Whether you homeschool on the road for a week or make a lifestyle of educational travel, roadschool doesn’t have to break the bank! Watch our latest video for some great money saving ideas for your next homeschool field trip!
Parent Retreat= Parent Treat
Last spring, Joe and I attended a Teach Them Diligently conference where we were delighted and surprised to see an old friend from our newlywed small group days. How fun!!
Homeschooling can be tough, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Even the most passionate homeschool parent goes through seasons of discouragement. All kids struggle at times- whether with a specific subject, an area of character growth, a skill that doesn’t come easily, a feeling of being left out by their friends… or a million other challenging circumstances. And just like kids need mom and dad to cheer them on to a strong finish of the school year, mom and dad need someone to cheer them on and remind them why what they do is so important.
Joe and I have found one of the greatest encouragements to be attending an annual homeschool conference. Every year since we began homeschooling, we have made it a priority to attend a homeschool conference. The first six years of homeschool, we attended the ICHE (Illinois Christian Home Educators) conference in Naperville, IL. We have been privileged to sit under the teaching of keynote speakers such as Ken Ham and Voddie Bachum. During the two and a half day conference, we had many options of workshops that we could attend- our needs vary from year to year. I can remember one year I was really struggling with trying to teach to our kids’ different learning styles. Sure enough, I found workshops where I was able to get some great insights and tips on how to adjust my teaching style to fit our children’s individual needs. The workshops can be so incredibly helpful.
The past two years, we have attended the Teach Them Diligently conferences. The first year we went to Akron, OH where it was conducted at a Kalahari resort. We were excited to bring our kids with us- many of these conferences are very family friendly and will provide “tracks” for your students to enjoy as you attend workshops geared toward mom and dad. After the day’s workshops were completed, we picked up the kids and enjoyed the water park. It was a fun trip and family time, but we returned home exhausted. The down side of taking the kids with us was that Joe and I did not have the time to talk and debrief between sessions, as we typically enjoy doing. The downtime we were used to having was instead used to entertain the kids, rather than relax.
So this past year, we left the kids with family once again and set out on our own for another Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville. This time was so invaluable and encouraging to us. From the hours spent talking in the car, to the workshops we attended on marriage and parenting, and specific homeschool help courses, it was a refreshing reminder of why we have chosen to homeschool: to train up our children to know and love the Lord, to teach them about Him in every subject we study, to invest in their character and our relationships with each of them. We went home fired up, filled with new ideas of how to make our homeschool experience even better, confident of our calling to home educate another year.
How about you, friends? How do you stay fired up and encouraged on this journey of homeschooling? Could you share some ideas for other homeschool parents to consider? I look forward to hearing your ideas and answering any questions you throw my way.
May God encourage you as you keep doing life deliberately!
Time Saving Ideas for Homeschool
With each additional child, the time spent homeschooling every day increases exponentially for mom and/or dad. Homeschool begins with teaching kids at home, but that is not where homeschool ends. Not only do parents spend time teaching the kids, but they have to plan out their schoolwork and correct their finished schoolwork, just like a vocational teacher. If you are the minority homeschooling parent that has nothing else to do besides teach the kids (I don’t know anyone personally who is in this position), then spending the entire day planning, teaching and correcting is no problem. BUT, if you are like most people and have a house to keep, possibly a part time or full time job, and activities to run kids to, then like myself, you can probably benefit from some…
Time Saving Tips
- Choose curriculum that will do some or all of the planning for you. There are many curriculums out there to choose from. I absolutely love that My Father’s World (our curriculum of choice for the past 4 years) does some of the planning for me. The teacher’s guide breaks lesson plans up by weeks and mom and dad can easily plug in the subjects that are age/level specific, such as math, foreign language, etc.
- Study some of your subjects together. When you do unit studies, the family learns together rather than having to go from child to child to their individual, age specific curriculum. You all interact with the same material (though older students will likely have more challenging reading), so it’s easier to stay on top of checking and correcting their work.
- Use curriculums that will check the work for you! Oh man, I LOVE Teaching Textbooks for this reason. Teaching Textbooks is a computer based math curriculum that not only makes math fun for your kids and teens, but it also checks their work and keeps records of their progress!! What a blessing!! We also love Rosetta Stone (a software based language curriculum) for the same reason.
- If you find that checking and correcting your student’s work is bogging you down, see if you can’t talk your spouse into sharing the load. Divide and conquer!! Having both mom and dad involved in holding kids accountable this way provides regular opportunities for both parents to have meaningful interactions with the kids and be aware of what the kids are learning, struggling with, and excelling at.
- Share the load of tutoring difficult subjects with your kids. If you have a child who is really struggling, have the parent who is stronger in that subject tutor them. Or, if it is an area of difficulty for both mom and dad, seek out a college student to tutor privately, or find a local tutoring center to supplement what they are already doing.
- If your find yourself struggling to assemble supplies and teach multiple science labs, team up with another family or a local homeschool co-op to do science labs together. Parents can divide kids by age group and teach them at the same time OR take turns compiling materials OR divide what materials to bring. Doing labs with friends can make the whole experience more enjoyable no matter how you divide and conquer the material.
- Have siblings test and correct one another. An example of how this plays out in our home is spelling. The kids enjoy giving each other their protests and test for spelling. And with the spelling workbook in front of them, it is no problem to check if the words were spelled correctly or not. Just this little step can save mom and dad time over and over again.
There are dozens of ways to save time in homeschool. What are your best tips for saving time in homeschool?? We’d love to hear your best tips and tricks, so please, leave them in the comment section below.
Until next time, keep Doing Life Deliberately!!
*disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I will receive a small commission. This is one way you can help support our family. If you have any questions about what this means or how this works, let me know! I’d love to answer your questions. 🙂
Learning by “Catching”
One of the unexpected joys of homeschooling is watching our younger children learn from our older children. Sometimes, it’s on purpose. For example, I have had the older kids read to the younger kids (watch my latest YouTube video: How to Teach Kids to Read in Homeschool ). I have also had our oldest daughter teach grammar to our son. I found myself in a place where there just wasn’t enough of me to go around, so I leaned into Hannah to help teach Gideon. An added benefit was it was reviewing the basic parts of speech and diagramming sentences (she had been through the curriculum just a few years before). So while I was teaching one of her younger sisters, Hannah read the scripted grammar curriculum to her brother. Mind you, it’s not a perfect scenario. Siblings fight and so some days were a little hairy, but we got through it!
But I think what is most fun, is the many times where our two younger children have recited something that they had not been directly taught, but rather, have caught from watching and listening to their older siblings do school. Our youngest daughter is now seven years old and a third grader. Learning has come pretty easy for her because she has picked up so much from just hanging around while I taught school to the older kids: poems, grammar chants, times table songs, books of the Bible set to music, Bible memory verses, etc. Things that took the older kids weeks to learn, Izzy already knew when we came to it in the curriculum.
I see evidences learning by “catching” in my kids’ music lessons, as well. All four of our kids take piano lessons. My oldest has recently discovered that the music to the video games she loves is available in sheet music or through tutorials on YouTube. As her younger siblings have heard her practice and sing the songs, some of them have “caught” the fever, too. Finding music that they love has heightened their interest in playing the piano and tackling a level of difficulty that they would otherwise avoid. It has been really fun to watch!
One of the benefits of homeschool is not only that mom and dad get to spend more time with their children, but that siblings can interact more, as well. Homeschooling is a great way to give your kids more opportunities to positively interact with one another. Playing learning games together, teaching a younger sibling a school lesson, entertaining toddlers and babies while mom teaches… these are all ways to teach our oldest kids to consider the needs of others and act upon that in a self-sacrificial way, thereby learning and practicing kindness to those they spend the most time with.
How do you see your kids learning by “catching”? PLEASE, share in the comments below- we’d LOVE to hear from you!!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately,
Helps For Teaching Math
Teaching spelling might be a bit challenging, because I have to adapt to my kids’ different learning styles. (Click here to watch my latest video “How to Teach Spelling in Homeschool.) But math…I am NO math genius. Though arithmetic never posed many problems for me, algebra kicked my butt on a regular basis as a teenager. I never flunked, but it certainly did not come easy to me. Looking back, I wonder if my brain was just not quite fully developed enough in that area to grasp concepts that came much easier to other kids. Who knows? Now that I have taken algebra at the highschool level, college level, and have to help my 13 year old daughter, I feel like I am FINALLY starting to “get it.” And now that I get it, she is starting to surpass what I ever learned.
Well, to all the mathematically challenged homeschool parents out there, there is good news. There has never been as many resources available to parents to teach their children as there are now. I have been so thankful to have a mom with a teaching degree to pass on tips and tricks to me, as well. And I am thankful for the many different curriculums and helps available. I’d love to share some of them with you!
- Saxon Math– the curriculum we used with all of our kids during the grade school years and beyond. Saxon is not colorful or fluffy. It’s been around a long time- I remember using it for pre-algebra in the 8th grade. But what Saxon lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in substance. It is extremely thorough- teaching kids mastery in math facts, slowly building skills as they gradually add concepts from one day to the next. Our oldest daughter used Saxon all the way through Saxon 8/7 in the 7th grade.
- Teaching Textbooks (a computer math program that instantly checks and records grades) is available for all ages. We switched to Teaching Textbooks when our oldest was an 8th grader and she tested into Algebra 1 (with a history of Saxon Math). We now have two children using Teaching Textbooks and it has been a huge blessing to our family!! Both of our girls detested math more and more as they got older and the material became more challenging. But when we made the switch to Teaching Textbooks, their attitudes improved tremendously! This curriculum is visually stimulating, has little characters that encourage your student(s) whether they answer correctly or need to try again, immediately corrects their work, and keeps a record for you. Parents can easily go into the record book to adjust grades or erase problems so students can try again. This curriculum has preserved my homeschool mom sanity just a bit longer!!
- Saxon CD ROMs– Saxon does put out teaching CD ROMS for their 4th grade and above curriculums that you can purchase in addition to textbooks. These CDs contain a lecture, practice problems, and work through each problem found in the text, if desired.
- DIVE CD ROMs– These CD ROMs also accompany the middle to upper levels of Saxon Math. They include a proposed syllabus to help you stay on track throughout the school year and finish the curriculum. The lecturer encourages students to write down problems as he explains examples and challenges students to keep a positive attitude. I really liked these CD ROMs. The examples are NOT the same ones found in the books.
- Xtra Math– this is an app that you can purchase (currently $4.99 on the IPhone) that makes practicing your math facts fun and easy. It can be used for multiple students and sends mom or dad a weekly report so they can see the progress their kids are making. It takes 5-10 minutes 5 days a week.
- Manipulatives– This is something that my mom tipped me off to very early in our homeschool experience- and I’m so glad she did. Several grade school curriculums will require that you purchase a set of manipulatives, which may or may not include a plastic clock with moving hands, plastic shapes, a balance, linking cubes, counting bears (or another animal for teaching arithmetic in a fun way), flash cards, etc. There are lots of household items you can use, though, to teach early elementary math concepts and make it fun: beans, buttons, grapes, tongue depressors, pencils, etc. These types of items help make learning fun.
- Tutoring– Sometimes math can just be daunting- especially in the highschool years. If you find yourself in that place, consider calling a local highschool or college and talking to a teacher/professor. Ask if they can recommend students that would make good tutors. You can also seek out the many afterschool tutoring centers that are now available.
- Khan Academy videos– I have never made use of this resource myself, but many people have recommended Googling these videos as another option for help with upper lever math problems.
So there you have it! Those are our best tips and tricks for surviving math. What recommendations do you have based on your family’s experience with teaching math? We’d love to hear from you! PLEASE, leave your tips below!!Sp
Keep Doing Life Deliberately!
*I am not currently an affiliate for any of these products and do not receive a commission for any purchases made. We have enjoyed and appreciated these products and commend them to you based on our experience.
FUN= Memorable Learning Experiences
I KNOW that when my kids are having fun, they are more likely to remember what they are learning and to come back for more. (My recent video, How We Teach Through Field Trips, shows how we used a trip to a nearby raspberry farm to teach our kids where food comes from and include them in the process of making jam.) And yet, keeping learning light and enjoyable is admittedly something that I struggle with. There are lots of things that I can do well, but I am not, by nature, a clever or comedic personality. So creating a fun atmosphere or planning amusing activities is work for me. But, well, this blog is called Doing Life Deliberately for a reason. So I am convicted that this is an area I need to intentionally “step it up.”
I’ll share with you some ways that we have, over the years, truly enjoyed learning. I’ve asked the kids to share some of their favorites, too.
- Science Labs- for several years we have joined friends bi-weekly for science activities. One of our dear friends took it upon herself to organize a schedule for the year (we were all using the same curriculum) and she would invite a handful of families. Every other week we would assemble in her home to wrap up each chapter. The kids would review the material together and complete a project or experiment together. The kids have made jello replicas of human cells to learning the periodic table through a game of battleship to adding mentos to a 2 liter bottle of coke. Every session was ended with a time of fellowship for kids and parents- we ALL enjoyed it!
- Field Trips- who doesn’t love getting out of the house and letting someone else teach their kids for a day?? Some of the most fun field trips we have taken have been to a local nuclear power plant (they had a fantastic visitors program- it was fascinating!!) and a local park program that took half a day to explain to us how maple syrup is harvest (followed by a pancake lunch!). Not to mention zoo, local park programs, art museums, etc. Keep your eyes open- you’ll be surprised to find what’s available around you!
- Guest speakers- Ask someone you know to speak to your kids (and invite others to join you) about their area of expertise. Better yet, have your kids tour where they work and make it hands on (if possible).
- Museums- We have had great fun at many of our local museums! When we were studying human anatomy, we visited Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry wher they had a hilarious presentation on digestion that had us all rolling on the floor. Their human body section was phenomenal and hands on- tons of fun. We have also enjoyed Milwaukee Public Museum where they have a butterfly garden where they fly loose and you can observe them in a natural setting.
- Videos- We don’t utilize a lot of videos, but once in a while, they can be great fun. One example I can think of is the video my friends made of their family processing the honey from their personal hives. It was an extended family affair where everyone came for a day to collect the hives and extract the honey. It was so much more fascinating to see it than to read about it in a book.
- Mentorships- Do your kids have an interest in a particular skill set? Perhaps pairing them with a mentor would be a great way for them to learn in a hands on fashion. Whether wood working, computer programming, dog grooming or nursing, find a trusted individual to meet with your child who can share their passion in a personal and tangible way.
Well, now I am motivated to take a look at the calendar and plan out some fun experiences. I hope this encourages you, as well!
Do you have more ideas you’d like to share with the DLD community?? Please, share your thoughts below!! We’d love to hear from you!!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately,
Keep P.E. Interesting in the Great Outdoors!
While we may be cooped up inside during these cold winter days, there are lots of ways to help the kids stay active outside- whether hot or cold. Here’s some ideas- see what works for your family!
- Biking- take advantage of local trails, throw the bikes in the car and head to a local or state park, mountain bike, etc.
- Walking and Hiking- again, take advantage of local trails, take a stroll through your neighborhood, or head to a local scenic destination
- Geocaching- find an app on your smart phone, pop the kids in the car, and head out for a 21st century scavenger hunt. Don’t forget to bring a few small baubles with you to replace anything you take on your little adventure.
- Tennis- lots of area parks will have tennis courts you can take advantage of. Bring your rackets and a set of balls and enjoy hitting some back and forth. You can look up the rules of the game online (if you don’t already know) and learn how to properly score.
- Baseball- again, many area parks will have local diamonds you can take advantage of. Call some friends and have a pick-up game! Or you can play catch and practice hitting on your own.
- Take your kids to a local playground for some unscheduled playtime.
- Disc/frisbee golf- though you can play with any frisbee, there are specific discs made for driving and putting that can be purchased at your local sporting goods store. Look up the rules online and locate a local course (again, found in many local parks) and enjoy a leisurely family round.
- Frisbee- pass the frisbee around in your own yard, look up tricks online and try to recreate them
- Ultimate Frisbee- much like the game of football, this frisbee game is high energy and requires teams. Look up the rules online and invite your friends to a pick up game, where they can join in the fun!
- Jump rope- jump ropes can be purchased almost anywhere and this is a great cardiovascular activity. If you have multiple kids, you can give Double Dutch a try and even some tricks! If you find your kids to enjoy this, look up local jump rope clubs.
- Snow shoeing
- Cross country skiing
- Ice Skating
- Broom ball- in frozen weather, gather some pals to create two teams and head to a local ice rink. Players will need brooms and a ball to play this game of hockey in their tennis shoes!
If you’d like to see some of the ways that our family stays active, click here to watch my latest You Tube video: Homeschool PE Ideas What other activities has your family used for PE? PLEASE, share them below! We look forward to hearing some great ideas from you!!
Keeping Doing Life Deliberately!
Teaching Our Kids Resourcefulness
I remember when it dawned on me that teaching my kids to be resourceful was a necessity. We were in the school room and all four kids wanted something from me at the same time: “Mom, I need help!” “Mom, can I get a snack?” “Mom, how do you spell ‘airplane’?” “Can I go to the bathroom?!?!”
Now, if you don’t know me well, I am a visual learner and an abundance of noise quickly has me overstimulated. The inundation of questions and demand for my attention from every kid made me feel like I was about to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.
I had to come up with a solution to my quandary- and fast.
Like most things with kids, my solution wasn’t a quick fix. But rather a teachable moment that would come again and again. I needed to teach my kids to be resourceful- to find other ways to solve their problems rather than coming straight to mom for the answer.
Don’t get me wrong. I want my kids to go to their dad or me for help. But there is something to be said for being a problem-solver and looking for other ways to solve a problem FIRST, before coming to mom and dad. Also, just like any school room teacher, there has to be a method for approaching a teacher when she is helping other students, to maintain order in the schoolroom. So here is the process we came up with:
If you don’t understand something in the lesson you are working on, re-read or re-listen to the lesson and see if that helps to bring clarity.
If you still don’t understand, is there another textbook you can look at?
Is there an older sibling you can ask?
Use a dictionary, look at another book, consult an encyclopedia, or google it (with permission).
Ask mom or dad when all other resources have been exhausted.
What about your family? How do you handle classroom chaos? Do you have other tips for teaching your kids to be resourceful?? PLEASE, share your thoughts with the Doing Life Deliberately community so that we can all learn and be blessed!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately, friends!
Right Expectations Are Key to Success When Homeschooling With Littles
So you are the mom of an infant, toddler, and/or preschooler.
(Let me stop right now to give you a cyber hug!!!)
I did not realize until my kids were grown beyond these stages and I was hanging out with my sister’s kids (which are 8 months, 2 years and 4 years) just how very physically and emotionally exhausting this stage of parenting is! I think when you are in the thick of it, and have no previous experience to compare it to, you just take it day to day and do your best to get through the day. But now that our kids are older and quite self-sufficient, I am reminded of what a sleep-deprived, survival-mode time of life that stage really is.
That being said, homeschooling with such small children is a CHALLENGE. But it is also a HUGE privilege. There are few things more satisfying, in my experience, than teaching kids to read and write. What a feeling to hold your child on your lap and hear them sound out letters and put together their first words. What a delight to study butterflies with your 5 year old, observing all of their body parts with a magnifying glass and watching the caterpillars you purchased through the mail form a chrysalis, and emerge days later as a beautiful butterfly. The joy that comes with reading scripture with your child and hearing them ask questions about God’s Word and ponder who Jesus is that He would leave heaven, take on the form of a man, live a perfect life, die and rise again so that we could walk in relationship with the Heavenly Father forever- priceless!! So yes, homeschooling with little ones is hard, but OH SO WORTH IT!
In my opinion, success in homeschooling small children means having fun and making learning exciting. If you can succeed at that, then your kids will look forward to school and learning.
Having right expectations- both of yourself and of them- is really important. School should be something that you all look forward to- not dread. For example, if mom is a slave driver with her five year old, and succumbs to a frustrated tone with her kids when they don’t understand a concept right away, the child is not going to want to do school (I say this from a place of personal experience, unfortunately, and still struggle at times).
One of the great blessings of starting homeschool at 4, 5 or 6 years old, is that you can ‘grow into” homeschool. Some different ways that can look are:
- Starting with just a small amount of time- 30 minutes to an hour (maybe even less time if your child is not accustomed to sitting still for that long). Add 5 minutes every other day until you’ve reached an ideal time frame to work with your child.
- Focusing your energies on the main subjects: reading, writing, and arithmetic. You have plenty of time to add in extra subjects as you create a comfortable routine.
- Using hands on crafts, manipulative and activities to teach that are exciting and fun. Personally, I am not the creative type to make up games and activities on the fly. But that’s the beauty of websites like Pinterest where you can search a topic (phonics games, for example) and get tons of creative ideas from teachers and moms alike.
- Adapting your school day around the needs of other kids- whether baby’s naps and feeding times or your teenager’s basketball schedule
- Having your older kids help occupy little ones (by playing with them, reading a story, taking care of their needs, etc.) while you sit one on one with your youngest students.
- Having older siblings “teach” younger siblings while you briefly tend to your little people. Teaching younger siblings often helps older sibling to solidify concepts in their own minds.
So how about you, Moms and Dads? What wrong expectations have you caught yourself in? How did you adapt? What tips do you have for other parents who are homeschooling with infants, toddlers and preschoolers? PLEASE, leave your encouraging comments below and be a blessing to other Doing Life Deliberately readers!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately, friends!!
An Unexpected Challenge of Homeschooling
There are lots of challenges when it comes to homeschooling: kids’ bad attitudes, keeping learning fun/interesting, assessing various learning styles, being patient as a teacher, choosing curriculum, etc. I could go on and on. But something that has taken me by surprise is just how difficult it can be to stay on top of checking the kids’ assignments. I have found that as the kids get older, it becomes increasingly time consuming to check the kids’ schoolwork, tutor them through the corrections (because they often need help) and recheck their corrections. Our oldest two children are in 7th and 9th grades, and with each passing year their homework is more time consuming and challenging.
To see the system we use to keep track of assignments and hold our kids accountable to getting their work done, watch my video: How to Manage Homeschool Assignment Books
This was a big struggle for me last year. After a couple weeks of school this past fall, I recognized that this was going to be an even greater struggle this year. So I took my concerns to Principal Martinez (aka, my husband, Joe). Our mutually agreed upon solution: to divide and conquer. Joe would check the older two girl’s schoolwork and I would check the younger kids’ schoolwork. Now is it a perfect system? It rarely ever is. Do we do it faithfully? No. Some weeks we are more on top of things than others. Ideally, we would like to be checking the kids’ work daily. It takes less time that way, rather than letting it all build up for us to check. It is also less overwhelming to the kids to correct one day’s worth of work rather than five days work. So this is what we aim for.
How about you? Have you run into any unexpected challenges? If you haven’t begun homeschooling, what challenges do you anticipate? Write in the comments below! We’re sure to have some great dialogue and helps as we discuss!
Keep doing life deliberately,