March 10, 2014
Before You Say “I Quit!”:
How to Avoid Homeschool Burnout
Written by Erin Kaufman
We have all had “those” kind of days homeschooling. You know the kind I mean; everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong. All it takes is one really difficult day to start us wondering if this homeschooling thing is actually possible. Did we make the wrong decision to do this? Is there a better way? Can we take one more day of this? Before we get to this level let’s put a strategy in place so we can avoid the dreaded state of homeschool burnout.
Know why you are homeschooling. Do you know exactly why you homeschool? Is it just because homeschooling is a better option for your children than going to school, or do you have a bigger purpose behind it? Knowing this purpose is a must when you come to those days where it feels hopeless. For our family we have religious, academic, and financial reasons that we homeschool. Knowing that we have a goal and a purpose in our homeschool makes the hard days easier to get through.
Concentrate on character issues. This is one of the most important aspects of truly educating our children. It is the biggest reason classroom teachers are unable to effectively teach a room full of children: they all have character issues that need to be dealt with, but no one has the “time”. If your child is struggling with defiance, or self-control, or laziness, or any other of those type of issues, I highly suggest you stop your regular schooling and address them. Children battling these character issues are so much hard to teach, hence homeschooling becomes more challenging. You will not be doing your children (or yourself) any favors by ignoring them. Take time to address them and this will dramatically help your homeschool as well.
Know when it is time to change curriculum. Usually a few bad days will spark thoughts of changing curriculum. But we need to be careful with this. Is the curriculum really the problem? Can it be tweaked? Is the problem more of a character issue than a curriculum problem? That is not to say there is never reason to change curriculum. Sometimes we find a curriculum choice just doesn’t work with the type of learner we are teaching. Then it may be time to change. But otherwise, don’t jump to conclusions assuming you need new curriculum. Nothing stresses me out more than curriculum hunting…not something you want to add onto your plate if you are already struggling.
Take time for yourself. Homeschooling can be a very stressful job! Not only are you working all day as a teacher, you also have your students with you 24 hours a day! As much as I love and enjoy homeschooling, I need a break once in a while. Find an outlet for yourself. Maybe this can be a coffee night with friends, or a night away with your hubby, or a Bible study. Whatever you enjoy doing, find time to do it. You and your children will be much happier if you have time to relax and refresh from the stress that homeschooling can cause at times.
Find a strong support system. Do you want to be surrounded with people who aren’t necessarily supportive of homeschooling at a time when you are struggling with it? No! You need to surround yourself with like-minded people who can talk you through difficult times and show you how to make it better. Even if you don’t have a real-life support system there are so many online communities that can be of help. Homeschool forums and Facebook groups are a fantastic way to find the encouragement you need.
Know that you can’t do it all. There are times when you just can’t get everything done that you want to get done…and that is OK! I think as homeschoolers we get concerned with how our child’s education compares to his peers in school. I know I struggle with always wanting to add more to our school subjects. But there is not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do! Many times with children, less is more. Do what you can do to the best of your ability and let the rest go. How many times do you actually remember finishing an entire textbook in school? Very rarely. So don’t stress out if you don’t finish everything.
Put things in perspective. Have you ever had a job, or known anyone with a job, that has not had a bad day here and there? Even those people who adore their jobs can have bad days from time to time. Don’t think just because you had a bad day or two that homeschooling is not meant for you. Not every day will be perfect. Your children will probably not jump out of bed every day begging to do school work. Homeschooling can be difficult at times, just like anything else in life. So is homeschooling always sunshine and lollipops? No, but neither is anything else. Don’t let a few bad days deter you from something you were called to do. In the end, I think we will all find that the good definitely outweighs the bad! So before you even think about saying the words “I quit!” I hope you will consider some of these ways to battle that thought. And then, keep on keepin’ on…you can do it.
March 7, 2014
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March 6, 2014
Nature Study for Everybody
This is an article from Homeschool.com’s most recent virtual magazine
“There is no kind of knowledge to be had in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves, of the world they live in. Let them at once get into touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”
-G. Dowton The Parents’ Review
Spring time brings about a desire for a fresh start or a renewal of focus. And I think for most homeschoolers, we all look to where we are at with schooling. For my family, one of the questions I ask is the following–
“Is what we are doing working and what do I do if it’s not?”
For us, we are struggling with integrating Nature Study into our school. It ends up being something extra that we try to work in and rarely do. When really I feel it’s very important and needs to be moved more to the forefront of our day.
I asked some fellow homeschoolers to share how they incorporate Nature Study. Below you will find tips that will work for everyone from the workbook crowd to the Charlotte Mason followers.
Don’t Be Afraid of Workbooks
There is an idea out there that unless your Nature Study is purely organic, it’s not Nature Study. I think that can scare many of us away. If a workbook is what helps us connect our children to nature, then go for it!
Beth says: “My son has been using the Rod and Staff “My Calendar Book “ each day. At the end of the month we make a graph of what we observed. In October, the theme was what to wear: sweater, T-shirt or winter coat? November was what did the sky look like: Sunny, snowy, cloudy? December was how low did it go? It was seriously fun. When I think of nature study, I usually think of a huge project, but by doing this workbook it makes it simple to evaluate the world outside your window.”
Birds are everywhere. The country, the city, all types of habitats. Anybody can learn about birds for Nature Study. A great place to find affordable Field Guides is at your local thrift store or at garage sales. Look for the ones that are made for your area.
Irene says: “Probably our best school year yet was a few years ago, when most of our science for the year was related to birds. Bird-watching, bird identification (with Peterson field guides), making suet and hanging feeders in our yard, field trips to places known as good birding spots, etc. We did some of the activities from Apologia’s ‘Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day’. For art my older son (who was in 2nd grade) drew all the birds he saw at our house. We lived in the Bitterroot (area near Missoula, MT) at the time and I think recorded around 27 different species. We included a little study of the history of people studying flight and building airplanes. It was a great way to get the whole family involved, and not just in ‘school time’ – whenever we were out and saw a ‘new’ bird, it was a great learning opportunity. We have also done a gardening unit study in the spring along with planting a vegetable garden.”
Nature Study is Life
Nature Study can be incorporated into daily life and can enhance other school subjects.
Rebecca says: “We give them nature. That is how we make it work. Hiking, camping, lakes, walks, outside at home, at the park! To help with nature study, we have lots of field guides that the kids can access. If we see a bird outside the window, we grab a book and try to figure out what kind of bird it is and what it does. We’ve spent a while observing Clark’s Nuthatches, watching them use their long bills to get seeds out of fir cones this fall.”
When our family hikes, we discuss the flowers, plants, animals and rocks we see. If we see something we don’t know we take a picture (if we can) and get the books out when we get home. We focus on the journey of the hike more than the destination, looking at tracks and whatever else along the way. We have rock collections, that we look through often. We all have “wish lists,” of places we want to visit and animals, plants and rocks we want to see; we update these yearly. We plant a garden, the kids have their own row to plant whatever they want. We do wild flower walks. This fall we did a leaf walk, we took the field guides and reference books with us and went to the Capitol, did a quick lesson on types of trees, why some leaves turn the colors they do, identified trees using leaves, form and bark, talked about leaf types, picked up leaves, ran around, then brought the pretty leaves back and did lots of art projects with them.
I set up projects at home and put a “lab book” by the project (current project is seeing if we can grow an avocado tree from an avocado seed). I start the project and enter the first entry in the lab book and just leave it out by the project. The kids come by and each open the book and note any changes they have seen. If we see something cool, we call everybody over to see it.
We have bug catching equipment (we let them go after observing them).
We (my husband and I) get excited about the things we see around us, from neatly folded rocks to a moose and I think that goes a long way.
We do some things formally, my son was interested in spiders so we sought out information on that but Nature Study is one area I want them to drive interests (and will entertain those interests with books, worksheets and lessons as needed) and use the real world where we can.
This fall we did a leaf walk, we took the field guides and reference books with us and went to the Capitol, did a quick lesson on types of trees, why some leaves turn the colors they do, identified trees using leaves, form and bark, talked about leaf types, picked up leaves, ran around, then brought the pretty leaves back and did lots of art projects with them.
“The strange part is that although we are surrounded by Nature in some form at all times-though more so in the country than in the town-we see and know nothing unless we ourselves make the effort. This inertia on the part of so many people is the reason of so much ignorance of the Natural World. Nature herself is retiring and unobtrusive, but not secretive. There is nothing she hides from those who really want to learn and want to see. She is the greatest of all teachers, for once our senses are on the alert, she draws us on, revealing treasure after treasure, and broadening and deepening our experience. If we who are old enough to understand and appreciate this fact, know the joy and interest it brings, how much more ought we not to pass it on to the children from the very beginning, that they may miss nothing of the wonder of it all?”
-G. Dowton The Parents’ Review
Written by Katrina Thennis
March 5, 2014
Developing A Love For Learning
This is an article featured in our latest virtual magazine
I would like to tell you a little bit about our homeschool journey and what we finally settled on after 1 year of tears! I hope you find some of this information inspirational and helpful in your homeschool journey.
In 2011 I quit my full time job to become a stay at home/homeschool mom. I had planned and prepared though for a year prior. Little did I know though that all those plans and planners would pretty much be tossed out the window by the Fall of 2012. When we first began homeschooling in 2011 I tried the workbox method and attempted to cover every subject everyday…BIG FAIL. Frustration abounded and tears flowed. I had the GA standards pamphlet printed and had my mind set that the children NEEDED to have certain things learned by the end of the year. I tried to force my daughter to read…more tears from both of us. I was beginning to think homeschooling was not going to work. By January 2012 I pretty much gave up and let my children do whatever they wanted for the remaining months of the “school year”. And that is when I realized, that when they were given the chance to explore and follow their interests they were independently learning, absorbing more information and having fun. They didn’t need a strict schedule, they didn’t need tons of curriculum and they didn’t need to cover every subject every day. They began to love learning which was our primary reason for homeschooling in the first place.
So in Spring of 2012 we made a switch to delight-directed learning and haven’t looked back. What is delight-directed learning? Well it is a learning style in which children are in charge of their own learning. The delight-directed method allows children to use their natural curiosity to motivate them. By studying a topic of interest children learn all the necessary concepts of reading, reasoning, writing, researching, etc. Delight-directed learning is very similar to unschooling.
Here is what makes up delight-directed learning:
-it is child initiated, directed, and led.
-it is parent supervised and supported.
-it involves learning webs…you may start with a particular topic but may soon find yourself immersed in a connected topic.
-it is led by interests, spontaneous and unplanned. The strict, rigorous and planned schedule is a thing of the past.
-it encourages exploration of hobbies, personal interests and passions.
-academic subjects are integrated together rather than segmented (read below for further info regarding our math and reading).
How to get started?
Simply ask your child “what are you interested in learning ?” My kids usually come up with several topics for one month. And many times the topics they choose lead to another, and so on (learning webs). I make a list and then I help them find the resources they need to learn about the chosen topics. We utilize everything and anything including books, unit studies, lapbooks, websites, videos, classes, kits, fieldtrips, volunteering, etc. For keeping track of historical events we utilize a timeline book. Since neither of my children read or write on their own fully yet we read our books together as a family and also complete unit studies/lapbooks together. I would like to also note that this way of homeschooling is virtually FREE. Read more about that here on my blog.
It is also important to make sure that your home reflects a delight-directed learning environment. Make sure books, music instruments, art supplies, exploration boxes, creative toys, games, etc are readily available and within your child’s reach. This will encourage exploration, creativity and independent learning.
There are two particular subjects that generally raise lots of questions when I talk about our delight-directed homeschool method and that is math and reading. We do occasionally utilize curriculums for these two subjects, however most of the time these are covered and discussed without the need for a curriculum. My children are learning to read by choosing books they want to try to read and by me reading to them. Math is covered or can easily be incorporated into just about every topic they choose and it is often a more practical application so it is absorbed better.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. SAND, yes this is a topic my daughter wanted to learn about last year. At first I was a little apprehensive…but when we started to think outside of the box we came up with lots of ideas that involved sand. We covered deserts, glass, oysters/pearls, animals that live in desert and beach areas……..you get the point. We took two fun fieldtrips. One to a glass shop where we were able to see a glass making demonstration and another to a local pottery store where we made glass suncatchers. We contacted a local sand supplier and received 10 different samples of sand that we then examined under a microscope. With one simple topic like sand we covered science, geography, history, art, religion, life skills, reading, math, writing and more.
How so I keep records of what they are learning?
This is another question that arises when I describe our learning style especially since many states require records be kept for homeschool children. It took me awhile, but I finally came up with a simple system that is quick and easy (perfect for busy moms). I created a very simple spreadsheet which has spaces on the left for the days of the month in which we homeschool. At the top I list most of the subjects. There is a spot for extra where I can write/type in health, physical education, fieldtrips, etc. Each day I simply make a notation of what we did during our homeschool that day that covered that particular subject and of course I also keep or take photos of their projects, worksheets, lapbooks, unit studies etc. If this spreadsheet sounds like something you might utilize in your homeschool, feel free to download a copy.
I hope that this post inspires you and doesn’t scare you. Be sure to visit my blog for FREE lapbook and unit study resources.
Kathy quit her full time job in July 2011 to become a stay at home/homeschool mom to her two children. Besides being a full time mother she is also a devoted wife, blogger and social media manager. She lives in Georgia just north of the hustling and bustling city of Atlanta. When she is not tending to children she enjoys blogging, scrapbooking, hiking, geocaching, arts/crafts, traveling and watching movies. Read more about her homeschool journey on her blog, http://www.kathysclutteredmind.com.
March 4, 2014
March 3, 2014
St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17th–what a great opportunity to teach about American history; the impact of Irish immigrants; Ellis Island; Irish culture – music, art, poetry; and so much more.
Did you know-
- St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity to Irish non-Christians
- There are 34.5 million people who claim Irish ancestry in America
- There are over 7 times more people of Irish descent in the United States than the entire population of Ireland
- A young Irish woman was the first person to pass through Ellis Island once it was an immigration station. Her name was Annie Moore.
- The total number of immigrants that have entered the United States through Ellis Island — around 12 million.
- Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce are all Irish poets
- A famous Irish saying-“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to knowwhen you have gone too far”
What would you like to teach/learn about St. Patrick’s Day/Irish America? The possibilities are endless!
February 28, 2014
Starting with K-2, or pre-writing skills, my belief is that children shouldn’t be pushed to create original written work before they’re ready, which seems to be around 3rd grade for most children. However, pre-writing skills and copy work provide a solid foundation for when that original writing begins. Consider the following example as you teach your child using whole books:
What is a sentence? Use basic sentences from your child’s favorite books to point out the essentials:
- Sentences start with capital letters.
- Sentences form a complete thought.
- We know they end when there is specific punctuation (start with periods, then add question marks and exclamation points).
- Sentences have a subject and then explains what is happening to or about the subject.
Select several sentences from your child’s favorite books. The sentences should be basic and easily understood on their own. Some examples include:
- On Monday he ate through one apple. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)
- Snow had fallen during the night. (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats)
- People called her Miss Rumphius now. (Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney)
- Have your child use these sentences for copy work. When preparing for copy work, you might want to neatly print or type up the sentence in a large font for your child rather than having him copy from the book.
- Discuss how points 1 and 2 are evident in each sentence. Point out the punctuation marks. Activity idea: As a next step for point 3, change the ending punctuation for each sentence and discuss how that changes the meaning the sentence.
- Introduce the concept of “subject” and ask your child to tell you the who or what of each sentence (he, snow, people). Make sure your child differentiates between who and what, as this prepares him for the specific definition of noun which is taught later. Activity idea: Have your child underline/circle or highlight the specific subject. Have him use a different color or different method (underline or circle) to differentiate between who or what.
- After determining the subject, discuss how the other words in the sentence explain the actions and give details about the subject. Activity idea: Have your child highlight in a new color or put a square around the words that show what the subject did (ate, had fallen, called).
- Discuss the structure of the sentence: most often, although not always, the subject will come before the action in the sentence. Activity idea: Write each word of each sentence on note cards. Mix the note cards up. You can do this for each sentence for beginning students or mix up the sentences for more experienced students. Have your child organize the word cards into the sentences. Initially, your child may need to look at the copy work in order to recreate the sentences, but the goal is for your child to complete the activity without the aid of seeing them.
You might feel compelled to jump into more challenging ideas (adjectives, phrases, etc.) too quickly. One of the greatest weaknesses that I see in homeschooling is that parents assume their children have knowledge and skills based on limited exposure, particularly learning skills in isolation. That is why I am not a big fan of workbooks for teaching writing.
Remember that mastery is your goal. You want to do this type of teaching with your child until you feel confident that he has the concepts. Once these basic types of sentences have been tackled and accomplished, you can use more challenging sentences.
Thanks Beth for this great info!
February 26, 2014
Homeschool.com’s Very Own Joy Journal – Make Joy a Daily Experience
Yesterday’s post was about the winter blues. Today’s post is about experiencing joy!
Joy Journal helps you remember the experiences and events in your life, large and small, that are filled with joy. It guides you to envision the wonderful day that lies ahead of you. It gently introduces you to new habits and new ways of thinking, allowing you to appreciate your life more, and make it even better!
Click here to learn more!
How to Ease the Transition from Homeschooling to College
For parents of college-bound kids, high school graduation evokes mixed feelings of joy and fear. For students, embarking on a new journey of independence and adulthood can overwhelm even the most grounded scholar. This eventful moment marks a greater milestone for homeschooling parents and pupils. Studies show homeschooled students not only graduate college at a higher rate than their peers, but they also earn higher grade point averages along the way. Take a deep breath and rest assured you made the right choice by homeschooling. Keep up the good work and continue the path to success with these tips to help ease the transition to college.
Online and Career Ready
Through academic discipline and independence, homeschool students develop a personal will to learn. Unlike traditional forms of education, academic and social pursuits become a choice driven by their own skills and interests. Because homeschool students are familiar with taking online courses, accredited schools that offer online degrees might be the easiest transition for your student. For instance, online programs offered by Penn Foster provide career diplomas for sought after healthcare trades like becoming a pharmacy technician. The best part is that your advanced student will graduate with hands-on experience in their desired field, without going into massive student debt.
Universities have a piqued interest in homeschoolers’ proven academic success and their ability to endure widespread curriculums. Even though your child is more than academically prepared for the college experience, the diverse learning environment could come as a shock. Prepare them for success with these steps:
- Prepare them for a diverse college environment. Study different cultures, religions and lifestyles. A college campus houses thousands of students from various backgrounds. Encourage your child to keep an open mind and be courteous of those outside of their normal peer groups.
- Discuss moral differences. In addition to social, political and religious beliefs, your child may encounter a clash with other students’ morals. It’s important to bring up subject matters such as alcohol and drug use, academic dishonesty and wild behaviors. Have an honest discussion on how your child can best handle these situations and how they can practice tolerance while staying true to their upbringing.
- Teach a mock “lecture” class. Your child won’t have the luxury of small classes and one-on-one attention. Teach your child the importance of quick note-taking and focus on textbook-based lessons. Whenever possible, encourage your child to sign up for a group course of any kind, to help them grow accustomed to sharing an instructor with other students.
February 25, 2014
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Homeschooling Through the Winter Blues
Depending on where you live, this could be one of the coldest winters in memory.
How are you holding up? Have the winter blues crept in….. and affected your homeschooling ?
Just in case they have, I thought I’d share this post – Homeschooling Through the Winter Blues. It’s a guest post on TeachBesideMe.com–a site that has two freebie listings in Homeschool.com’s Freebie February event.
So, how are you combating the winter blues academically? Maybe you can share with us on Facebook.