Thursday, May 23, 2019

Easy, Affordable, DIY Grad-gifting

Graduation season is upon us!  Here in south-central Montana both high school and university commencements are carried out in shifts at our local fairgrounds and often wrap up by mid-late May.  However, I know many other areas of the country are still counting down the days until that last hooray!

This past weekend we were blessed with an opportunity to celebrate 2 homeschool grads and, coming up this weekend, we will shout "congrats" to a long-time family friend who walks her commencement with a local Christian school.

My go-to gifts for graduates usually include a favorite and transformational book (currently, What Every Christian Ought To Know by Adrian Rogers), a snazzy cup or mug, Smarties (cause the graduate is an official "Smarty-pants" now!) and some other little bit of celebratory paraphernalia.  This year I chose party poppers.

The tricky part came when I went to shop for gift bags, the Buck Mart (aka, Dollar Store) was sold out... so I decided to get those creative juices flowing...
 ... and viola, $9 later I had scored all the fixins I needed not just for a few gift bags but also for some pretty impressive gifts and trimmings (with leftovers)!

The gift bags...
Supplies: 
gift bags (mine came as a package of 2)
1 package grad decor (mine had 3 signs and 4 tassels strung along a ribbon line)
tissue paper
double-sided sticky tape


The Process:

 First, I cut the signs on the line with a few inches hanging down each side...

I had to re-string a few of them so the strings were hanging out the front of the "right side" of the sign.
 It was very easy.

 I evened up the strands in preparation for tying a bow...

 My bow was lopsided so I tucked the right strand (sticking straight up) under the bow so it would stick straight down.


To be sure my bow didn't end up crooked, I applied a small strip of double-sided tape under the center and pressed down to be sure it was secure...

To complete the bow....
 I folded and snipped at an angle...
 To get that nice little notch!


Then, I applied double-sided sticky tape all along the edges and a few swipes across the middle of the back of the sign.

Finally, I lined the sign up to the center of the front of the bag and pressed the taped side firmly place.

 Insert goodies and some coordinated tissue paper and there ya go!!

Other Loot
Outside of the book purchases I planned to insert in each bag, the rest of my Buck Mart loot and some of the miscellaneous leftover pieces acted as filler.

"Smarty-pants"! 
 I used a simple piece of note-pad paper and a felt pen to write our quirky message down.

 After filling each cup with a bag of Smarties, I cut the messages into strips and inserted on top.

 I used the leftover pompoms from the sign banner as a fun topper to each cup.

The pompoms were placed with the "handle" part up so they would be easy to pull out once the gift was opened.

For the coffee mug, I opted out of the note since the writing on the side says it all!

 However, I still inserted another of the left-over pompoms here as well.

 And into the bag all the goodies went!

When I was done I had plenty of tissue paper, 1 "Congrats 2019 Grad" sign and 1 pompom left.  This concept could be used for any gift-giving situation where you may want to go a little 'outside the box' in your gift wrap!  The craziest part?  The next bags I do like these will be for my youngest's high school graduation next year!!!

Don't blink!

What ideas do you have for cost-effective gift giving... or wrapping... for graduation (or other special occasions)?

Blessings,






Are you looking for something to help you organize your curriculum scouting for the next school year?  My newsletter for May contained a FREE downloadable PDF packet of printables designed to help you collect your thoughts!  When you sign up with my FREE e-newsletter I will send you May's issue containing this and other great material attached!  Information below....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HMJ: If I Knew Then What I Know Now part 3

The last of the book lessons for the school year were taught on Friday.  Junior year of my last young charge is just about wrapped up!  This week I will begin collecting grades and closing out curriculum.  I like to do a re-cap of the year: what worked/didn't work and what I would like to try to do/or avoid next year.  I find this process of 'recapping' helpful as we seek to become a more productive homeschool with each year that passes (even if next year is our last!)

The sage advice of veteran homeschoolers over the years has certainly helped to influence our own arrangement, but recapping has probably been the most transformational part of our homeschool over the years.  It helps me to focus on what is REAL and poignant for us and not the voices of the masses seeking to sway us to and fro.  It helps me to see what is working for my kids and our family structure as a whole rather than worrying about whether or not I am living up to someone else's idea of what our homeschool should be... which brings me to this week's theme:

If I Knew Then What I Know Now... I Wouldn't Have Worried So Much About What Others Thought and Said

Don't get me wrong.  Sometimes we are running out into rush hour traffic and we need someone to grab us out of harm's way.  However, when it comes to a decision like homeschooling and all it entails, you are not going to get far if you are busy looking at the crowd. Let me create a a bit of a visual here:

Have you ever watched those old game shows?  I have to admit, I don't take them in anymore, but as a kid growing up in the 70s and early 80s, we had some GREAT game shows I LOVED watching faithfully with my family.  One of our favorites was "The Price is Right".  Have you ever noticed: as the stress was on to guess the right price (or at least closer to the mark than the other competitors) the audience would begin shouting out their ideas.  Contestants would begin to sweat as they shot uneasy glances between a "helpful" friend out in the studio seating, then the excited crowd as a whole, and back to the host who was often casting sentiments of doubt mixed with encouragement and finally settling their nervous gaze back to the product they were trying to decide on.  Occasionally this method would win them a place in the next round but often, I felt, the more people they tried to listen to and the longer they let the host cajole, the less accurate they seemed to become.  Rather than concentrating on what they knew to be true and maybe one "helper" in the audience, they darted between too many opinions: some genuinely seeking to help and others who actually caused harm (whether intentional or un-intentional).

I bet you get my analogy by now!

Too Many Voices Just Leads to a Racket
When you share your plan to homeschool (or continue with your set course as each year passes) EVERYONE will have an opinion.  Mom, Dad, Aunt Edna, Grandma Jean, neighbor Betty and even the cashier at the supermarket!  It is amazing how invisible we moms are to the world at large until we declare our resolution to educate our little charges ourselves!

Most of Them Mean Well
Nearly all of these voices really will mean well and you have to keep that first and foremost in mind or there is bound to be a mommy-splotion!  Hear their hearts while keeping their words set apart.  Tell them, "Thank you for your concern" or "I will think about that/look into that" but you don't have to commit to their ideas.  Don't be afraid to admit when you aren't sure about something they ask you and put their minds at ease by suggesting you will "look into that".


Stand Firm In Your Decision 
Life is full of critics.  Whether it is what you are wearing or driving or the neighborhood you decided to buy your house in.  There is no end to the criticism... especially not when you decide to homeschool.  You may be blessed with a large team of supporters... or you might feel rather isolated.  Others may throw out contingency support (providing you follow THEIR idea of how you do this school-at-home thing).  For those biggest critics though, stand firm.  Don't be afraid to lovingly insist, "I'm sorry you don't agree with our decision but this is what we are going to do."

My mother-in-law, and many others, thought we were crazy when we first set to sail in the waters of homeschooling.  However, a year later, after seeing the great progress the kids made, she became one of my greatest local advocates!  Sometimes the nay-sayers will soften when they see the wonder of homeschooling in action!

The Only Two Opinions That Matter...
... are God and your spouse!  I bet you knew I was going to say that!  When God calls you to homeschool it is like anything He invites you to do: His blessings will abound and do you really want to tell God NO?!  That doesn't mean it will go perfectly from day one, but it does assure us we can go to Him for our encouragement and guidance and He will always provide what we need in it's due time!

Hubby, of course, is important to the successful running of any homeschool.  If you feel strongly that God is calling you to homeschool and hubby says "no" or is on the fence, pray for him.  Trust God to move his heart.

I first felt called to homeschool even before my oldest started kindergarten but my husband said "NO".  His reason? "Homeschoolers are weird"!!!  HA!  As time passed, I prayed.  He wasn't even a believer back then!!  But 8 years later God answered those prayers and my husband was all in and actively encouraging me as we set plans in motion.  Yes, my oldest 3 had to spend time in public school in the process, but this time was what opened my husband's eyes to the real value of home education. God also used it to build my confidence that He had equipped me to educate my kids even when I didn't have a degree to do so.  That 8 years was not wasted!

Don't Listen To the Crowd
Remember my opening visual?  Most of those contestants had a friend or family member in the audience.  Some of the more successful game-goers were ONLY listening to this counterpart, NOT the crowd as a whole or the host's sly speech.  As you plan your homeschool and roll through each year, there needs to be a hierarchy you hold firmly to:
  • Pray through choices and listen to God's reply
  • Talk with your spouse as to his expectations and make sure you are both on the same page
You will find great information and encouragement at Conventions, on the Internet and inside of Local Support Groups.  You may even have a family member or friend who is your biggest cheerleader.  Research and collective thoughts ARE helpful, but, no matter how well-intentioned, there is such a thing as TOO much input and we do have to be mindful of those who would steer us away from what is truly best for our homeschool.  Simply put: I have learned that the people who are safe to listen to are those who honor yours and your husband's directives.  It doesn't mean they won't speak other-wisely into decisions, it simply means you don't let their ideas and input usurp the authority of God and pre-ordained decisions between you and hubby... and that they appreciate and respect that.


It Really Doesn't Matter What Others Think
As we have established, there will always be critics.  Yet, I believe it is human nature to worry about how things "look".
  • If we aren't doing workbooks Uncle Joe will notice and think we are neglecting the kids' education.
  • If we go out to the store during the day the judging glances of patrons and workers will assume my children are truant or trouble
  • If the kids don't pass Aunt Sally's pop quiz on the original 13 colonies she will issue an hour-long lecture on the invalidity of my children's education.

I could go on. But it is the hardest simplest thing to do: IGNORE IT.  Believe me, I am the queen of messing this one up. As my kids were growing I felt like I needed to impress my dear retired teacher friend.  If we weren't using her lovingly donated workbooks then I believed she would assume I was not a valid teacher.  I looked over my shoulder every time we went out and those first few years I often kept the kids strictly inside during public school hours for fear a neighbor might call the truancy officer (if there really was one anymore).  Every few months we would try to hold elaborate gatherings and plays to showcase their work just to prove to the masses we really were doing valid work.  Then....

Let Go and Just DO 
... once we began to just DO what each week and month and year had for us without worrying about the crowd, life and education just began to roll forward.  When I started worrying less about whether others would approve of my teaching method or curriculum and instead invested more in what my husband and I knew God was calling us to teach our children and how to teach it... our homeschool truly became a more content place.  We all had fun and learned and grew in confidence.  Before long we became the dear friends in the audience of our favorite game show as we watched others step onto the stage and WIN in choosing to homeschool after just seeing what the experience was doing for us.

It Won't All Be Perfect 
In all of this I am not saying your homeschool will be perfect if you focus on one or two people and ignore the crowd... goodness no!  But confidence will be more frequent and your walk more consistent.

The Racket WILL Die Down
You will never get away from the nay-sayers, remember... there are always critics! However, as time passes and the people around you notice your perseverance and consistency, they will say less (if anything at all).  Like my mother-in-law, they may see the 'proof in the pudding' and become your biggest advocates!


YOU GOT THIS! 
Seriously, you do.  Some days you will feel like a miserable failure!  Sorry, it is true!!  You will think, 'Gee, I should have listened to the others.' You may fear hearing "I told you so".  Squash all of that though.  You know the ole adage: Rome wasn't built in a day!!  There were successes and failures but in the end we can still go and visit millennia old ruins telling an amazing story.  Your children will be blessed by your focus and persistence.  One day you will be handing them their diploma and marveling at the brainy wonder before you, grateful you didn't listen to the crowd!

The If I Knew Then What I Know Now has been a 3-part series with Part 1 explaining its inception as well as what I have learned about curriculum over the years and  Part 2 explores homeschooling styles.  You can follow the links in text to learn more!

What have you learned in the amount of time you have been homeschooling?

Blessings,





Are you looking for something to help you organize your curriculum scouting for the next school year?  My newsletter for May contained a FREE downloadable PDF packet of printables designed to help you collect your thoughts!  When you sign up with my FREE e-newsletter I will send you May's issue containing this and other great material attached!  Information below....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Finding Hope and a Book Review


My daughter shared this marvelous quote on Instagram today.

I needed it.

Badly.

I have been in a drought.  Wondering where all the blessings have gone and if, perhaps, I haven't been obedient, causing God to leave me to my own devices.

Yet, I know in my spirit that is just not true.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He leaves the 99 to go after the 1.

So, while I haven't run from God or thumbed my nose at His requests, I have doubted myself, tremendously, lately.  Wondered at my Call.  Questioned if I have purpose.  Realizing, maybe, this is what "mid-life crisis" looks like!

Then He sends whispers.

Oh how I love His whispers in the silence.

He opens my eyes to see the battle... then he points me to the places He IS working, though small, it provides a pin-prick of light.  I remember Hebrews 11 and the hall of faith and the fact that,

...faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

and suddenly, I can't help but keep walking forward!

Perhaps, like me, you are staring at the whole MID-LIFE and changing dynamics phase too... or maybe you are a young mom, trying to figure out how on earth you are going to get the floor mopped today when you can't even stay on top of the dishes... it is all a season, I promise!  

I think, if I am learning anything through all of the struggles this year, it is that, Faith walks forward with hope in spite of what the eyes can't see!

Recently, I had the awesome opportunity to review Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday by Valerie Woerner. I believe it to be the mom's guide to more peaceful Christ-centered living!  
 
Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday: Say Goodbye to Stressed, Tired, and Anxious, and Say Hello to Renewed Joy in Motherhood

I may not be corralling littles anymore, but the dower spirit in this transition of my life reminds me of those early days of parenting when Grumpy Mom made regular appearances and this book reminded me of the importance of sending her out the door!  Mrs. Woerner talks to her readers as friends; sharing her strategies, firmly rooted in scripture, for keeping one's head, finding peace, and being a more joy-filled mama in the moment.  She is REAL, not Pinterest Perfect, the exact dose of what we moms really need!

The entire book feels like a coffee shop hang-out meets women's Bible study as she doesn't just suggest what a mom should be doing in hopes of compliance, but rather, she unpacks what Scripture says about our attitudes and inner-drive to become more like Christ.  Her self-sacrifice of her own shortcomings and challenges as she shares how Scripture and personal revelation have driven her to send 'Grumpy Mom' packing reveals a greater Source for growth and a new and better attitude as Moms.

Her use of The Message translation would be my biggest complaint.  I believe The Message may be refrenced as a secondary source for occasional clarity, however, I argue it's validity as "the Bible" and would prefer other translations and commentaries which do more to promote proper Scriptural understanding.

Grumpy Mom does do well to remind us that it isn't the stream of blessings we are to focus on, but rather, the blesser Himself who can transform our hearts and lives.  HE equips us to send Grumpy, stressed, tired, anxious Mom packing and find joy enough for each day in life and motherhood.  

Are you in a drought or relaxing by a bubbling brook right now?  What has God been ministering to your heart lately?

Blessings,
 






I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House for my review. This review is my opinion alone.


*Are you subscribed to my FREE monthly newsletter?  
You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!


Monday, May 13, 2019

HMJ: If I Knew Then What I Know Now part 2

Is summer bursting rays of temptation through the windows of your homeschool this week?  I know it is through mine!  We are due for some fabulous weather during the first half of the week, certainly making even the ONE class we have left difficult to focus on!  However, knowing we are almost-done, drives us forward to finish strong!

As mentioned last week, I'm doing a series this month on lessons I have been reflecting upon as I prepare for Senior year of my last student.  It is hard to believe we have zipped from elementary school, math facts and puppet shows.... to finals, SATs and graduation party planning!  DON'T BLINK!

It was easy to plug-ahead with more 'students' still coming down the pipe.  However, with my last one casting her gaze to the future, I find myself reflecting on the past and remembering how the helpful thoughts of veteran homeschool parents encouraged me over the years... some advice I yielded to and other advice I did not. Discretion... I didn't always use it to my best, but I did my best to use it well!  Which leads me to this week's theme


If I Knew Then What I Know Now... About Homeschool Style
If you homeschool, or are considering homeschooling, than you know there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the different styles of homeschooling.  From Traditional to Classical... from Charlotte Mason to UnSchooling... from co-op to on-your-own... and variations in-between, including a combination of all the above under "Eclectic".  It can be hard to pick JUST ONE STYLE when so many often sound great and are just as equally billed as the "best" choice for you and your student(s).

Don't despair though.

#1 - Yes, know the different styles of homeschooling.
It doesn't mean you need to follow every.single.one.  And, no, your student will not fail if you pick what you fear is the "wrong" style!  But first, do a simple Internet search and grab a quick synopsis of each style.  Read a little deeper on the ones that interest you most.  As you dig, take note of:
  • Style Strengths
  • Style Weaknesses
  • Teacher requirements (and weigh this out if you are teaching more than one kiddo at a time)
  • Student requirements
  • Materials necessary
  • Cost of Materials necessary (and does it fit your budget)
You don't need to stress about the choice, but you do need to be fair and honest of what is required of you and your kids if you are going to hook into a good fit.
 
#2 - The best way to choose is...
First, prayer!  Pray over how God would have you homeschool.  You may, logically, know what is strategically best... but spiritually, God knows what the future holds for your time to teach and the needs of your children (and your family as a whole).  Invite God to impassion you for His course of action.  Then, secondly, consider your kids' learning styles.  Knowing how they best learn (and being realistic on if they are ready to learn) will help you narrow down a program or programs which will work best for all of you.


#3 - There is no "bad choice" in choosing your homeschooling style!
I will admit, there may be some choices which are better for your family than others.  However, it isn't about what style you stick to in your homeschool... it is about whether or not you and your kids are moving forward in learning! 

#4 - When more than one style of homeschool seems necessary.
Out of 4 kids I have 4 very different types of learners.  This is not uncommon.  This is also why I considered our homeschool style "Eclectic".  There is also the adaptation approach: taking the style you feel Led to use in your homeschool and adapting it for the various ages/grades/learning styles.  My ADHD student may loathe workbooks while my traditional analytical one can't get enough.  I may teach a lesson and set my traditional to task with text while jumping into some hands-on interactive activity with my ADHD.  

#5 - Dash the label.
Others will ask: "What curriculum do you use?" or "What homeschooling style do you follow?"  It is OK to say "Eclectic" or "Classical with some Charlotte Mason thrown in".  It is also OK to say, "We never thought to label our style."  I think we ask this of each other because we are curious... just like the unknowing public... "What does your homeschool day look like?" or "How is that working for you?" ...but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong if you can't 'label' it!


#6 - Own your choice.
I could put that statement on repeat and make that my ONE message to all homeschooling moms out there.  It is easy to feel like we are failing our kids or like, if we don't do this homeschool style thing just right we will be messing up big time: letting our kids down, our husband down, and looking bad to society as a whole.  Box that idea. 

When we first started homeschooling, years of my own public school attendance coupled with the 9 years my kids had collected to that point, made me feel like I HAD to to "School-at-home" complete with circle time, tight schedule, and desk-type settings.  The only good learning, I mistakenly thought, came from text books and work books and pop quizes.

At one point I was turned onto the idea of Charlotte Mason (CM).  After devouring books and articles on the topic I decided  I loved her method of teaching but still couldn't figure out how to mesh it into my starched idea of what school was... or keep-up the image to those around me that we really were learning.  I couldn't understand then how positively valuable and diverse the CM style was so we only adopted certain points.

If I knew then what I know now, we would have jumped into the CM method with both feet!  But as it is, I was afraid to own my choice.  I worried more about one way of learning and what others thought instead of seeing this great possibility God presented me.

#7 - Keep Moving Forward
Don't regret.  Also, don't be afraid to make changes as you see they are needed.  It is OK to say, "We did Classical last year but we are trying CM this year..." or any other variation which strike your fancy.  Just don't stop... keep on moving and trying and trusting.  You DO got this!  

----------------------------------

Do you have any homeschooling style tips you have found useful over the years (even if you haven't been at it very long)? 

Blessings,





Are you looking for something to help you organize your curriculum scouting for the next school year?  My newsletter for May contained a FREE downloadable PDF packet of printables designed to help you collect your thoughts!  When you sign up with my FREE e-newsletter I will send you May's issue containing this and other great material attached!  Information below....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

I look forward to sharing Faith and Home Times with you!!

Monday, May 6, 2019

HMJ: If I Knew Then What I Know Now part 1

Our homeschool year is quickly approaching it's finish.  Yes, we break for summer (should I have bumper stickers made?).  In our early years of homeschooling we would pause because all the public schooled neighborhood kids were out and playing (back when kids played outside all summer) and my kids begged to join... then our added incentive came when realizing how much we all enjoyed a pause from the monotony of daily lessons and schedules.

I believe this year has been quite deserving of a break.  What with all the house problems and repairs on top of the unexpected juggling act Junior year has proven to be: friend woes, finding her way about 16, and now a job working almost 30 hours a week.... break time in-deed, and our last one at that.


The biggest loop for me this year came when Brooke began to talk about starting full-time college in the fall under the "Dual Enrollment" program many districts around the country have.  For those who are not familiar: you enroll in college class as a high schooler and enjoy earning credit for both your high school diploma AND college degree.  An added bonus is that most colleges will give high school students reduced tuition.  I have heard of many students who graduate high school while also collecting an Associates from college in the same month!

We wanted to be supportive and encouraging so, naturally, we led the march toward admissions and prep, all the while my heart was aching.  I had expected to enjoy one more year with her before sending her into the world and/or higher academia.  I looked forward to the lessons we would share and the time to savor those last morsels of teaching after well over 20 years.  Suddenly the scope of time seemed magnified before me: all the years, the lessons, the successes, the failures... knowing I would miss the great times while also lamenting the things I wish I had done differently/better.

Suddenly, this month's Homeschool Mother's Journal series was birthed!

Brooke has since changed her mind and decided to wait and think on the direction she wants to go post-grad.  As it is, she will be collecting her diploma a year sooner than her peers, I think she wants to be certain on where she goes from there.  The scope of homeschooling years past is still before me though and I pray this month's weekly reflections will encourage you as you homeschool (or consider it)....

If I Knew Then What I Know Now... About Curriculum

1. Respect the Basics.
I'm an outside-the-box, blaze my own path, why do twice what you can do just as well once, kind of gal!  If I am raw and honest here: I began homeschooling amidst some bitterness and resentment for the public school system.  Let me explain....

I taught my own kids during their preschool years, mostly, and then volunteered at the elementary school in and out of their classes so much that I was asked to stay and sub.  After a fashion that is just what I did as an interim art teacher for a year!

While studying for my degree in Early Childhood Education, Ashley (my second oldest, then in 4th grade) was officially diagnosed as ADHD, ranking rather high on the spectrum.  In the same testing series, Brenden (my second youngest, then 2nd grade) was found to be severely dyslexic and dysgraphic.  I've also since suspected him to have Audio Processing Delay (APD) which gives an added layer of challenges in hearing and processing information, a skill necessary for bustling classrooms.

One would assume the school was going to step up and accommodate their needs... but they didn't.  Instead, even after 4+ years of good behavior in the school system, Ashley was labeled as a "bad kid" and suddenly found herself being bullied... by the teachers and administrators, alongside a few classmates simply because she had trouble sitting still or behaving "normal".  Brenden's newly minted teacher showed her lack of accommodation and compassion when she would punish him for turning his book sideways so he could better read and for not being able to copy  from the board. Both the kids were held in from recess for their inability to conform.  I worked as closely with the teachers as I could but when I refused meds for Ashley, the school counselor YELLED at me and things went form bad to worse!  No exaggeration.  Something had to change.

God had been laying on my heart to begin homeschooling early on.  I didn't really head the call until my oldest was in 8th grade though.  Youngest (Brooke) was preschool age and, amidst the turmoil of the middle two, hubby and I agreed the decision was long over-due.  While my oldest was academically advanced (and the teachers refused to challenge him, another sore spot which added to my frustration with the system), he still desired to stay among friends, band and sports involvement so we allowed it... but the rest came home.

In this climate I began researching curriculum which would best benefit the younger three's learning styles but, what I hated, was sooooo much repetition and the memory of how the public school had been doing things.  Honestly, I fumbled for the first year or two.  As a matter of fact, all through elementary school I felt a bit rebellious against customary avenues and decided not to "force" my kids to be experts at math facts, spelling, or other, what I deemed, starched academics.

We did do some workbooks... sort of.  We had writing projects... kind of.  We did math facts... inconsistently.  Not only was I battling the bitterness against the system, but I was also trying desperately to meet my kids' individual special needs on a shoestring budget when my husband got laid off a month before we started homeschooling.

When I look back on those early years, I see a mixture of fun hands-on projects and depressing mommy moments when I felt like I was failing my kids.  But I know now, I wasn't.


What we did well: We kept moving forward.  Some days it may have been through PBS or Magic School Bus or reading piles of library books together.  Others, we played educational games, built with Kinex, conducted simple science experiments or just went for long explorative walks.  I put together a healthy stash of hands-on activities to help address Brenden and Ashley's needs in the learning process... Brooke loved following behind.  We read A LOT.  We displayed everything: terms, their work, nature walk finds, and other educational materials. We had a system and a schedule, we didn't always stick to it, but we always came back to it. We searched out information whenever we were curious. Simply put, we lived in learning mode.  We were truly eclectic homeschoolers.

What we could have done better: If I knew then how helpful being whizzes at math facts and having a firm understanding of the writing process would make them more readily successful now... I would have prioritized it better.  As it was, with my insecurities and resentment towards institution at the time, we weren't as consistent as we should have been... in a lot of things... and I underestimated the power of these basics.

I also wouldn't have caved to their complaining when they didn't 'feel like' school and pushing through in these often monotonous core tasks.  Yes, elementary years are easy years to make up lost time in... but that time goes fast and, before you know it, there is more make-up needed and not enough time to catch-up in.  Does that make sense?

I feel, ideally, kids should start the Middle School years with the various basics well in place: steady on math facts, effective in spelling deduction, reading as well as they are able and comfortable writing. 

Don't get me wrong, now that they are older my kids are capable in academics and know all the basics, but I feel they would be better rooted in them, more confident and also comfortable sticking to their lessons now if I had held them to the process then... even when it seemed repetitive or like the last thing any of us felt like doing that day!


2. Be consistent
I'm not here to tell you what curriculum is best... that is an individual choice... but I can say, whatever you pick, try to be consistent.  There will be distractions from time to time.  However, there needs to be a spring-back point and a push to keep-at-it.  It was easy to give up on curriculum or be inconsistent when it got hard or boring or they didn't 'feel like it'.  Yet, asking them to follow through and modeling the need to keep-at-it goes beyond curriculum.  It creates a useful habit for all of life!


What we did well: We had a good come-back point.  We weren't so great at it those first two years, but we did improve with time.  I began keeping their lessons in a list format vs. a day-to-day format.  The day-to-day seemed to get thrown off if we missed one subject or one day.  Before we knew it, we couldn't seem to find our place in the hodge-podge of offness and would often digress or give up.  With a list format of each lesson set out for each subject, we could pick up where we left off the last time... even if one subject got done when another subject didn't.  (I keep a binder with separated lesson plan sheets for Math, History, Grammar and so on.  Think of it like having individual shopping lists for grocery, hardware and the craft store.  You don't shop all the items at once in one place, rather, as you get to each place you shop the items on that list.)

What we could have done better: Even with the lists, I was often with the kids on not wanting to push-through.  I should have led the march on consistency in getting the work done... and on sticking with curriculum that was working even when it seemed boring!!



3. What Curriculum to Buy 
I know I said I wasn't going to recommend specifics, and I am not!  As mentioned, we were on a shoestring budget for many of our homeschooling years.  I couldn't afford Teaching Textbooks or the latest greatest microscope.  I became the master of hodge-podge curriculum which was often gifted to me or found in free bins.  Anything I did buy, I was very particular about since money was tight and materials had to meet the eclectic needs of my varied students.  As a result, whatever curriculum you choose, here is my much reflected upon list of dos and don'ts:

DO...
  • use any math curriculum that works for your family; new, used, etc.  Mathematics is timeless and older curriculum will not affect your student's learning curve.
  • find curriculum or an outline for Language Arts that fits your family; new, used, etc; and follow it (even when it gets boring!) Like math, L.A. is timeless and also lays critical groundwork for later on.  Brand New material is not necessary but consistency in following it will be more academically profitable.
  • make good use of YouTube for ALL subjects!  You can learn a new language, study cell biology, get math tutoring tips and so much more... and it is FREE!
  • use quality free resources whenever it suits your family because....

DON'T...
  • think money = good education.  Studies have shown that the amount of money you spend on curriculum really doesn't make your kid(s) smarter!  In that same note....
  • feel like you have to have the latest greatest science (or any other subject) equipment.  Any instruments will do, see the YouTube recommendation above!
  • buy used or older than the last 5 years history/geography curriculum.  Archeology is constantly adding deepened value to the historical narrative, not to mention, regular change in modern policy shifts borders and governments quite often.  The big-name players of today are often old news within 5 years when new leaders and policies rise.  We are currently using 1998 BJU Geography and it has made me realize I need to update for next year as I KNOW so much has changed in the last 20 years and, sadly, our dated curriculum on this subject is falling short.
  • buy science curriculum that is too dated either.  Like History, even creation science is advancing and revealing so much more depth to our understanding of the world around us at break-neck speed. You can usually get by a little longer on old science books but do keep an eye on their dating and relevance to current scientific topics and advances.

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There is so much more I could draw out from the depth of past years homeschooling eclectically, but here I will pause and plan to return and share more next week... so tune back in!

How has your school week/year been?  Are you taking a summer break? What tips do you have from your experiences in homeschooling (even if you haven't been at it very long!)

Blessings,





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