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August 14, 2014

The Educational Value of a Teen Service Trip (and How to Pick the Right Program)

Filed under: Travel — Guest Author @ 4:50 pm

When our 15-year-old son, Nate, departed for his first international trip without his parents, his father and I knew he had many lessons in store for him: with the aid of his team leaders from Adventures Cross Country, he’d learn about the flora and fauna of rural Costa Rica, local politics and the educational system as he taught English to school children and worked on construction projects in small villages, and environmental stewardship in the tropical jungle. We hadn’t anticipated that his educational experience would begin before he even set foot on international soil: his maturity, travel-savvy, and personal management skills were put to the test when his plane to San Jose, Costa Rica was delayed, then cancelled. Turns out, the learning curve is pretty steep when you’re a teen and suddenly find yourself stranded in a major airport overnight.

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While stressful at the time, this travel hiccup ended up providing Nate with one of the best lessons of his trip: the need to take charge, while remaining calm and flexible. By the time Nate arrived through customs and met with his Costa Rican team for the next two weeks, he was already in possession of a newfound confidence that’s carried over after his return. Yes, he learned about poisonous jungle critters and cultural differences, how to build a lean-to and teamwork (and even how to surf), but most importantly, he learned to trust himself, adapt, and be a leader.

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If you’re considering a teen service trip for your child, there’s a lot to consider, from safety to price to credits earned. Here’s what we looked for (and ultimately found in Adventures Cross Country):

  1. Great communication

There’s a degree of risk when parents prepare to send their child to another country with people they haven’t met. In fact, when put like this, it sounds downright scary. When we started the process with Adventures Cross Country, I was immediately put at ease by the level of professional organization. Each student’s family is assigned an online portal, where all documents, forms, and destination information is stored. (Read more about how to prepare your child for his or her teen service trip.) Phone calls from the home office is regular, and we never felt like Nate was just a number. When Nate’s travel day went array, I was able to communicate immediately with staff members who were swift to action. Put simply, our hands were held the whole time…which is fortunate, as we’d never sent our child on a solo trip before.

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  1. Meaningful service

When kids sign up to make a difference, they want to do just that. Yes, students on Adventures Cross Country trips become eligible for community service hours (useful back at home), but the real learning begins when kids become invested in what they’re doing. We thought Nate’s favorite activities in Costa Rica would be surfing and white water rafting; in fact, he raved about the three days he spent in a rural school room, playing games with kids to help them learn English. This service was made possible by the in-country hosts Adventures Cross Country works with year after year. Find an organization with strong, long-term ties to the countries it visits, because it will be invested not only in the paying students, but in the destination as well.

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  1. Experienced team leaders

When kids travel without their parents to international countries where they won’t know anyone, it’s critical that the team leaders who essentially care for them and guide them are up for the task. Nate loved his leaders, Sally and Bolo, and from his tales of fun games, jokes, and activities, I know they skillfully bonded 13 kids in short order. Group dynamics are never easy to control (some students come with friends, some solo), but a quality leader can even the playing field. Look for programs with leaders who keep kids busy (a full itinerary is a good sign) and encourage enthusiasm (and discourage negative talk).

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To find all the above without asking to shadow a trip yourself, do the next best thing: talk to program alumni. (Read about Nate’s day-to-day itinerary in his own words.) Quality teen service programs will connect families with teens and parents who have been through the process. Also ask for a detailed trip itinerary and check a program’s reputation on multiple review sites like TripAdvisor before selecting one.  Ask for program policies, and make sure you’re comfortable with the level of supervision set. Know phone, electronic device, and drug/alcohol policies before you invest, so you can be sure the program is aligned with your family’s values or rules. Lastly, do your research to ensure the destination is currently safe to visit. After you’ve done your due diligence, relax, and enjoy watching your teen blossom while using his or her newfound travel skills!

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About the Author

Amy Whitley is a family travel writer, editor, and magazine columnist living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Amy is the founder of PitStopsForKids.com, where she writes travel advice and destination reviews for families with kids ages 0-18.

Back to Homeschool Message Boards

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DIY Back to School (Back to Homeschool) Message Boards are fun to make.  Just check out the pics below.

If you’d like a closer look, the how-to instructions are on pages 36-37 in Homeschool.com’s Back to Homeschool magazine!

By the way, this article is written by Chris C. Her blog is http://campfiresandcleats.blogspot.com/ .

 

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diy1diy1Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

 

August 13, 2014

Back to Homeschool Craft & Snack Ideas

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Back to Homeschool Craft & Snack Ideas — this is a really fun article! You can check out the pics below.

If you’d like a closer look, this article can be found on pages 33-34 in Homeschool.com’s Back to Homeschool magazine!

 

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August 12, 2014

Time for Homeschool!

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Time for Homeschool

Written by Erin Steeley

This is just one of the exceptional articles in Homeschool.com’s

newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

 

Whether you’re new to homeschooling or an old hand, making the first day, or week of your children’s school year special is important, and a great opportunity to make memories! It can be used to set the tone for the entire school year, and can also be a fun and exciting experience for the whole family. You can use the occasion to commemorate the decision to homeschool, or to just start things off with a bang, if you’re a veteran homeschooler. The goal is to have fun!

I like to involve my children in some of the suggestions for what we do for the beginning of school, as well as the rest of the school year. I ask them to name three things they’d like to do or learn about for the beginning of school, and try to put together unit studies for them using some of their ideas. Nothing too involved; I like to keep it light and fun the first few days. By involving them in the brainstorming, it can be helpful in keeping them focused and more committed to the subject matter. This can be especially important when young children are involved.

Allowing kids to help sort out a daily or weekly schedule is good, too. I like to type ours up, laminate it, and post it in our school space. I have young children, so I also have similar schedules posted in the bathroom and bedroom for morning and bedtime routines, and on the fridge for mealtime routines that the kids can help with. Many parents find that children enjoy the routine more when they at least have the impression that they are somewhat in charge, and the day to day monotony can be lessened. I find this to be true of homeschooling, as well.

Letting them pick out their school supplies is another way to help children embrace the new school year. I like to visit a dollar store and let them pick several things they like. Special pencils, sparkly crayons, and character notebooks are cheap and easy pleasers. Also, it can be a celebration of freedom from the boring supply restrictions of public schools, if you are new to homeschooling.

A fun and educational field trip is always a good idea, and can start your school year off with some excitement. A children’s library, a science museum, or a zoo are some ideas. If your kids are involved in the arts, a day at the ballet, opera, theater, or local art gallery would be good, though younger kids might not be as interested as their more mature counterparts, or have the necessary attention span.

One of my favorite things to do is to take pictures on the first day, and the last day, and several times throughout the year. We then make a journal/portfolio/scrapbook (sometimes all three) that the kids put together as we go along. They love to reflect on the fun times and milestones reached, and hard lessons mastered.

Time capsules are a memorable way to kick off your homeschool days. We used an empty Pringles can. You can put photos of your kids on their first day, and a hand or foot tracing. You can even do a whole body tracing if you make your capsule big enough. You can record your children’s height, and have them write down some of their favorite things, or things they want to learn this school year. At the end of the year, open them, and discuss what has changed since that first day.

Another good craft idea is to have your homeschoolers create decorations for the school space. They can be basic school themed items, such as alphabet, math facts, historical figures, or literary characters to start the school year off, and then add to the display of masterpieces as you cover more material. I like to give them a craft idea from each book we read, and decorate the area as we move through our school year.

Education/school themed snacks and meals are another fun way to celebrate. For instance, if your kiddo has a favorite book, you can incorporate book themed foods and crafts into the first week of school. My kids love The Kissing Hand, so we have made Kissing Hand cookies, and hand crafts with paints.

When our family decided to homeschool our children, we celebrated by having ice cream for dinner. This was a spur of the moment, silly thing, but has evolved into a once a month tradition. It’s nice to use “ice cream dinners” for special occasions, and just to break the monotony of school days when they get a bit tiresome.

A really good idea is to create a name for your homeschool, a theme, or a mission statement. Or all three, if you are so inclined. You can have your kids contribute ideas and help pick the name. You can choose school colors, and your family pets can serve as mascots. I, personally, love the idea of a homeschool mission statement, which can be malleable with every passing year.

Our children’s education and enrichment is our common goal as homeschoolers, and it can be incredibly rewarding, but also very challenging. That’s why it’s vital to start off the homeschool year with fun and eager attitudes, and EVERYONE has to work hard to maintain it through the year, but like anything where our children are concerned, it’s well worth it! And you can make it so much FUN!

 

Bio–Hello there! My name is Erin, and I am a homemaker, mommy, and new homeschooler. I have two young daughters, ages six and four. They are my sunshine, and they sure keep me on my toes! 

They’re always full of energy and are both incredibly precocious. I keep pretty busy with kids, husband, home, and now a little writing.

I’ve always loved to write, although I haven’t had occasion to do much of it since my first year of college. I often find that it’s my truest and best form of therapy. There is that quote from William Faulkner that says “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it “, and nothing else holds more true for me.

My new blog will be theroadlesstraveledisnotinvain.wordpress.com, and you can touch bases with me on Facebook too – https://www.facebook.com/theroadlesstraveledisnotinvain.

August 11, 2014

Back to Homeschool

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A Painless Transition – Back to Homeschool

Written by Erin K.

This is one of the MANY informational articles in Homeschool.com’s

newest e-magazine-Back to Homeschool

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Childhood memories of going back to school have never been fond ones for me. Granted, I was not homeschooled, but the lack of transition can affect those that homeschool too. An abrupt end to summer fun, abundant time outside, and flexible schedules can be hard on any child, and their parents too! So why not start off the year by creating a smooth transition from all of the summer fun to a new school year. Starting off the year on the right foot can make all the difference in the world in how your year will go. Our family has found several different ways to transition into a new school year that are fun for everyone.

 

Keep a flexible schedule

There is not a homeschooling rule that says you have to jump right out of a fun and relaxed summer schedule directly into one that does not allow for any flexibility. Late summer and early fall can provide some fantastic weather and many learning opportunities. Don’t ignore these opportunities just for the sake of keeping your schedule. One of our favorite late summer activities is visiting our county fair. We can’t forget just how much meaningful learning takes place in these spur-of-the-moment activities that would otherwise never make it onto our schedule. Take advantage of these unplanned activities and enjoy them!

Take school work outside

A great way to ease back into school work is to take your books outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Before we know it, winter will be upon us and our time outside will be filled with winter coats, hats, and gloves. So take this time to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures. Learning doesn’t have to take place inside a building. In fact, there is an indescribable peacefulness for us when we do our school work outside. Grab a picnic blanket, sit at a picnic table, or climb a tree, and soak in the beauty of nature all around you.

Ease back into the work, subject by subject

There are two ways to approach the slow introduction of subjects. You can either start with the subjects that are a little bit harder for your children and give them a head-start, or you can start with those that are easier for them. You know your students best. For my oldest, I start with the easier subjects because he has a tendency to get overwhelmed easily. But for my second oldest, she would do better to start with harder subjects since she likes a challenge. Then you can continue to add subjects at a comfortable pace, whether that be one per day or one per week. Either way, there is no need to jump in the deep-end of the schooling swimming pool; dip your feet into the shallow end and gradually work your way into a full schedule over time.

Build the excitement

Planning some meaningful experiences based on the upcoming year’s subjects is a great way to spark the interest of your students. Late summer/early fall are great times for field trips since most other children will be back in school. Are you studying fish this upcoming year? Plan a trip to an aquarium. Will you be learning about American History? Plan to visit a few local historical sites, or plan an entire vacation around it and go to Washington D.C. This will give your students a great introduction to a topic that may be new to them. These little trips will give your students wonderful connections to their school work. All year long you will probably hear them saying things like “Remember when we saw this?” or “Is this like what we saw on our trip?” You can also try to visit the same place at the end of the year and see how much they have learned and remember.

Play some games

Who doesn’t love a good game! There are some fantastic and educational games out there that can provide a bridge to new learning. The “10 Days in …” series of games are great to focus on any geographical area you will be studying this upcoming year. Since we will be studying American History this year, we plan to play “10 Days in the U.S.A.” to help solidify my kids’ knowledge of where each and every state is located. Are you going to be introducing a new math skill, such as multiplication, in the upcoming school year? Right Start card games are great for making math fun. Trust me, these games are so much fun that your students won’t even know they are learning, and there are so many out there to choose from.

 

Getting back into the school routine doesn’t have to be something that everyone dreads. Make it fun, make it meaningful, and make it memorable. As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to do things differently than everyone else does them. We don’t have to jump right back into school work or spend our entire day in a school room. Try something new with your family this year, and you may just start a new family tradition that will last for years to come.

 

Written by Erin K., from http://wateronthefloor.wordpress.com/

August 8, 2014

5 Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool

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5 Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool

Written by Renae C.

This is just one of the exceptional articles in Homeschool.com’s newest

e-magazine-Back to Homeschool

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An important part of a successful homeschool year is organization. Without it, it’s so easy to get behind on schoolwork and projects. By organizing your homeschool, not only are you more likely to keep yourself on track, but it can also save you a lot of stress, time, and even money.

  1. Know the laws in your state. If you will be required to fulfill a certain time constraint or curriculum choice, or even testing guidelines, it is important to have this information up front. You can easily check the requirements for your state on the HSLDA website. (http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/)
  1. After learning about the laws in your state, use what you find to make a schedule. Choose something that will work for you, whether it’s a simple day planner or a large wall calendar. By scheduling your daily routine, projects, field trips, and vacation days, it will help you stay on track for the school year. While you don’t need to schedule your day hour by hour (unless you want to!), writing down what you need to get done each day can keep you from forgetting important deadlines. At the end of the school year, it saves you the stress of trying to rush to complete things you haven’t finished yet. Also, for those states that require a record of days/hours attended, it simplifies your process at the end of the year. Be sure to leave some room in your schedule for unplanned fun. You never know when you’ll get invited to join another homeschool family on a trip to the zoo! One of the great things about homeschooling is the flexibility it offers you and your family. You can build this flexibility into your schedule.
  1. Have big plans for the school year? Gather your supplies, or at least make a list for each large project you are planning at least a couple of weeks in advance. Giving yourself time to plan saves you from last minute chaos and helps to ensure that your ideas actually become a reality. Your kids will thank you!
  1. In August, the back-to-school sales start and they are a great way to get most of your school materials at a deep discount. However, it is very easy to throw your shopping bags in the back of a closet and forget about them because you don’t need them immediately. For those short on space, organizing your school supplies can be a challenge. Set aside a space, however large, dedicated just to your school materials. Even if it’s one shelf on a bookcase, it can make your life easier. You can’t successfully homeschool if you can’t find pencils, paper, erasers, etc.! This is where you can really get creative and have some fun decorating!
  1. Throughout your school year, there will inevitably be times when you start to feel frazzled. When this happens, take a step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. Is it a time to re-organize and hunker down, or is it time to throw a little organization out the window? Maybe you need to take some more play time during your day? Sometimes, kids just need to shake up their routine – try taking your schoolwork to the park or the library for the day. While it might go against the grain for a hyper-organized person, change is good. It promotes growth (in you and your child!) and you’ll never find what works best for you if you don’t allow it.

Homeschooling is what you make of it. It can be a fun adventure and challenge or it can be a crazy mess. It’s up to you to decide what you want your school to be. If you thrive in a crazy mess, go for it! For the majority, however, having at least some structure is not only nice, but needed.

 

Written by Renae C. Renae is the author of the blog ‘Mostly Together Mommy’. In addition to raising three kids, she works full-time and homeschools her kids. It’s no wonder she’s only keeping it “Mostly Together”! Renae is a veteran of the armed forces, was homeschooled herself, and now writes about all of it. She shares her daily life, recipes, positive thinking, crafts, and more at www.mtmommy.com.

 

August 7, 2014

Homeschool Records

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Homeschool Records You Should Be Keeping

Written by Brenda Rufener

This is one of the articles in Homeschool.com’s newest

e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

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Just like tax records, documents for homeschooling are a necessary evil.

Some states require submission of homeschool records and others do not. Whether you are sending documents into the state or not, there are records you should be keeping safe and secure throughout your home educating years.

Official, or sometimes legal, homeschool records, do not include book reports, essays, or prized toddler artwork. Homeschool records are school records that document official school business.

The following is a sampling of recommended records for safe keeping, even if your state does not require them.

Attendance Records

Attendance records showcase the days you held school. You can mark a calendar, including the daily number of hours school was conducted. Pencil in the hours and summarize at the end of the month.

Most states require 180 school days. A simple excel spreadsheet or word document may be used to tally the days and hours spent homeschooling. Online time sheets are available to print off free of charge if you want a more detailed record.

Here’s a popular resource with free attendance records:

Immunization Records 

If you immunize your children, have these records on file. There is no secret to immunization records. Your pediatrician or family care provider has cards available to make documentation easy and efficient.

Have a couple of copies on hand in case the original gets misplaced. In the event that your child returns to public school, immunization records must be current and readily accessible. Of course, there are exceptions when it comes to immunizations and school officials should be willing to work with you no matter what your stance.

School Documents – The Legal Stuff

Keep copies of any paperwork that your state requires in order to legally homeschool your child. A copy of the declaration of intent sent to the school district, homeschool registration forms, and a brief summary of curriculum may be needed. These are documents required by your state – just in case your homeschool is audited or your child returns to public school.

If you are not sure what your state requires, review the information here:

Test Scores and Transcripts

Some states require standardized testing be administered annually. Whether you opt for a testing agency or administer the test at home, results should be kept in a safe place. In the event that your child returns to public school, these records may be required.

You may choose not to issue grades until middle school or high school – that is fine. Grade forms and transcript templates, as well as other pertinent record keeping supplies are found at Donna Young and several other online transcript agencies.

A good time to get organized and start planning for high school record keeping is before your child enters 9th grade. It is never too early to plan for the future. Check with college admissions offices online for a complete list of the homeschooled student requirements. As homeschooling becomes more the norm than the exception, colleges are accommodating of required homeschool records.

Optional Records (Thinking About College)

While not required by states, other records may come in handy if your child plans to attend college. Documenting important milestones can provide you with comparison charts and help you plan for the following year. Optional records worth keeping include:

  • Portfolio of sample work (essays, literary pieces, and book reports)
  • Yearly reading list (make note of the books your child reads)
  • Summary of education goals or plans for the year (broken into subjects)
  • Field trip descriptions (why they were important)
  • List of classes or extracurricular activities your child participated in (chess club, book clubs, sporting activities, art classes)
  • List of accomplishments and recognition (include licenses and certifications, special programs, math contests, writing contest awards, etc.)
  • List of community service projects (including volunteer work, church-related work, charitable organizations)

Even if your child does not plan to go to college, a transcript, sufficient high school records, and a diploma are important for future employment.

One last note – Don’t get overwhelmed.

You don’t have to record everything. There will be times when you just want to discuss a book with your child or build blocks with your toddler. You don’t have to write down each activity accomplished in the day.

Remember, quality time spent together is more important than checking off a box. If your children are young, you have time to work through the record-keeping bumps. Always remember the real reason you are homeschooling.

Celebrate together, record later.

Bio: Brenda Rufener is an award winning author, occasionally blogging about the reality of homeschooling on her blog Homeschool Diaries. Find her recently released homeschool book on Amazon and join thousands of other homeschool parents on her Facebook page.

 

August 6, 2014

How to Choose the Right Curriculum

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How to Choose the Right Curriculum

Written by Kara Kerrivan

This is one of the helpful/informative articles in Homeschool.com’s

newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

 

It’s that time of year when homeschoolers  cruise websites, blogs, magazines, convention aisles, curriculum swaps, and ask the opinions of other homeschooling parents in the quest for finding the perfect curriculum for their little Einstein. While it can be enjoyable, you can bet there will be frustration, a few headaches, and the occasional tantrum along the way, and not from the 2 or 3 year old either! Then, there’s always that little voice in the back of your mind, “Am I qualified enough to be doing this?” The answer to that is yes. If you love reading to your child, learning with them and learning from them, teaching them and watching them succeed in finding their passion, then yes. You can homeschool and you will love it.

The amount of information you will find on the topic of curriculum will be overwhelming as the options are quite literally endless. You can save yourself a lot of time and struggle by asking yourself a few short questions before you start your search, such as:

1)      How does my child learn best? For instance, a curriculum geared toward visual learners is probably not going to grasp the interest of an auditory learner. My son is a Kinesthetic/Visual learner, you can tell him something over and over but it never sticks. If you then let him try, or show him, he picks up the lesson almost right away. Therefore a literary based curriculum would not be helpful for him.

2)      How will I be teaching? Which style of homeschooling fits our family’s needs? Are we a family always on the go? Or are we more at home learners? Will we sit and follow a lesson plan? Or are we more on the unschooling path? Do we have a general plan of what we’d like to do?

Here is some information regarding different ways to homeschool.

3)      Is a faith driven curriculum right for our family, or not? Religious beliefs play a huge part for some families. Some families choose to go this route with homeschool because it suits their family’s beliefs and values.

4)      What is my budget?   Purchasing second hand, or using free worksheets you can print from home, will certainly save you money. You can use anything you want as curriculum—and make anything fit your budget. That was and still is a little hard for me to grasp when I shop for our curriculum. I always keep my eyes open at garage sales, thrift stores, and the dollar stores for deals. That’s where I found an amazing math tool to help my son understand greater than, less than, and equal to at the Dollar Store. I’ve purchased our art supplies there as well. You’ll notice amazing tools just about everywhere, and within just about every budget, once you start to relax and settle into your chosen routine.

Here is an article about homeschooling for less than $200 a year.

Once you’ve answered these questions, it will make your search that much easier and your stress level will start to diminish. You can start requesting catalogs from companies. Most distributor sites also have sample lesson plans you can print right at home. I love these because you can try a program out before you purchase. Hit the blogs, Facebook pages, website forums, and support groups, and start asking questions. Make sure you take note of the subjects, publisher and level of the specific curricula you’ve chosen and some things you’d like to know about it. The parents on these forums are very knowledgeable and you will receive some very informative answers.

Other homeschoolers will help you figure it out. And here’s the good news—if you make a mistake, you can just adjust! Homeschooling is extremely flexible! Just remember to have fun with it and relax because this journey on the homeschooling path is an amazing one for the whole family.

 

Bio: Kara Kerrivan is a stay home mom of 4, homeschooling her oldest, an 8 year old boy. Kara has recently rediscovered her passion for writing again and is currently a Freelance Writing student, nearing graduation.

 

August 5, 2014

Joy Journal – Discover YOUR Joy

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 9:16 am

Joy-Journal

 

This is Rebecca Kochenderfer from Homeschool.com. I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach, feeling stressed about everything that has to get done. So I reached for my copy of Joy Journal. It’s helping.

From Joy Journal by Rebecca Kochenderfer (available from Amazon.com) –

 

Here’s an experiment you can try that I call, “The Joy Experiment.” Just for today, decide that you are only going to do things that you enjoy. No have-to’s or should-do’s. Today is for want-to’s.

Sometimes joy comes from resting, sometimes from keeping busy. Sometimes from being alone, and sometimes by being around others. Starting now, promise yourself that today you are not going to do anything you don’t “want” to do. You may think you don’t want to go to work, but you will probably discover that you do want to go because you want that paycheck. You may decide that you don’t “want” to do the dishes, but in the end you either do them because you want to have things clean, or you don’t do them and no harm comes from it. Contrary to popular belief, the earth will not open up and swallow you if you do what you want to do, instead of what you have to do.

Today you are going to discover the things that bring you joy. This is no small thing. Joy is unique to each person and is often elusive. We get so wrapped up in the busyness of our days that we forget how beautiful and fleeting life is.

Joy Journal focuses your attention so that it’s easier for you to tune into the joy that is already all around you.

Today:

- What joyful things are you looking forward to today?

- What things do you NOT want to do today? Promise yourself that you don’t have to do them unless you want to.

- What are you grateful for today?

- Now, as you go through your day, keep asking yourself: What do I want to do next? What do I WANT to do now?

 

Wishing you a day of joyful discovery, Rebecca Kochenderfer Senior Editor Homeschool.com

 

What I Will Be Doing Differently

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What I Will Be Doing Differently

by Treece Marcum

This is just one of the exceptional articles in Homeschool.com’s

newest e-magazine–Back to Homeschool

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Every Spring I look out our living room window to our flower garden and I feel a sense of excitement fill every nook and cranny of my being. Why? Because new life is taking shape. The birds are singing and making nests. Our flowers are awakening to the warmth and bright days of newness. It also means that the end of our school year is almost here! I’d be lying if I said I weren’t REALLY excited about that last part.

Fast forward a few months and the groans of boredom and the sweltering heat have taken their toll on my kids, our poor flowers and my patience. I’m ready for cooler temperatures, falling leaves and you betcha, SCHOOL! It’s my favorite time of year! The thought of buying school supplies excites me just as much now as it did when I was a kid. I start perusing through curriculum catalogs searching online for resources and I begin the desperate search for that “Miracle Curriculum”. You know the one that doesn’t exist but everyone would love it if it did? Yep, that one!

I begin thinking back to last year and what worked, what didn’t, and everything in between. I need change. Not just because I am displeased with how things went before but because I can’t help but feel that I could/should be doing something differently…better. Sure, I liked the resources I found on dinosaurs but what if there is something else, something that presents the material in a way I have never seen done before?

Homeschoolers homeschool in about as many different ways and use as many different resources as there are probably stars in the sky. No two do it exactly the same. This is one of the many awesome things about homeschooling. We take what ideas, resources, and methods we think will be most helpful to our families and try them out. This freedom is one of the things that I believe is so amazingly wonderful about our choice to homeschool. If something doesn’t work, no big deal, move on to something else.

This year I am making a pretty significant change. I have been following the Charlotte Mason methodology for years. I love it. I think she was very wise and had a sixth sense, if you will, about the educational needs of children. However, I am exhausted. Trying to find different books and resources for the different subjects for every day of the week has left me overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and under appreciated. Needless to say, my kiddos think that it’s still school work regardless of how awesome I try to make it.

Thankfully, I found a curriculum that is still within the method of Charlotte Mason but it gives me a break on what to do when, how, etc. It’s called Heart of Dakota. It’s wonderful. We were so excited about using it that we started our school year early (never happened before EVER). The kids and I absolutely LOVE it! I‘ve never bought a complete curriculum before so this was all new to me. I’ve always just mixed, matched, and pieced together what I could based on what we were studying. Enter exhaustion. This curriculum takes all that stress away and I can still add things if I get ambitious. However, it’s perfect just as it is.

As my kids have gotten older mixing and matching has gotten more and more difficult. Not to mention, there are those times when the little voices in my head begin eating away at my security about how Mrs. Jones (not her real name) does things or how fabulously easy Mrs. Brown (also not her real name) makes everything appear. Those doubts and insecurities are enough to drive a good teacher crazy.

This year, I have resolved not to give in to doubts, insecurities, or any other feelings of negativity. I am going to let my kids be my guide. As long as they are enjoying learning (for the most part) and I am enjoying teaching (again, for the most part), there is no room in my life for comparisons or keeping up with the “Joneses” in homeschooling. We are all different and it is time to give ourselves permission to be different.

I’ve also decided we are going to be on a different schedule this year. Yep, I know, minds blowing everywhere. So. Many. Changes. Change is good and this year I am incorporating into every aspect of our Homeschool. Not only are we changing to a complete curriculum, staying positive in the face of my own insecurity, but I am changing our 5 day per week schedule to a 4 day per week schedule. Mondays are going to be our free day. We will be “free” to clean house (it gets pretty messy after the weekend), buy groceries, go to doctor appts., and anything else we need to do so that the rest of the week is free so we can learn and to go on field trips.

I love new beginnings. Springtime is one of my favorites. My MOST favorite is the beginning of the new school year. It’s a time for change, doing things differently, and even reminding us that OUR Homeschool is OURS. No one else has to follow our plans. We do what works for us and we give ourselves permission to change things as necessary. New beginnings are wonderful whether they start in August or anytime of year.

Enjoy this upcoming school year! Make changes and do what is best for YOUR family. May God Bless each of you!

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