you for reading!  Before you go… did you enter the Kindle Fire giveaway?  More info here.

1081168_566294950099378_1276976611_n

Now, have you had your coffee yet today? Actually it doesn’t matter… go grab another cup, make a whole pot!  Here are 90 other bloggers who have lots to share with about different topics in homeschooling for the entire week.  Yep! This could take a while! But it is totally worth it!

Summer Blog Hop

 

Review: The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live Published by Gryphon House

GryphonWe recently received for review a book called The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live published by Gryphon House.  Let me just start this review by telling you that I think this the single best book on teaching preschoolers that I’ve ever read.  That is a heavy thing for me to say as I have an entire library of books on the subject that I collected over the last 17 years from college, through graduate school and during my tenure in the teaching profession.  Teaching preschoolers was once the sole reason for my existence each day.  It is still a subject near and dear to my heart.

 photo gr_zps4f060fb6.jpg

The book was created by two moms, Kathy H. Lee and Lesli M. Richards.  Both are homeschooling mothers and they wrote this book from that perspective.  To me this makes the book unique as your typical what to teach a preschooler books isn’t written from the prespective of the child learning at home, but in some sort of institutional school setting.

The book itself is just gorgeous.  It full of beautiful glossy photos of real children engaging in and learning through play in the world in which they live.  It’s a sturdy book that will hold up to lots of handling.  I’ve already flipped through mine more times that I can count and you surely will too.

 photo GH_10322_zps89a912af.jpg

The book is just overflowing with wonderful information about why learning at home is so beneficial for our littlest children.  How they benefit from a rich and comfortable family environment.  They cover child development and explain how children’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive domains grow so richly in a fruitful and playful environment.  Every topic is covered from Communication and Emergent Literacy Skills to Mathematics.  The author explains to you why such things are so important for little preschoolers and just what activities you can do to develop them.

This book is so meaty with ideas and photos.  Real life children in real life homes learning through activities that you can do with your little one.  The materials are generally familiar toys and other things either easily purchased for cheap or already found in your home.  You can’t help but read the pages and be inspired to really enhance the world of your preschooler.  Nothing is hard.  There is no real right way. It’s just fun and engaging and enriching for your child.

Sprinkled throughout the entire book are special recipes that you can easily create with your child.  You will also find purple pages that are specific notes directly from the authors that share an experience with their own childhood, the family, or some great suggestion.  Such inspiration!

I think my favorite chapter is chapter 5.  Home Life = Learning, Slow down and teach.  A quality preschool education does not need to equal fancy curriculum, expensive workbooks, and the latest gadgets.  So much wonderful development can happen through every day life.  Including your preschooler in sorting the laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house is so simple.  It is so fulfilling for your tot and your relationship with each other can grow stronger.  Can I say it again? Such inspiration. But don’t fret, the very next chapter delves into how to make time for these things AND how to take care of YOU the Mom and educator.

There are chapters in here on how to organize everything, how to plan for rough days and seasons of illness and stress.  They even discuss what to do if there are special circumstances such as a child with special needs or chronic illness.

Then there are the activities.  Oh so many activities.  I wouldn’t consider many of them to be new and profound.  If you’ve spent any time reading up on preschoolers chances are you’ve hit upon many of them or at least variations of them.  But here they are…. all in one place!  No hunting around pinterest or blogs or a stack of books for them.  We have gardening activities, cleaning activities, chemistry activities, nature activities, gross motor activities, fine motor activities, block play, math.  Oh the list is nearly endless.  And the best part is… you don’t have to modify them!  They are written to you, the HOMESCHOOLING parent.  They do not assume you have 20 kids in a class!  The activities are geared to families at home with just 1 or a few preschoolers underfoot.  What a refreshing perspective. Here are a few photos of my own preschooler enjoying some activities from this book!

storyboard-1022
 

storyboard-1028
These next photos were part of a chemistry experiment mixing vinegar and baking soda.  I guess my little gal didn’t quite know what to expect.  Her reaction was priceless.
storyboard-1025
storyboard-1026
storyboard-1027
Oh, one of my favorites!  I call it goop!  Simple cornstarch and water.  It’s hard to see in the photos but this stuff is weird! 
storyboard-1024
storyboard-1023Do I love this book!  Absolutely!  Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live is just fabulous.  It is so refreshing to have a preschool book come from the perspective of the HOME.   The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live published by Gryphon House is 224 pages is just pure and wonderful preschool love and it sells for $29.95.  If you have a preschooler in your home get yourself a copy! You’ll be glad you did! 
Photobucket

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Review: Circle Time Ebook by Kendra Fletcher

CircleTime

Recently we were given the ebook Circle Time by Kendra Fletcher from Preschoolers and Peace for review.

Website logo photo circletimelogo2_zps58ab71e5.jpg

 I was once a classroom teacher and I had a preconceived idea of what “Circle Time” should be and it wasn’t exactly roses and rainbows.  While I know my large class of kiddos gained a lot from those experiences as a homeschooling mother I found most of these activities (not all, just most) worthless.  I didn’t feel the need to teach my kids the calendar each and every day.  Fingerplays and songs are wonderful language builders but I thought they’d be best interspersed at other more natural times.  Read aloud time can be just about any time.  Really what I’m saying is I didn’t see the need to fit all of these activities into ONE chunk of our day all together.  Plus… my oldest is getting older… fingerplays may not be his thing any more!

Then I began reading Kendra’s ebook and I had a new perspective.  First of all, we were already do something like a Circle Time… I just didn’t think of it that way.  Her book taught me how to make it better!

 photo CircleTime_zpsf50b8efd.png

Nearly every day I join my children together for a reading from the Bible and discussion of the scriptures we’ve read.  I challenge them and they challenge me.  We’ve done numerous character studies through scripture. We’ve read through storybook Bibles.  We’ve charted and timelined.  We do quite a bit with that time together.  We also practice memory verses and we often sing hymns together. We discuss the agenda and expectations for the day and do our best to troubleshoot any potential issues before they arrise.  Truthfully it our favorite time of the day already.

After reading Kendra’s 33 page ebook I realized I could be more organized about it all and if I am I might even manage to squeeze even a bit more into our time together.  Not only is her ebook a fantastic resource for planning your time with your children but so is her blog Preschoolers and Peace.  She does a great job sharing with her readers just what circle time in her home looks like with babies to teens all participating together.

Capture

Inside the ebook you’ll find numerous printables that will help you plan and prepare for your family circle time.  Above I share with you just a little snippet of one printable.  She has a handout designed to help you determine your wishes for Circle Time, another to help you plan it, and this one is a list of suggestions of what you can learn during that time… in this case suggestions for what to memorize.

storyboard-1019storyboard-1018

Currently we begin our Circle Time with prayer much in the way Kendra suggests in the book.  I won’t share all of the details with you as I’d like you purchase your own copy, it is worth it indeed.  But I do want you to know we modified our prayer time according to her suggestions and everyone is participating a lot more now.

After that we begin reading from scripture and searching for truths about God’s will for our development and character.  The boys take turns reading from the Bible and then we discuss something in our lives today that might be similar to the story in the Bible.  Do we agree with how the person in the Bible reacted? Would we do the same? What do we think God might want us to do? This question often sends us on a hunt of the scriptures as we link to other passages where God tells us more.  I think one of the more powerful things I tend to do during this time is share with the boys stories from my own life where I’ve had to seek God’s will or where I have sinned.  My stories seem truly drill my points home often.

storyboard-1020

In the ebook Kendra suggests we keep a card file handy documenting the things we want to be working on in Circle Time.  You can see here we’ve started marking down our memory versus and our spelling words.

storyboard-1021

One of my kiddo’s favorite activities is illustrating the scriptures.  We used to do this at another point of the day but right now I feel it fits well with our Circle Time together.

storyboard-1017

What about our Preschooler?  The Circle Time ebook has a TON of suggestions for helping the littlest ones keep busy during what can stretch into quite a long time for such a little body.  For us, at the moment, I ask Joyanna to join us at the table in her seat.  I give her a coloring book to keep her hands busy.  If there are any other handouts or papers that I give the boy I give her one also to decorate as she pleases.  I know she’s listening in as she will often pipe up with something or other that shows us she is following.  Or other times she’ll come to me with a thought or question hours after our time at the table has ended.  I’m always struck by that.  Has she been thinking on it all day?  Could be.

We usually close with a hymn I’ve hunted down via youtube or Godtube on our tablet and of course a prayer.  Right now we are in a slower summer mode.  In the fall I plan to add more to our Circle Time and I’ll use Kendra’s Circle Time Ebook to help me plan that out.

Circle Time retails for just $4.99 and is available for immediate download from Preschoolers and Peace.

Photobucket
 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

6 Tips and LOTS of Resources for Frugal Homeschooling!

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.  Thank you for helping to support my blogging.

A common comment I hear often is… “Oh, we could never afford to homeschool!” Or, “Isn’t homeschooling expensive?” When someone says this to me they mean a few things.  First, they think homeschooling will require one parent to quit their job and they believe this is unaffordable.  I would argue with you that with proper lifestyle changes more than likely you CAN reduce your family to one income.  I’ll also argue with you that with a little creativity you just might be able to have 2 working parents and homeschool at the same time.  Some day I’ll write about that but not this time.  What I want to talk about is whether it is even possible to homeschool frugally.  Can our children get an excellent education on the cheap?6tips

In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that we spent approximately $1,500-1,700 on homeschool related curriculum, materials, and experiences for our two school aged children that year.  That does not include extra curricular activities they would have done regardless of homeschooling (such as karate).  If I’m REALLY honest than I have to admit that that is a lot.  We COULD have done it cheaper.  Much cheaper.  I’m rethinking things, as usual, for next year.

Here the six things you have to remember… COMBINE, REUSE, SELL IT OFF, USE THE LIBRARY, BUY USED and ONLINE FREEBIES!

1. Combine…

If you any of your children are within 2-3 years of age with each other than combine them in science and social studies at a minimum.  Not only will you be able to save money because everyone is using the same stuff, but you’ll save time since you’ll all be studying the same thing at the same time.  In fact, unit studies are probably your best bet in this area.  You can have children of an even WIDER age range working on the same topic, using mostly the same materials or books, but digging into the content at their own level.  How SWEET!

2.  Reuse…

In our home curriculum is and always will be a hand-me-down, just like clothing.  My boys have finished with Core A in their Sonlight curriculum and I have it all packed away waiting for Joyanna to use when she reaches the appropriate age.  Noah finished Essentials in Writing grade 1, and he is nearly threw with grade 2.  When Ezra reaches the right age for these subjects I’ll only need to purchase the workbooks for him, nothing else.  Of course if I find a piece of curriculum to be a poor fit for a younger child then I will certainly have to investigate something different.  So in that case I would need to think about number 3.

3. Sell it off…

If you have some educational materials that aren’t working for your family any more, why allow them to collect dust?  SELL them!  Recoup what you can and get what you DO need.  Ebay is a great place!  In my state we have used curriculum sales at a nearby church, and I just discovered a used curriculum consignment store!  There are LOTS of places to sell what you don’t need! Use Homeschool Classifieds will help you sell off what you don’t need as well!

4. Use the library RUTHLESSLY…

I admit, I stink at this. I wrack up more late fees than about anyone.  But the fact of the matter is the library is a fabulous resource for all of your book needs AND many many many libraries offer free or low cost activities and classes your children might enjoy.  In my state we are blessed with an inter-library loan system.  My library card is good at any library in the state.  Plus, if my library doesn’t have a book and another one does, I can request to have to brought to my library where I can check it out.  I can also participate in activities at any library I choose.

5. Buy used…

Those same places that provide you an outlet for selling your curriculum also give you a venue for buying what you need second hand at a reduced price.  We have managed to pick up LOTS of books, math manipulatives, and other awesome materials very cheaply. Homeschool Classifieds will help you get 2nd hand stuff for cheap!

6. Online Freebies…

There a so many fantastic resources for very cheap or even free learning materials that it is mind boggling. There are Facebook Pages and blogs dedicated to just the idea that you can actually homeschool for free!  I’ll share some of my favorites with you at the bottom of this post.  But a quick Google search will probably just blow your mind!  The resources are countless!

I have to tell you, if I wanted to we could actually spend absolutely nothing on homeschooling.  Zero, zip, zilch, nadda.  Ok, maye not nothing.  I suppose we might need to buy pencils and such from time to time.  It might take some regular digging and thinking and planning on my part… but it CAN be done.

Here are some free and cheap links to help you out!

I have two favorite blogs too….

And certainly last but not least… the KINDLE! There are so many great FREE books to be had for the Kindle!  Most of the classics, and so SO SO much more.  I search daily and I often share my best finds here on my blog.  But you can certainly search too!  Here is the site I use!  Most!  freereadfeed.com

My list is NOT NOT NOT NOT exhaustive.  I could have shared SO many more!  But I’ve run out of time!  Please share you best finds in the comments so all of my readers can enjoy them too!  THANK YOU!

One last thing… click HERE to check out what other homeschool bloggers have to say about homeschooling frugally!  They have even more great ideas!

 

Photobucket


 

Finding an Ulterior Perspective In Your Homeschool

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a bunch of homeschooling moms.  We were sharing what I call my winter blues.  It’s January now and very very cold outside.  No one is getting outside much.  It gets dark early.  Everything seems to require a lot of effort.  It’s the long stretch in the homeschooling year.  The newness of the fall has passed as have the crazy holidays.  Looking ahead spring and perhaps a break seem very far away.  The kids might be arguing more and most likely driving us just a tiny bit crazy… or maybe even a LOT crazy.  We are blue and we don’t know why.  So we start to question ourselves and the our jobs as wives, mother’s, and homeschooling moms.  We start to feel like maybe what we are doing  just isn’t enough.   Is this carefully laid out plan for life, but especially homeschooling, really bearing the fruit we so pray for?

It is often hard to see the forest for the trees when you are in the thick of the woods.  Digging down deep getting your hands dirty day after day doing the doing can make you loose perspective.  Just like you might not notice a child growing taller day by day it might take another person’s comment about about how much they have grown for you to really appreciate that last couple of inches.  It might take another person peeking into your homeschool to help you see just how far your children have come.

I needed that ulterior perspective recently though I didn’t realize it and even if I had and I would have had no idea how to get it.

But then it happened.  My husband had the day off and I had a ton of other things on my plate.  So he offered to cover the school work for the day.  Without really thinking about it I let him.  I handed over the reins and let him run with it while I happily worked away on other projects down the hall.  A break! How glorious! My only thought at the time was… what a relief!

The day went well.  They covered a lot of our usual material.  They had questions only Mommy could answer and so I did.  When walking to the kitchen for something to drink I stopped and listened.  The children were pretty well behaved and engaged though they were not perfect.  Yes, Daddy experienced a math melt down!  He also learned what it was like to chase a two year old, answer to the dog’s beck n’ call, try to keep the laundry moving, and not let the entire house become one big disaster zone.  I have to hand it to him, he did a good job.  I don’t really know how to show him how much I appreciate him stepping in like that.

At the end of the day, after the kiddos were tucked safely in bed he shared a little bit of what the day was like for him.  He said… “I learned a lot!”  Of course I asked him what he meant and being the kind of man that he is he started to thank me for all that I manage to do in a day.  I felt appreciated.  It was wonderful.  It was then I started to pour my heart out over my worries, my doubt, my fears that what I am doing with my children and their education is just not enough.  He listened thoughtfully.  He allowed me to pick his brain about this concern or that.  I asked him if he thought they had progressed enough since fall?  Am I giving them too much? Or too little? Did this curriculum seem to work the way I think it does?  Did he notice Noah does this and Ezra does that?  Is Joyanna getting left too far behind?  How can I make this subject better and that one take less time?

My husband didn’t have all of the nitty gritty answers though he did have some good suggestions for a few.  Everything he spoke of wasn’t all rosey.  He had a few concerns and I was glad to hear them.  I was especially glad he cared enough about our children, their education  and his wife to spend the day doing what he did and allowing me the opportunity to pick his brain.  Mostly he helped pull me back so I could see the view from the bigger perspective.  Yes we have some smaller issues, and we probably always will, but in the grander scheme… it is all going just fine.  He reminded me to not get discouraged in the details but to remember the over all good that is being done all of the time.

My husband gave me a couple of great gifts that day! First I was given day off from my usual duties.  Second he rolled up his sleeves and got to work himself he walked a mile in my shoes so that he could share his ulterior perspective on how our homeschool truly is going.

I know that it might not always be so simple but if you can… hand the reins over.  Let someone else get in the trenches.  Not only will you benefit from a day of rest, but that person could also help you open your eyes to how things are really going in your homeschool.  If you know nothing at all know this, pretty much all homeschooling moms doubt.  Just ask my friends at homeschool group?  No matter what we do we always question… is this enough?  Have you ever let someone else do your job for the day? Especially your husband? I’d love to know how it went.

FAQ on Homeschooling

Most people who ask me about homeschooling ask the very same questions.  I thought I could answer them all in one handy spot.  Let me know if this is helpful.

Question: We want our children to have excellent social skills. This is a very valuable life tool that we feel is extremely important. How do your children receive the adequate amount of social skills with others outside of the family?

Answer: I homeschool in part because I am concerned about the social skills my children will learn in school.  Socializing in an environment of 20-30 kids all of the same age is like the blind leading the blind in my opinion.  Children are children and they are still maturing.  They haven’t learned to be upstanding people yet.  So I’m not sure how they can serve as good role models for each other? Outside of the world of school, where my children live, they encounter people of every age, ability, and walk of life on a very regular basis.  They get to watch my husband and I, and others I’ve placed in their life, model appropriate ways to interact with others.  When they stumble, and they often do, I’m usually there to correct them.

Other than that, we are so stinking busy with activities… church, karate, basketball, art class, swimming lessons, Bible study, homeschool group, field trips…. etc.  They have PLENTY of friends.  They do not lack for social opportunities with other children of all ages..  I’m thinking we might join a co-op before too long.

And then there is something else.  They have each other.  Instead of spending the majority of their waking hours away from one another surrounded by other children, my children spend their day with their siblings.  This allows them the opportunity to grow close ties with each other.  Friends will come and go in their lives.  But their siblings will be there forever.

It is also worth noting that on tests of social skills homeschooled children typically score significantly higher than their traditionally schooled peers.  Homeschooled children do not lack for social skills.

Question: What about sports?  We feel that sports teaches children about leadership, friendship and gives them confidence. Are there any homeschooling parents that have their children in sports?

Answer: This will of course very depending on where you live. In many parts of the country homeschoolers have banded together to create their own sports leagues.  Some private schools allow homeschooled children to participate on their teams.  A few states even allow homeschooled children access to the public school’s sports teams.  Where I live there are Parks and Recreation leagues such as soccer, basketball, football, and of course little league.  Our church runs a basketball league as well.  I also sought out an activity that I knew they could do throughout their entire lives, any place we live, no matter their age.  For us that is Karate.  They’ve excelled at it in part because we can attend more classes as we have more flexibility in our schedule than others.

Question: Homeschooled children aren’t graded the same way public school children are. Are there any unique ways you give your children like report cards to have the satisfaction that they are gaining the same or even more knowledge at home versus public schooling?

Answer: I personally think this is one of the glories of homeschooling! I strive to have my children learn for the sake of learning, not for the sake of a grade!  I distinctly remember at some point in grade school figuring out that school was just a game.  I can win the game by figuring out which hoops this particular teacher wants me to jump through and deliver work that reflects whatever they value.  I can get my A, the pats on the back, and then immediately forget what I just learned so I can move on to the next hoop.  That’s not an education, that’s a circus act!

Or how about all of the papers or projects or tests where I only scored 80% or 85%?  Not a bad grade really?  A good solid B!  Nothing to sneeze at.  Except this meant I didn’t know or understand 15%-20% of the material!  Why is that acceptable?  That’s a HUGE chunk that I missed.  What about the kids that earned a 70%?  They clearly do not understand 30% of what is being taught yet they get to move on to the next thing?  Won’t that make the next thing that much harder?

In our homeschool we work on EVERYTHING until it is mastered!  That means we immediately work through all mistakes and learn from them.   We do not move on until we are at 100% or at least very close.  This does not mean I’m a drill sergeant with a bull horn.  It means we go at my children’s pace until we’ve reached mastery.  Sometimes we move through material quickly, sometimes slowly.  It works!

I do not give my children grades or report cards.  If I did I would give them all A’s across the board.  Why? Because we master everything worth mastering before we move on.  Mastery deserves an A.  I do not want them working for grades.  I want them to learn for the sake of learning.  When they reach middle and/or highschool I’ll start developing a transcript.  I’ll research what is needed for college entrance.  But if my kids WANTED a report card for some reason I’d whip one up.  Who knows, maybe one day they will.

 Question: How do we know that our homeschooled children are actually learning because they may not be graded the same way public school children are?

Answer: In traditional school each child is 1 of 20-30.  They do not get much/if any one-on-one instruction.  I read a study that I cannot find now or I would share it.  Traditionally schooled children typically get around 5 minutes of 1-1 instruction PER WEEK!  They stay with a teacher for a year and then move on. 5 minutes a week isn’t much time for a teacher to really get to know a student and exactly where he/she is in every subject.  This is why they have to depend on things like tests, quizes, and graded assignments to measure learning.  In the higher grades they stay with a teacher for just part of the day, for just one year, and then they move on.  We as homeschool parents are in the trenches with our children day in and day out giving them 1-1 instruction perhaps for hours every day.  That just cannot be replicated in traditional school.  You will know if your children are grasping what you are trying to teach them.  They cannot fall through the cracks.  There are no cracks to fall through.

If you discover that they are not learning something you have the ability to slow down, repeat, try something new, pick up a video on it, shelve it and come back to it later… or whatever. You can change things up to work for your children in any way you choose.  And if you are REALLY stuck you can find a class or hire a tutor.

Question: Do homeschooled children have the ability to learn what the state that they are living in requires them to learn?

I argue that homeschooled children have an advantage!  They’ve had the opportunity to receive 1-1 instruction for as many years as you choose to homeschool them.  Homeschooled children are taught by the person who cares about them more than anyone in the world.  They gain from the advantage of a tailor made learning experience that fits their needs exactly (or as close as is possible). They are given the opportunity to experience the real world with as many field trips, adventures, learning experiences, classes, and mentor-ships as you can possibly fit into your schedule! What could possibly stand in their way from learning the state requirements?  Chances are they will far EXCEED the state requirements.

Question: How does the state ensure your children are learning?

Answer: This one depends on where you live.  Some states require frequent reports, testing etc.  I’m blessed to live in a zero reporting state.  We don’t have to answer to the schools or state for anything.  Such freedom!  I remember early on having a bit of discussion about this with someone.  They knew someone who homeschooled and from this observer’s point of view the parents didn’t teach the child anything.  They felt SOMEONE should be responsible for making sure the poor homeschooled children learned something.  Really, we want the state and the schools to make sure homeschooled kids are learning? Have you read the headlines lately?  Schools are failing.  Test scores, if you care about that sort of thing, are pitiful.  Have you ever met a person who made it most of the way through school or even graduated with a high school diploma who cannot read?  I have!  Really, who is best fit to make sure my kids learn?

So there you have it.  FAQ’s about Homeschooling.  I’ll be sure to add to this as the need arises!  Please, post your comments with your questions or opinions about my answers.

 

Why Do You Do It? Homeschooling That Is…

I get asked quite often why my family chooses to homeschool.  Each time I suck in a ton of air and hold my breath for minute.  How do you answer that?  The reasons are so deep and so layered.  There isn’t one or two or even five top reasons.  I could write a novel about why… and maybe some day I will.  But it’s a nearly impossible question to answer because I never want to offend. I never want to appear to be judgmental. I never want you to feel like I think I’m above you.  School choices, like other life choices (breastfeeding, eating meat, religion) is a topic that has a tendency to divide.  For some reason people thing that because I make a choice different than yours that I somehow think less of you or of your choice.  That isn’t true.  You have your reasons and I have mine.  Until I spend a lifetime living in your skin I have no right to judge your path.  Okay, deep breath… I recently had a Facebook chat with someone who is thinking of homeschooling.  This post was born from that.  I hope it is clear.

Why do we homeschool? That’s a huge question. It is so layered that I can’t even pick out my top reasons. I’ve been called to do it. Maybe a bit like a writer needing to write or a painter needing to paint.  You just have to because if you don’t it’ll bug you until you do. The short story is homeschoolers were put in my life right from our honeymoon. (Seriously, there were homeschooling parents at our dinner table on our honeymoon cruise). Someday I’ll share with you all how idiotic I was as a brand new public teacher talking to this amazing Mom.  But that is a post for another day.  I believe in God and I believe he sets us on our paths.  He gave me friends I adore who homeschool.  I saw it working and working well. As a public school teacher I saw what wasn’t working… at all! Even in the “good” school districts. I won’t bash public schools.  I see the blood sweat, tears, and heartache MOST teachers put into every single day.  They are doing the best they can with what they have.  I salute them as I was too soft and I quit.

My tenure as a public school teacher opened my eyes to things I just wish I never knew.  Some moments stand out clearly and one of them was what I call a defining moment for me in my life not only as a teacher but as a parent.  I was still at least a year or so away from having my first child when I found myself sitting in planning meeting for special ed teachers and administrators. This was in fairly affluent district that by all standards would be considered a pretty decent district if not out right excellent.  We were making plans for the following school year for a sweet little boy.  This child was going to get everything our team could possibly offer and then some.  He’d have services and assistance and a plan that was admirable and would be effective.  I remember one teacher raising her eyebrows and explaining that she was surprised as he didn’t seem to need such a comprehensive program.

Next we moved on to another student that I will call Charles for the sake of this story.  He clearly needed much more in the way of services and assistance than we were giving him and that was something absolutely everyone around the table agreed on.   Another teacher said, “Why are we giving the last student we talked about so much more than Charles when it’s Charles who really needs it?” Our administrator looked at us and said… “Charles’ parents aren’t asking for it.” Yet as a teacher I was still expected to figure out how to make Charles successful. It was then that I knew the district did not have my (the teacher) or never mind my student’s best interest at heart. This student and I were being set up for failure.  Eventually I realized no one could truly do for any child what their parents can do for them.

Our choice to homeschool involved so much more.  It was the realization that schools are becoming pseudo parents.  They are being required, sometimes against their own will sometimes not, to make moral and ethical judgement calls about what a child should learn, be exposed to, or even participate in.  It’s the idea that children can learn to be loving caring social beings by participating in the real world instead of some contrived space of 20-30 same aged mates.  It’s the image, in my mind at least, of the blind leading the blind.  How can children who have yet to mature in responsible social beings teach one another to be responsible and social beings?

I remember when I was a child, perhaps around 5th grade, staring out of the window of my elementary classroom at the world passing by. The window was open and it was a warm day.  I reveled in the fresh breeze. I was imagining to myself what it might be like to be out there! To take my books outside under a tree.  To take a walk just because. To be free to do as I’d like.  To go where I want to.  To eat when hungry.  To pee when nature calls.  To spend time with those I like and to remove myself from those I don’t.  I don’t know why this memory has stayed with me as long as it has.  I drive by that school from time to time (it is now closed, an empty shell).  I can point to you exactly which window I was standing at.  When I think on that memory I think about how much I’d like that life that I dreamed of for my children.

The style of education in institutional schools (public or private) does not match what I want for my children, at all! I want learning to be an adventure. School just isn’t. How can it be when you are confined to one room for an entire year, and one building for many years?  No, one or two field trips a year do not an adventure make.  I want my children to learn from REAL books, not textbooks. I want them to learn from REAL life, school is NOT real life. I want them to learn from real experiences.

I want the best of my kids, not what is left over on nights and weekends after they have given their all to school and friends all week.  I want to matter more to my children than their peers.  I want to help my children shape their own values and world view.  I want them learning how to be what God will call them to be from me.  Not their friend, and not some teacher I’ve never met, have no say in, and who believes in who only knows what.  God gave me these children to raise. He will hold me ultimately responsible for who they are and what they become.

Really truly homeschooling fits our family.  It really works for us and we definitely enjoy it.  For now at least we can’t imagine anything else.  Will our calling change?  Maybe.  Will circumstances ever change requiring us to reevaluate what we are doing?  That could surely happen.  But for now I choose to soak in each and every day. I admit, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is exhausting and at times all consuming. Some days I just see the kids walking down the street to that school and I think that I must be crazy. But really, it is the most wonderful and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. These days are precious. These memories are extraordinary. I can’t ever imagine regretting this. These are days I am incredibly blessed to experience.  Yes, it makes us weird.  I’ve seen normal… I don’t always like it.

I really hope I haven’t inadvertently hurt any feelings.  Most of my friends and family send their children to school and praise God it works for them!  Some of my best friends are the hardest working teachers the world knows.  My path isn’t their path and I love them for it.  This is our path.

Daddy’s attempt at a volcano.  His worked far better than Mommy’s!  
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: