Let’s Make Learning Fun!

Photo by Jeremy Alford on Unsplash

Make Learning Fun with We Love to Learn Stations

As parents, we’re sailing in uncharted waters right now, with the social distancing, stay at home requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents are teaching their children academics at home for the first time. All parents are likely getting complaints from their children that they want to play with friends or go do something they aren’t allowed to do because of social distancing. I’m hearing parents say they’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Whether you’re a homeschool family or an emergency distance learning family, having some fresh ideas for making learning fun can help change your children’s attitudes about being stuck at home!

The first idea I want to share will help your children enjoy learning more with the “We Love to Learn Stations”.

We Love to Learn Stations

In the dead of winter here in Minnesota, we often have to stay at home because of the weather, our days get long, and kids can become bored. That’s why I typically added a learning station’s day on Fridays to give us all a change of pace.

 This pandemic with the stay at home requirement is the perfect time for you all to try a Learning station day! It only takes a little time to prepare for it, and your kids will LOVE it!  Basically, you’ll set up learning stations throughout your house, and your children will rotate to the various learning stations doing whatever you’ve set up there. (Teams of two work great, but if you don’t have enough children for teams, you’ll need to participate or set up stations that can be done by one child at a time.) You can even use some of the learning resources that you already have, either from your school teacher or your curriculum.

All you need to do is prepare your learning stations, usually the night before. Then start your We Love To Learn Stations Day with explaining the different stations to your children. Set the timer and begin!  (Approximately 15-20 minutes per station)

Prepare the Learning Stations

1. Language arts station (you can have more than one language arts station if you wish or just choose one of these)

  • Phonics game for the pre-readers or early readers (Memory, Go Fish, puzzles or see options in my recommended page.)
  • Grammar game using Mad Libs
  • Write a short creative story alone or with your partner using some story starter ideas if needed. (share your story with family afterward)
  • Audio books with audible.com for listening comprehension (free books available to children during the pandemic!)
  • Spelling game – Make your own using a manila folder! Game instructions.
https://youtu.be/oz9YsJGUrZ8
Make your own basketball spelling game!

2. Reading station

  • Have a basket with library books or topical encyclopedias (Usborne has some great ones) and at this station, they read or look at pictures for 15-20 minutes.
  • Or you can have your child read from the book they’ve been reading already.

3. Math station

  • Play math games together (see my recommended page for ideas on games) – you can use regular board games or dice.
  • If your child likes speed games, do a few speed math worksheets where they time themselves and see how many they can get done in 10 minutes. They can do this twice and see if they can beat their first try. Drill worksheets available HERE.

4. Science station

5. Geography or History station

  • Have a globe or map out. Give your children each a list of places that they need to find on the map and write the longitude and latitude.   Or have separate maps for each child and they can mark the places you’ve listed.
  • Play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”?   This is a fun game that teaches geography, world cultures and history for children ages 8-12!
  • Set up a project for your children to work on related to the time period they’re studying in history. (e.g. build a teepee if studying American Indians)

6. Music

  • Set up a CD player or have a link ready for your child to listen to a piece of classical music and provide a link or print up a short biography about the composer for them to read while they listen.
  • Set out musical instruments for your children to play with (if you have older children, they could practice their music lesson for this station).
  • Provide resources for your child to make a drum or a guitar using a box, etc.

7. Art

  • Set up an art project for the children to work on.
  • Have pictures of various artist’s work with information about each piece.
  • Set up paints with information about how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors and let them have fun mixing and painting. Here’s a video to help you teach these concepts!

8. Bible

  • Choose a memory verse for all the children to learn and post it on the wall. Have them say it together three times and then write it on a note card. Then have them use one of the following games to practice:
  •  Write each word of the verse on a separate index card and mix the cards up – have your child unscramble the words to make the verse. (Include the verse address on a card, i.e. ‘Galatians 5:22-23’.)
  • Use a dry erase board and write out the verse. Read the verse through together a few times, then erase one word. Read the verse again saying the right word for the erased word. Take turns erasing words, saying the right words for each erased word as you recite the verse. Eventually you should have nothing on the board and be saying the verse from memory.
  • Play Sword Drill with SALVATION verses. (For children who can read well and know their Bible a bit.  You’ll need to help with this one) Using the list below, have each child hold a closed Bible above his or her head. Dad or Mom calls out the first reference twice and then says, “Swords ready…Go!” and the children try to be the first one to find and read the verse out loud. (If you have an only child, make the clock the thing to beat.) You may challenge your children to figure out what the common theme of all the verses is. You may also give a prize to the winner, if you wish, but everyone gets the benefit of knowing his or her way around the Bible better and of hearing God’s Word. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17.
  • Key Word: Salvation
  • Exodus 15:2
  • I Samuel 2:1
  • Psalm 27:1
  • Luke 2:30
  • Acts 4:12
  • Romans 1:16
  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Ephesians 6:17
  • Psalm 18:2
  • Isaiah 12:2

*These memory games and the Bible game were taken from Growing the Fruit of the Spirit, a wonderful family Bible study guide for children of all ages, available on my store page or on Amazon.

Growing the Fruit of the Spirit A family Bible study guide for children of all ages.

8. Create your own station to help your children learn about something they are currently studying in their school lessons!

I hope you enjoy having your We Love to Learn Station Days!  Please comment below with your ideas or let me know how it goes if you give it a try!

Another Idea for Homeschool Planning: Loop Scheduling!

Some homeschool days flow just like clockwork and other days unexpected things happen: someone gets hurt, the baby is fussy, a friend calls needing prayer and encouragement. And we end up feeling frustrated and discouraged at the end of the day because we didn’t get all we had planned done. We wonder how other homeschool moms fit everything in. How do they handle the unexpected interruptions? Some homeschool moms are turning to loop scheduling to help them feel less frustrated by the inevitable interruptions in their homeschool day.

 What is Loop Scheduling?

Loop Scheduling has become more popular among homeschoolers over the last few years. It’s a variation of scheduling and planning that helps the homeschool parent feel less ‘behind’ or frustrated when life interrupts school and they miss doing a subject that they had planned to teach on a given day. 

A loop schedule is basically a schedule that doesn’t list specific days in which each subject will be taught. Instead, the subjects are listed in the order they will be done and the subjects listed in the loop schedule are taught over the whole week, following the order as listed each day until it’s time to end the school day. Each subject in the loop will likely take 15-60 minutes of the day, depending on the ages of your children and how long you want to work on them. You don’t have to feel pressured to finish the list in one day. (In fact, you shouldn’t finish the list in one day!) The next day, you begin with the subject on the list that follows the one you finished the day before. When the last subject on the list is completed, you start back at the top again and repeat the cycle.

You decide how often you want to teach each subject. (Every day, three times a week, etc.) Subjects that you want to cover daily are not included in the loop schedule, only subjects that you don’t need to do every day go into a loop schedule.

For example, you may wish to teach Bible, Language arts and Math every day. These subjects would be first in your day each school day. Then you would have all other subjects listed in your loop schedule and you would begin the loop subjects once the daily subjects were completed, working through the list until you need to be done for the day. If you wish to have one subject taught a bit more frequently, you’ll list it in the loop more often so that it comes up more often. 

You’ll want to make lesson plans for each subject so as you come to them in the loop you’ll be prepared for what you’re going to teach that day. There’s a sample loop schedule lesson plan and a free loop scheduling lesson planning document to download below.

Different Types of Loop Schedules

You can also make loop schedules for specific subjects. For example, language art has many facets to it, and some of those aspects of language arts don’t need to be taught every day. So you might have your child read every day, but for spelling, writing, literature study, etc. you might create a loop schedule so that you are doing all these other aspects of language arts, but you aren’t specifying which day you’ll be doing them.  You plan for 45 minutes of language arts in a day, and your child does their reading, then they start the loop schedule and get through whatever they can that day. The next day they pick up where they left off on the loop schedule list of studies.

You can do a loop schedule for any subject you wish. For example, for Science, you could loop reading the text, doing an experiment, notebooking, a nature walk, watching a DVD, etc. For History, loop the following: read the text, read a historical fiction book, watch a DVD, work on a timeline, etc.

You can even create a loop for your housecleaning or meal planning! You can really loop almost anything!!

Here are some documents showing how you organize a loop schedule for school:           

Subjects included in the loop schedule Frequency
Science 2 times
History 3 times
Art 1 time
Geography 3 times
Phy-ed 3 times
Loop (List subjects in order you want to do them)
History
Science
Phy-ed
Geography
Art
History
Phy-ed
Science
Geography (go back to top of loop)

Example of lesson plans for loop schedule:

SUBJECT LESSON PLAN
 History Read chapter 1, add events to timeline
 Science Read about pyramids, learn how they were built,
design
 Phy- Ed Biking
 Geography  Map of Middle East
 Art  Mosaic
 History Read chapter 2, timeline, make pyramid
 Phy-Ed Calisthenics
 Science Read about aqueducts and build one with clay
 Geography Middle east cultural geography
 History  Read chapter 3, timeline, watch DVD on Pharaohs
 Science Learn about rivers, lakes how they are formed
Phy-Ed Trampoline time
 Geography Middle east physical geography

There are pros and cons to this type of scheduling.

Pros Cons
Reduces stress when life is busy Could still lead to not getting subjects done if you’re not diligent to work through the loop
Gives some flexibility to your week The uncertainty of what will be covered each day may cause some anxiety
If your family is really enjoying studying something, you don’t have to rush to the next subject to be sure you finish all Lesson planning could be more challenging when you aren’t sure what day you’ll be doing each plan
The spontaneous child would enjoy this method much more than a rigid schedule Children who like to know the plan for the day would be frust-rated by this

If you’re having trouble with getting everything done each day and are always feeling behind, this approach might be the one for you!

Free Templates to try Loop Scheduling!

Give it a try by downloading these free templates to create your own loop schedule. As always, I encourage you to seek the Lord for wisdom as you plan, He knows what will work best and wants to guide you!

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

For more ideas on loop scheduling, check out this You Tube video, “Quick Start to Loop Scheduling” by Sarah MacKenzie and Pam Barnhill.

Do you need a homeschool planner?

Check out The Homeschool Life: All-in-One Planner for more ideas on planning and scheduling and record-keeping. It’s the only planner you’ll ever need because you get the templates for all consumable documents!

Please comment below if you’ve used this approach and have some advice or ideas for others!

Help! I’m Feeling Overwhelmed with Homeschool Planning!


Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Are you stressing because it feels like school is just around the corner and you don’t feel ready for your homeschool year?

Maybe you’ve already done some planning, but you’re feeling like there’s still so much to do. Or like many of us, you may have put off planning all together, thinking you’d get to it later and now you’re starting to feel anxious.

This time of year tends to be when homeschool parents start thinking about the next school year and begin feeling a little stressed out. That’s why I want to share some ideas for how you can finish your homeschool planning with less stress and pressure … and still enjoy your summer months!

TIPS FOR YEARLY HOMESCHOOL PLANNING

1. First and foremost, seek the Lord for help and guidance each time you work on planning

This is so important! God wants to help you in your school planning! As we get more and more experienced we can sometimes just jump right into planning and forget how important it is to seek the Lord’s guidance as we do.

2. Schedule in a few hours to work on planning each week ~ THIS IS KEY!

You’re more likely to get your planning done if you schedule in a time to work on it every week and don’t just let it happen whenever, because it will likely get put off! Write it in on your calendar! If you have a lot of children to plan for, you may need a couple time slots each week to plan.

One mom I know said her husband offered to give her one evening a week all summer long to work on her homeschool planning. What a great idea! Maybe your kids are old enough that you can sit outside and work on your planning while they play one morning a week.

Some might prefer to take a whole weekend away to work on homeschool planning – if that’s your preference, then make sure you schedule that weekend away soon! Early July is a great time for this.

3. Evaluate last year and set goals for this next school year

Take time to think about what you liked and didn’t like about this last school year as you begin planning for the next. What curriculum did you like enough that you want to use it again for the next level of learning? What routines in your daily life worked and which didn’t? Do you want to change up your yearly schedule?

Set some goals for this next school year for each child and for your homeschool year. Keep your state’s homeschool laws in mind, considering which subjects the state requires that you teach. You can find this information on your state’s homeschool group’s website or on hslda.org.

Here’s a free evaluation and goal setting form that you can use to help you think through these things and begin to set goals for each child. You may also want to consider your child’s learning style preferences when choosing curriculum, especially for the subjects they struggle in. Download my free informal learning style assessment to learn more about this.

4. Plan for one student at a time

When you have more than one child, it can feel a bit overwhelming to think through all the subjects you need to plan for each child. I recommend focusing on one child at a time, thinking specifically about the subjects you’ll need to teach them individually. Math and Language Arts are the two subjects that follow a specific scope and sequence, and therefore, often need to be taught to each child individually. (unless you have two children who are at the same skill level in one or both of these subjects) If your child is in high school, you may be buying individual curriculum for all or most of the subjects, as their learning tends to become more independent in those years.

5. Plan for subjects that you can teach all your children together

Bible, Social Studies, Science, Music, Art, Health and Physical Education can all be taught together as a family through the elementary and middle school years, and some of these can still be taught together in the high school years as well.

It’s fun to teach all the children these subjects by reading or sharing the information to them all together, and then giving them assignments that are appropriate for each child’s age and skill level. An older child could do a project or book report, while a younger child might help the older child with a project or do an easier project, such as coloring a picture or making a lapbook.

Look for curriculum that will help you teach your children all together if possible, especially in these subjects listed above.

6. Order curriculum

Once you’ve figured out what curriculum you want, place your orders! If you can get this done in July (at the latest), you’ll avoid the problem of items being out of stock. You can look for used curriculum if you want to save money or go on Facebook to some of the homeschool swap groups and see if you can find someone who has what you want and wants to sell it.

Here are a few good used curriculum sites:
homeschoolclassifieds.com


thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschool-help/used-homechool-curriculum-sources/


A list of used curriculum sites can be found here: a2zhomeschooling.com/materials/curriculum_shop/budget_curriculum_shop/used_homeschool_curriculum/

7. Schedule time to review curriculum and learn how to use it ~setting aside the time is KEY!

Once your curriculum arrives, schedule in time each week to work on reviewing it. Pick one curriculum to focus on each week and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by the feeling you’re not getting enough done. Plan out your weeks, and which curriculum you’ll focus on, so you know you’ll get it all done in time.

8. Consider how your yearly, monthly, weekly and daily schedule will work best

You can be working on this as you review curriculum. Consider how many units, chapters or lessons there are in each subject, and plan how much needs to be done each week to get through the curriculum.  A typical school year is 180 days or 36 weeks (unless you school year- round!), so you can determine how much your child will need to complete each week to finish in that much time.

Think through which subjects you’ll need to be working individually with a child on, and plan what time of day would work best for that, and what the other children will do while you’re teaching the one child.

I have some great templates for thinking through scheduling  in The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner.

Only $33 (includes tax)

9. Remember to include Bible study and character growth as part of your learning each day

I recommend starting your school day each day with family Bible study or a character study. It really sets the tone for the day and helps everyone’s attitudes to be in the right place. Praying together each morning can help you find the peace you need to start your day as well.

Look for some good family Bible study materials or character studies to do over the year. Check out Growing the Fruit of the Spirit for your Bible study guide this next school year!

10. Look for ways to integrate your subjects so that assignments and projects will promote learning in more than one subject.

You can also save yourself a lot of time and energy if you incorporate projects and reading (both read aloud books and readers) that cover more than one subject as your child does them.

For example, you can read aloud a book on Egyptian mummies and pyramids for history and you’ll also be learning the science behind mummification and building pyramids. For language arts, your child can read, The Magic School House Research Book- Mummies and Pyramids by Mary Pope Osborn. They could write a book report on it or share what they learned with the rest of the family. Art could be building a pyramid together as a family with clay or Paper Mache.  Here’s a fun free unit study on Egypt to help you plan (there are lots of free or inexpensive unit studies available online!) https://www.homeschoolshare.com/ancient_egypt.php

Curricula that use the unit study or Charlotte Mason approach typically integrate subjects like this. If you’re planning your own studies, download this free planning sheet to help you determine how you can integrate subjects as you study.  

11. Look for ways to help your student become more independent in their learning if old enough

Once children can read well, they’re ready to do more independent work. Assignment sheets for each week help your child know what is expected and will help them learn to manage their time and be responsible. Check out The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner to find an assignment sheet template and learn how to do this.

12. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and pray for His help in your planning whenever you feel stressed!

You’re not doing this homeschool journey alone! God wants to help and guide you as you plan and prepare for this next school year. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, guiding you and giving you wisdom. Rest in the Lord and know that you can do this with HIS help!

Overcoming the Most Common Homeschool Fears

I remember when I first started homeschooling, I had so many fears! In fact, we almost didn’t homeschool because of those fears. I thought I might ruin our children, or they might become awkward or ‘different’. I was concerned that I wouldn’t do a good job, or that I might fail somehow.

 I’m so thankful the Lord helped me to look past my fears and reminded me to fix my eyes on Him instead of my fears!

What is Fear & Why Do We Have It?

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or problems, or is a threat, something difficult to endure.

But many of us have fears that are NOT actually about something that is dangerous, or that will cause pain, problems or a threat. We fear things that are not actually something to fear at all!

F.E.A.R. is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. There’s no true threat of immediate physical danger, no threat of a loss of someone or something dear to us, actually there’s nothing to fear at all. 

My homeschool fears were certainly not unusual, in fact, I often hear parents share the exact same fears that I had back when I was first homeschooling.  But many of these homeschooling fears are like the second definition, they are false evidence appearing real!

That’s why I wanted to walk through several of the most common fears that homeschool parents tend to have to help you overcome them.

Four of the Most Common Homeschool Fears and How to Overcome Them

#1 – What if I don’t do a good job teaching my kids?

Many of us don’t feel qualified to teach our kids, we don’t have a teaching degree or maybe we weren’t a good student ourselves. Or possibly we feel we aren’t creative enough or that we don’t have enough patience.

The good news is that you’re NOT doing this homeschooling thing on your own! As you seek the Lord for wisdom, He will be walking right beside you, giving you wisdom and insights as you teach your children.  Daily, moment by moment, I encourage you to seek His help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  God wants to help you!

There are also wonderful curricula out there today to help us in teaching our children.

You can explore curriculum options and find good curriculum to help you teach your children – and you don’t even have to be creative – the curriculum does that for you! Here’s a post on choosing curriculum that will help you figure out what you might want to use as tools for teaching your children: Choosing Curriculum to Fit Your Family. A wonderful resource to learn more about all the curriculum options out there is Cathyduffyreviews.com.

If you weren’t a good student yourself, you will be more able to empathize with your student if they struggle, and also more likely to provide a better way for your children to learn because of your experience.

If you feel like your knowledge is weak in certain subjects, you can purchase curriculum that will  do some of the teaching for you. For example, my math skills have never been strong, and so when our children got into upper level math, we bought a video-based curriculum that taught our children math. Plus, my husband is a math-wiz, so he was able to help them in the evening with anything they didn’t understand.  God took care of this weakness for me and our children all became good at math, even though it’s not one of my strengths.

A great resource to help make sure you stay on track with all you need to do each year for homeschooling is my book Homeschooling with Confidence.

#2 – What if my kids fall behind other kids their age academically because of homeschooling?

The National Home Education Research Institute has done studies on homeschool students’ academic success. Their studies show that homeschool students’ average score on academic achievement tests is in the 65th-80th percentile. That’s 15-30% higher than the average score for public school students, which is 50%! Check out their information at nheri.org.

However, these statistics are averages and there may be circumstances when a homeschool student does fall behind.  For instance, homeschooling tends to be one of the best ways to educate a child with learning struggles. You may have chosen to homeschool because your student is struggling to learn, and if that’s the case, they likely are behind other students their age because of this learning issue. But your homeschooled child will be protected from the bullying and teasing that happens to children with learning struggles in the public school. And you can move along at their pace without anyone criticizing them for being behind. I’ve seen struggling learners do so much better academically when their parents take them home to educate them.

Even if your student is behind a bit academically for whatever reason, if you’re homeschooling them, you can work with them one-on-one and help them catch up to the best of their ability.

Some kids aren’t ready for formal education until they are between the ages of 8-10, and then they catch up quite quickly to their peers as they begin formal learning. (check out Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore) and some kids struggle in certain subjects and just need a little extra help. Homeschooling them is one of the best ways to teach them, because you can focus on their weak areas and help them improve.

Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education by [Moore, Raymond S., Moore, Dorothy N.]

#3- What if my kids don’t get enough socialization or are ‘different’ because of homeschooling?

Socialization is often a big fear when parents consider homeschooling, and it’s one of the questions you’ll get asked frequently when you say you homeschool!

The crazy thing is, most homeschool children are well socialized. This is one of those fears based on false evidence.

The dictionary defines socialization as the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society. Most parents are more than qualified to teach their children how to behave, and in fact, they are MORE qualified to do so than a classroom full of a child’s peers!

There is a LOT of negative socialization that happens in a big classroom – bullying, disrespect, peer pressure to conform to worldly standards, materialism, self-centered behavior, etc. 

We can focus on building godly character in our children as we spend our days teaching them. This is the best kind of socialization! In fact, I’d say that if our children turn out different, it typically is for the better, because we can help them to be kind and considerate, responsible and respectful.  That kind of ‘different’ is what we want!   

We were motivated to homeschool because of the beautiful example we saw in our neighbor’s girls who were home educated. They were respectful, responsible, well-mannered, and able to converse with adults as well as children!  They were some of our best babysitters when our children were little because we knew we could trust them.

Check out this YouTube video by Israel Wayne on Socialization to learn more about this much misunderstood concern.

#4 – What if I can’t handle teaching my kids plus all the other responsibilities I have already?

Homeschooling is like having a full-time or a part-time job, so we do need to weigh the cost of time as we decide on homeschooling.  We need to determine our priorities and if homeschooling is something God is leading you to do, then He will help you to find the balance you need in your schedule to do it.

We may need to change what we’re currently doing to be able to fit homeschooling into our schedule. Our children’s education is important and if we have too many other responsibilities, we may need to cut out some of those things for a season so we can do a good job teaching our children. 

Our children can be a big help to us in keeping up our home and managing meals, etc.  In fact, having them help with housekeeping and meal preparation are great ways to teach them to manage their own home someday!

In my planner, The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner, I have information on how to implement a chore system as well as templates to use for that. I also have a section on meal planning to help you streamline planning and making meals each day. There’s a section on organizing and planning out your school days as well, and lots of resources to help you manage your home and homeschool well! Check our The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner!

The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner with digital templates for all consumable documents

If you’re sensing that homeschooling is for you, or you’re already homeschooling but having lots of doubts, seek the Lord to give you clear direction and peace. Oftentimes our fears are just lies from the enemy, trying to get us to turn away from what God is leading us to do.

Seek the Lord for wisdom as you wrestle with your homeschooling fears. Are they real or are they based on false evidence?

God has many promises for us as we work through our fears:

 “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28–29

You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Psalm 32:7–8

Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6b–7

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. 
1 John 4:18a


What are your homeschooling fears? Please share them below and any ways that you’ve found to overcome them.  I’d be happy to pray for you as you wrestle through your fears as well.  

Strategies for Managing Your Home While Homeschooling

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t really think about how much it would affect the rest of my responsibilities. Maybe you can relate to this?

 

I was so excited to start teaching our children, so I was very focused on how and what to teach. I didn’t think too much about how I would manage all the other things I needed to get done in a day…but that didn’t last long! The messy house, the lack of good meals, the struggle to find things – these all started to cause frustrations and I realized that I needed to do something to help things run more smoothly in our home while homeschooling.

 

You see, homeschooling is like having a part-time or full-time job, depending on how many children you’re teaching. Because of this, it’s helpful to set up systems of organization for the various areas of responsibility you have in managing your home. A meal planning system and a housekeeping system are essential to keep you from going crazy!

 

I personally found it helpful to make a weekly schedule for the various areas I needed to organize in our home. Over the years I developed a weekly system for meal planning and housework/chores. I’ll share what has worked for me in the area of meals and housework, and some resources and links for other ideas as well.

 

Here are some tips for managing meal planning and housekeeping and doing it well, all while homeschooling:

1. Meal Planning

I’m so thankful to my sister-in-law, Donna for her ingenious ideas on how to make meal planning easier!
Donna created a weekly meal system in which she listed seven evening entrees with side dishes, and she included the list of groceries she needed for those meals on the same sheet.

 

 

She created eight weeks of meal plans with this system. She saved the lists in a plastic covered sheet placed in a binder along with plastic sheets filled with recipes for all the meals listed on all the meal-planning sheets. Each week when it was time to get groceries, she took out one of the weekly meal planning lists and went to the grocery store to purchase what she would need for the week. I started using this system and found it saved me a lot of time and energy. I didn’t have to come up with new meals every day or even every week – once I had the system set up, it was a breeze to plan and make meals for each week.

With this system, I would sometimes change the order of the meals listed on the sheet and make something on a different day than I had originally planned, but I always had all the groceries I needed for each week as long as I stayed with making the meals listed on that sheet. I just looked at the list in the morning and got out anything frozen that needed to thaw and I was ready for the meals for that day.

This meal planning system is available in The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner (In the planner, you’ll also get the template so you can tweak it and reproduce it as needed.) and it’s also in my Homeschooling with Confidence book -both are available in the store section of the website.

Here are some other meal planning resources and ideas:
E-meals (They plan and shop, you cook!)

Once a Month Cooking (Mimi Wilson and Mari Beth Lagerborg) 
  Once a Month Cooking (kindle version)

• Cook ahead and freeze – this saves a lot of time when it comes time to make a meal on a busy day. You can buy in bulk, then brown hamburger, chicken pieces, onions, and peppers, etc. ahead of time and freeze to use later.

• Crockpot cooking
The Easy 5 Ingredient Crock Pot Book 
Taste of Home Slow Cooker Book 
Fix-it and Forget-it Big Cookbook – 1400 Best Slow Cooker Recipes 

• Pressure cooker fast cooking Instapots have been growing in popularity, but I also like the Crockpot Multiuse Express Pot because it does both slow cooking and fast pressure cooking. It’s less expensive, has better ratings and does more! 

• Places to find new recipes:
 tasteofhome.com
 Pinterest.com
 delish.com
 allrecipes.com

2. Housekeeping system

It’s crazy how the house still needs to be cleaned when we’re homeschooling! If only it would just stay clean while we all live and learn in it full-time, right?

The good news is, along with having the kids living in and messing up the home all day long, you also have their help to clean it up! That’s what chores are all about! And it’s good for them to learn how to keep up a home anyway. Someday they’ll have a home of their own and will need those skills, so don’t feel guilty. Start delegating and training your kids to do the housework! They need these skills for when they are out on their own.

Chores are also character-building. Having your children doing chores helps make them more responsible. It also helps them learn to serve others and learn to work well with others. It may be challenging at first to teach them all the aspects of cleaning a house, but the benefits will be so very worth it!

I remember when one of our boys came home from college one weekend. He said that he had to teach his roommate how to do his own laundry because he had no idea how to do it! Our kids had been doing their own laundry since they were 9-10 years old! He was amazed that his roommate didn’t know how.

Not sure how to set up a chore system? Here’s a list to get you started:

(Both The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner and Homeschooling with Confidence have a list of age-appropriate chores to help you determine what your child can do at the age they are at, plus you’ll find several different chore chart templates to choose from.)

• Make a list of all the rooms in your home.
• Write out what needs to be done in each of these rooms to maintain them and keep them clean (dust, vacuum, wipe down the fridge, counters, etc.).
• Separate the list into items that need to be done daily and items that can be done weekly. I would also recommend setting up a regular once-a-week “House Cleaning Day” where you do a deep-cleaning, and everyone helps with those chores that can be done once-a-week.
• For each chore on the two lists, make an index card with the details of what is expected of the person doing this chore. (For preschoolers, keep their chores simple and use pictures.) Include things like putting away clutter, cleaning windows, doorknobs, etc. (If you need guidance on this, go to flylady.net and check out her detailed cleaning lists.)
• Determine how you can separate each of these lists into the appropriate number of individual chore lists based on how many children you have. For example, we have four children: for helping in the kitchen, one helped with breakfast, one with lunch, one with dinner and the last emptied the dishwasher.
• Make a list of personal hygiene skills you want your child to practice every day and include that in their list of chores to be done.
• Make up a chore chart for each child including daily chores and some weekly chores. Each week, or month, make up a new chore chart and rotate which chores your child is doing for that week or month so that they will eventually learn to clean the whole house.

Here’s one type of chore chart you could use…

There are other chore systems available if this doesn’t fit your needs:
A mobile app for chores 
Chore chart that includes a schedule 
Chore sticks in a jar

I believe managing your home in these two areas (meals and housekeeping) is super important when you’re homeschooling. It helps your days to be more relaxed and gives you more time to enjoy your children.
Please share ideas in the comments if you have suggestions for others on how to manage meal planning or housekeeping well in your home – I’d love to hear from you!

Finding Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

The holidays are done, and the new year stretches before us. It’s time to begin a new semester of school…and I’m guessing that some of you may not be feeling very excited about getting back into a school schedule again.

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed with the idea of a whole new semester ahead of you. Or there was a difficult subject that you’re not looking forward to teaching again.  Maybe it’s just that the daily school routine has become boring and you need some changes to happen.

Sometimes homeschooling can feel like a lot of work, right? I remember only too well. Other families are sending their kids off on the bus and you’re teaching your kids again AT HOME. And YOU are responsible for what they learn. It can feel like a heavy burden at times, even though it’s what we’ve chosen, right?

So how do you find joy and motivation when you really just want to go back to bed, or go read a good book, or go hang out with a friend instead of doing the “school thing”?

If this is you, let me give you some ideas for how to find JOY IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY AGAIN!

  1. PRAY AND SEEK THE LORD each day! Rest in Him…

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this homeschool thing! God is with you and wants to help you and give you wisdom for every day and every situation as you teach your children. As you begin each day, spend time with God, seeking His strength and asking Him to give you a thankful and joyful attitude.  Many times, when I’m feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I really just need the Lord to help me change my attitude so it’s in line with His will in my life. He can help you get motivated and find joy in each day. He can help you look for things to be thankful for as you go through each day. I remember one year when I was feeling down and discouraged, not really looking forward to each homeschool day. I sought the Lord’s help and He reminded me of the many blessings I had and helped me to look for things to be thankful for each day. He also helped me see that I needed to take better care of myself…more on that shortly.

Remember that your attitude will rub off on your children! If you’re excited about a new day, looking forward to all God is going to teach you, your children will be too! A joyful attitude is infectious!

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

 

  1. REMEMBER IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!

 

We often get so focused on academics and making sure we’re getting everything accomplished that we forget that one of the most important things about homeschooling is that we’re building relationships:

  • Our children’s relationship with God
  • Our relationship with our children
  • Our children’s relationships with each other
  • Outside relationships with others

Ask the Lord to help you make relationships a priority this semester.

  • Focus on helping your children grow in their faith and in godly character. Check out my blog post on ideas for building your child’s faith: Resources and Ideas for Building Your Child’s Faith. I also have several posts on godly character – just put that phrase in the search box and you’ll find them!
  • Focus on spending quality time enjoying being with your children, playing a game, reading to them, or just snuggling.
  • Focus on helping your children love one another, helping them to develop a deep friendship with their siblings.

You’ll be surprised at what this change of focus will do for your family and your homeschool days!

 

  1. TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO RE-EVALUATE

 

  • Are you possibly struggling with burnout? Do you give so much of yourself that you’re not taking time for yourself and your needs? Homeschool burnout is very real! You need to take care of yourself, get proper rest and exercise and eat well plus allow yourself to enjoy the things you like to do sometimes in order to avoid burning out. That same year when I was so down and discouraged, I realized that I needed to get more regular exercise and so we joined a gym as a family and I found that getting regular exercise was good for me and also for our children! Check out this blog post: “Encouragement for the Burned-out Homeschool Mom” 

 

  • Do you need to consider a change of curriculum? Are you finding you dread a certain subject? Or have you noticed your children seem to complain about doing some subjects? Maybe it’s time for a change of curriculum. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com for new ideas on curriculum and read this post on Choosing Curriculum.
  • Focus on developing a love for learning using delight-directed studies and adding some fun ideas and games into your school day. One year I was just so tired of the “same old, same old” everyday, and so I purchased the book “Ignite the Fire” by Terri Camp. It was so helpful to get me out of the rut we were in! One idea she had was to have the kids each make their own mailbox (decorated shoe box!) and then write letters to each other (creative writing).  The kids loved it!  She has many wonderful ideas to help your children love to learn!

Also check out these blog posts on delight-directed learning, teaching tips and using games to help make learning more fun:

 

 

  • Download my free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF” available on the sidebar to help you assess any changes you may wish to make for this second semester.

 

 

  1. BRAINSTORM with your spouse or other homeschool friends on ideas to make this semester better for you and your children…

    so school is something you DO look forward to! I also do homeschool consulting and would love to meet with you to help you think through how you can bring more joy into your homeschool days if this is a struggle for you. For the month of January 2019, I’m offering a 15% discount for consultations as well!

 

  1. RELAX AND ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

So much learning can happen without textbooks. Allow yourself to relax a bit, to allow some learning to happen naturally as your children ask questions about life and things that happen in their world. That’s called Discovery Learning – and because it’s something they’re interested in, they will be much more attentive as you research together about the topic of interest. Discovery learning provides some of the best learning and often the information you learn through these types of teaching times will be retained better than when you use some fancy lesson plan!

 

  1. EXTEND GRACE…

    to yourself and your children as you get back into the routine of school after a holiday break. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a week or more to get back into a regular routine with school and life.  REST in the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis as you teach and have a blessed school year!

Please comment below if you have other ideas that have helped you find joy in your homeschool journey… I’d love to hear your ideas!

*Photo credit  Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

6 Tips for Homeschooling with Confidence

 As I talk with homeschoolers, one of the most frequent questions or concerns that I hear is “I don’t know if I’m doing enough?”  or “What if I’m doing something wrong or not teaching them enough?”

Even though most parents are going above and beyond what they need to do in teaching their children, there’s still this underlying fear that they aren’t doing enough, that somehow their children won’t measure up to other children their age.

“What if we miss teaching them something really important?”

 “What if they don’t do well on their annual achievement test?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do this teaching thing, as well as the public or private schools, do.”

Can you relate to this?

I know I can. Frankly, many homeschoolers struggle with these fears.

We start comparing ourselves to some of our more successful homeschooling friends. Or we even compare our children to children in public school and wonder if our children are missing out on some great educational experience.

We see that the Johnson children are well above average in their math skills, or the Jones children are so well-mannered, just like little adults. How do they do that? And why aren’t our children like this? The comparison cycle begins, and it can really bring us down.

How do we deal with these nagging feelings of insecurity and doubt with homeschooling? The fears that we aren’t doing enough?

How do we stop that irritating comparison game that we all play?

How can we homeschool with confidence and stop feeling inadequate?

 

Six tips to help you homeschool with confidence:

  1. Pray for wisdom, seek God’s guidance, and trust God to direct your decisions.

    This may sound cliché, but ultimately this is the first and most important weapon we have against the fear and doubt that so often plagues us. God promises us that He will give us wisdom when we ask and that He’ll guide us when we seek Him for direction, so we can rest in that promise. If we seek Him, we can trust that what He leads us to do will be enough! Spend time each day seeking God and His direction for your day and your teaching, He is faithful to help you!

 

  1. Focus on discipleship and building godly character first!

    Major on the majors! Helping our children come to know and love the Lord is truly the most important thing we can do as parents. Once they know the Lord, He’ll be working on them, helping them to want to do their best in all they do, including their school work. Praying for and helping your children develop godly character can be one of the most effective ways to have a successful homeschool.  Focusing not only on their character but also helping them to have a godly heart attitude in which they strive to be obedient out of love for you and the Lord is key. As your children grow in their faith, God is at work, helping them to be all they can be.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7: And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Inga Cannon states:

“When exploring God’s requirements for what our young people learn, it is important to establish a Scriptural definition of knowledge. II Peter 1:5–8 provides a clear description for an educational sequence which will honor God:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ESV

Knowledge, then, is explored information within the boundaries of faith and character development.”

(see my posts on Building Godly Character)

 

  1. Remember that children don’t mature and learn at the same rate, so if your child isn’t up to “speed” so to speak, it may be due to maturity, not a learning disability.

    It’s normal for children to develop at different rates physically. One child might learn to walk at age 9 months while another doesn’t walk until they’re 14 months.  This goes on all through the developmental years, with children learning different large motor skills at different rates, learning to talk at different ages, reaching puberty at different ages, etc.  Just as children develop at different rates, they also learn at different rates. One child may be ready to read at age 4, while another doesn’t learn to read until they’re 10!  Just because they’ve turned 5 doesn’t mean that they’re ready or mature enough to learn to read and do math.  According to Dr. Raymond Moore in his book, Better Late than Early, some children are not ready for formal learning until ages 8-10! Yet our society pushes us to begin teaching children formally at age 5, and many children just aren’t ready. One of our boys struggled to learn to read, we started teaching phonics at age 4, and it wasn’t until he was 9 that the phonetic concepts finally clicked, and he started to read fluently. The amazing thing was that his reading skills were up to his grade level very quickly once he finally “got it”!

    So remember that it’s okay for kids to learn at different rates, there’s no need to become concerned unless you’re seeing signs of a learning disability.  Click HERE to see a list of learning disability signs from the US Dept. of  Health and Human Services.  A great resource if you suspect a learning disability is diannecraft.org.

4. Guard against falling into the comparison game.

Allowing yourself to fall into the comparison game is a sure-fire way to lose confidence in your homeschooling abilities. I’ve seen it happen so often, a young homeschool mom notices that one of her homeschool friends seems to do such fun, creative things to teach her children and she feels inadequate.  I struggled with this way too often in my homeschooling years.

The thing is, you can’t be perfect in all areas, and so you’re almost always going to find someone who does something better than you do. Comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful.

 It’s difficult to completely break the comparison habit, but with God’s help, it’s possible to do it less by remembering that it’s okay to be unique! I want to encourage you to focus on following God’s lead rather than trying to please people.

God chose YOU to raise your children because He knew that with His help, you were the best choice as mom or dad for those children! And you will do things differently than another family might, and that’s OKAY! Be free to live life as God leads you to live it and to educate your children as God leads you to do so.

Pray daily for help to stop comparing yourself to others. Seek the Lord for direction each day and trust Him to guide you. It’s okay to seek advice from others you respect but try not to compare yourself and your homeschool to others.

When you start to feel bad about how you’re doing, ask yourself, “Is this from God or is it because I’m comparing myself again?”

 

  1. Utilize resources and do your best academically.

    There are SO many curriculum options out there to help you teach your children! It can be a bit overwhelming, but options can be a blessing because you can customize your curriculum to fit your needs. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com to get some insights into the various options for curriculum on each subject. I also love to consult with families, helping them find the right fit for curriculum based on their needs as a family and their children’s learning styles. Learn more about a consultation HERE.

Once you have curricula or teaching resources to help you, then you just need to do your best to teach your children, trusting God for guidance on a daily basis.  Follow the teacher’s guides, follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and RELAX! Most homeschool children score between the 65th to the 85th percentile on the annual academic achievement tests.  Go to the National Home Education Research Institute’s webpage to learn more about how homeschoolers are doing.

If you’re concerned about where your child is at academically, here are a couple of resources you can use to verify that you’re on track. (But remember that kids mature at different rates though, so don’t fret if your child isn’t quite up to their grade level – just set some goals to work towards getting them there!). 

What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Sampson

World Book also has a free “Typical Course of Study” Guide available.

  1. Use the Homeschooling with Confidence guidebook to make sure you’re doing all that you need to . . . and enjoy the journey!

    Homeschooling with Confidence is a guidebook for homeschoolers who want a bit of accountability and encouragement! Topics include starting off right, planning & scheduling, learning styles, managing your home while homeschooling, avoiding resistance, developing a love or learning, choosing curriculum, discipleship & character training, and wrapping up your school year well.

    You can find this book in my “store” link or click on the title above.

 

Homeschoolers encouraging other homeschoolers is the best way to help you find confidence in your homeschool journey! I’d love to hear your thoughts…please share with others below about how you find confidence as you homeschool!