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Teaching Textbooks

 

To Finish or Not to Finish?

credit: Todd Wilson

The other day on Facebook I shared a graphic from Todd Wilson (the Family Man) and really truly loved the variety of comments from you all! (No really – I do!)

With the end of the year looming SO very close, there are days that we just want to be done. Finished. We are squeezing in testing along with wrapping up a few of the remaining subjects, but I will admit that it’s tempting to put one thing aside sometimes and call it good. 

And the truth is, we have done that in the past. (and our kids have survived). 

Despite there being 180 days of lesson plans or boxes to check off, there have been a few that we didn’t do every single lesson. Last year, a mere ten lessons from the end, one child asked if they could take the final test in the class and if they received a 94 or above – stop. Guess what? They scored a 100. Class over. (I’ll admit though, this is hard because I’m a girl who loves to check off boxes!)

The beauty of working 1:1 with our kids is we know when they have mastered something or need to focus in a bit more until they have. If it’s been mastered – it’s okay to move along. There is the aspect of high school classes to take into consideration (we have a level of commitment there we definitely need to hit in order to earn a high school credit), but if my 4th grader has mastered all the prepositions and can diagram and break down a sentence, I may not need to finish the last chunk of lessons when he already has the rest mastered. 

One mom mentioned: 

… most curricula was designed to include more in it than the average classroom/family could possibly do in a school year. In fact, some texts have directions for using a single textbook for at least two years of study. There are times we’ve taken two years to finish something, but there are times when we say that we’ve done enough and move on. (thanks Cheryl!)

Coming from the public school setting, that is so very true. No matter how much I may try to fit everything in, there is always more than enough to do. There are also days that we go off on rabbit trails and extend the learning in other ways. 

But on the other hand…

On the flip side of that, I love this comment too from another mom (Elizabeth): 

I see it as being a good steward of our finances and teaching the kids to be perseverant. I have done the hundreds of hours of research to determine which curriculum is best for the learning styles of my very different children. Then spent the hundreds of dollars that my husband has earned by sacrificing his time and talent away from our family…

The truth is – that resonates a lot with me as well! If the curriculum has been a great fit for our family, we need to remember that many of us have invested both time and money into our year – and it is important to follow through. I do think too that it is important to teach our kids the value of following through with commitments we have made. Sometime we don’t always like to do something, but it can be a matter of establishing good habits. 

My overall thoughts are this (and I’d love to hear yours too!) –  if you are feeling stressed out and about at your wits end, maybe even feeling like this year has been a flop and you are failing at this homeschooling thing… well, it ok to give yourself a little grace. I may just be time to put that history book aside and focus on getting the core stuff done. Or looking at the bigger picture – can you put the rest aside and pick up later? Or start fresh next year. Different states do require various things to complete the year, so take that into consideration as well. 

Maybe you need to take a day break and jump back in with a fresh focus to finish up the last bit with gusto. If one more worksheet might push you over the edge, maybe there is a creative way to finish out your year that both you and your kiddos can get on board with! Take that field trip and have fun together videotaping your kid’s thoughts on what they learned. Let THEM teach a lesson to you. (Check out this post for some ways to mix things up at the end of the homeschool year). 

The most important thing to remember is this: YOU know where your child is academically and what s/he does or doesn’t need to complete. Take the time to look back over the past year and honestly evaluate if you are good to go. Allow yourself grace if you are heaping guilt on yourself. 

It’s all about perspective and remembering what matters in the long run. :) ENJOY your time together with your kiddos! 

What are YOUR thoughts – every box checked or do you roll with it? 

 

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5 Things to ADD to the end of your homeschool year

After Five Years…

One thing we have been wanting to do for many years is have a family picture updated. It’s been five years since the last time, but something always seems to get in the way and take up our time. A few weeks back we FINALLY nailed down a date and got it done. 

You all – FIVE YEARS!!

Mind you, the last time we had them taken turned into a hilarious comedy of errors with us taking a trip to the ER and pushing off pictures because one child split open his head literally minutes before the photographer arrived. And then it took me two more years to get the pictures framed and hung once we finally had them printed. 

Because perfection and getting things just right get in my way every single time

But they are done and I am determined not to wait as long for the next set because – wow.FIVE YEARS!! The years have flown by – literally. (Look how much they have grown!!)

Here’s to not waiting so long the next round. Especially since the older two will be heading to (or in) college if we wait another five years. (I cannot even go there in my mind right now). 

Deep breaths. 

Savoring every moment in the “now” – one day at a time. 

What I’m Reading (and the Kids too) May 2017

The last few weeks, the front porch has been one of my favorite places to sit and relax. We finally purchased a new cushion for our porch swing (someone picked a hole in the old one) and now the swing is nice and cushy soft. Although there aren’t any flowers in the pots, it’s been fun watching a few birds build a nest in our hanging ferns – more definite signs that spring is here and the lovely weather is here to stay.

Although I didn’t get through quite as much of my non-fiction this past month, I did read a few other books that weren’t on my list that I’m glad not to have missed.  The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines was one of those I added because it was a Kindle deal recently and I was cracking up with some of the back story between those two. A few of the books are still in my pile to continue reading this month, and we have some more car trips coming which hopefully means some reading time (and not fielding disagreements between the backseat passengers). 

I did knock a few books off  my 2017 reading list (and again loving the Good Reads app to help me track my progress), which always is nice. Feel free to join me there and follow along! It’s so much fun to see what others are reading and recommend.

Here’s the list I want to tackle during May:

The Kids are Reading…

The girls have finished up their required reading for the year, so they are taking a bit of a breather in that area. Laurianna is working on other subjects to get caught up and McKenna needs to head to the library soon. Kaleb recently finished his first chapter book and I thought for sure he would pick an easier book to read, but he asked to read the second book in the Boxcar Children series – and I couldn’t be happier! 

What I Read in April

The best two books I read this past month by far were How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig (gave me some great talking points to use with one of our high school lit classes) and also A Fall of Marigolds  by Susan Meissner. I honestly LOVED this last one- cannot say how much, quite honestly. It wove the stories of women from two different eras (early 1900s and 2001) along with their personal losses – and it was just fabulous. 

Books I read…

That’s all for this month! I’ll share what I’ve managed to finish next month with you all. What books do you and the kids have set aside to read this month? 

The FIRST Thing to Do When You Struggle Balancing Home and School

Recently I asked a question on Facebook of you all: What is your biggest struggle in balancing home and school? The answers ranged from “everything” to finding quality time with spouse, meal planning, and keeping our home clean.

As homeschool parents, we have a lot on our plates trying to balance our homeschool time with the everyday happenings at home: meals, cleaning, shuttling kids, working, more feeding of the children, grocery shopping, marriage, and the many other commitments we have outside the home. It can seem like it never ends.

Overwhelm can sometimes be an understatement in how we are feeling. 

So – how do you do it all? Isn’t that a question that we all ask? We see all these amazing images and status updates on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram from other moms with immaculate homes and (seemingly) idyllic families. Kids who are dressed and have combed hair (the struggle is real onthat one in our house), perfectly plated food, laundry that is folded…and then put away. Often we’re struggling to keep up with the bare minimum and just see the bottom of the kitchen sink and remember about thirty minutes before 6 that we have to figure out what’s for dinner.

Let’s face it – it is SO easy to get overwhelmed and feel like life is out of balance. Quickly!

I’d love to share my heart (and home) in a short series on balancing home and school in the upcoming bit on the blog (because I can use a refresher too!), but I need to put out a few disclosures.

  1. I don’t do it all
  2. My all is different than your all.
  3. Sometimes we desperately need to redefine ‘all’ to match what is reality – not expectation.

Maybe you are looking for a few tips on tightening things up. Maybe life feels completely out of whack. Regardless, in this series we’re going to talk about some ways we can approach different areas of our homes and lives and try to bring things back into a more organized state.

But today, there is one thing that I think is so very important to not only understand in our minds, but especially in our hearts. 

Know that you can’t do it all.

No matter what you think, there is no mom that is doing it all. Everyone has different priorities and things that make their families unique. There are days in our home when we are lucky to finish the basics of school and have three decent meals (because those kids keep asking for food. And the husband – he likes to eat too). Housework may be pushed to the side for a day or two…or more. Other times we may even be scraping the bottom of the fridge to find something edible. 

There definitely is something to be said for having an organization plan in place (a routine or schedule), but remember – life happens. You need to know what your top priorities are and what is most important to you.

Pinterest can be one of my biggest downfalls and if I’m being honest, Facebook too. It’s easy to see and read how everyone’s life around us is going along so amazing. Their kids are sleeping through the night after just 2 weeks, while yours are almost 10 months and can’t make it more than 3 hours (been there, friends). It’s easy to make life look “good” for others to see, but part of that transfers into a struggle when we begin comparing what friends or others have that we don’t. And then we begin the process of beating ourselves up for not having it look JUST like an image we see or an impression we got from something. 

Can I tell you something? There’s a lot that we miss in all those pictures and status updates. We are seeing what others are allowing us to see. A picture of a happy family taking a road trip together can be shared on Instagram, but I can guarantee they aren’t sharing a video or picture of the same kids that have already started fighting in the backseat over just fifteen minutes down the road. (I have zero experience with said issue. Zero.)

We don’t see the messes or the many hours that go into making something Pinterest-worthy. But our hearts take in what we are presented with and then latch onto our lack. 

And friends – that is SO not my heart for you. This is something I have struggled with tremendously over the years and it has eaten at me, stealing joy from the moments I should instead be savoring. 

If you are struggling…

While I may not know what area you feel you struggle most with, I do know there are many resources (and friends) available to help us each out along the way. Can I encourage you to pick one area in the upcoming week and spend 20 minutes a day focusing on that area? If you need accountability – ask a friend! (I will be!)

Here, the newness of spring has been inspiring to me to change up some things in our home and get back on track in multiple areas. I’m committing  20 minutes twice a day  – starting the day with time to prioritize and focus and then making a “clean sweep” of the house each evening so we have a fresh start the following morning (clean counters and a tidy living area).

What area will you focus on this week – and remember: focus on the unique priorities YOUR family has. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Do what is best for you and yours! 

 

Do You Struggle with Anger?

Does the above resonate with you? (It does me. A lot.)

In the past I’ve mentioned that anger is one of the things I struggle with most in parenting. Somehow, the kiddos in this house can push every single one of my buttons in the first fifteen minutes of the day. 

For real. 

From the many emails I received from you all after I wrote that initial post, I know I’m not alone in this struggle. And friends, the struggle is daily. It isn’t something that I read a book on and it was gone overnight. It’s a daily walk and one that I need t0 constantly pray about. Constantly.

Parenting is a journey that forces us not to be selfish and roots out all those areas that selfishness rests. And no matter how often we think there MUST have been a mistake in God giving us the children in our home (especially the ones that push our buttons), God knows exactly what we need and each and every one of our children are gifts from Him. Added to that, my anger – my temper, well it’s not something that I can just overlook. There is something that can be done, because anger is something that can be worked on and tempered – it isn’t a lifelong sentence unless I allow it to have a grip on me. 

But sometimes it seems like that, doesn’t it. The hardest part is often admitting that the change needs to come from me. No matter what circumstances are going on around me, I still have a choice in how I react to all that surrounds and happens around. I can CHOOSE to respond different. To not blow up. To count to 10. Or 100. Or just step away from the situation.

The Temper Toolkit

Over the last few months I’ve been watching (and rewatching) videos from the Temper Toolkit course by Lisa Jo Baker. You all – it is so very full of encouragement, helps, and reminders on who God has created each of us to be. Here are just a few: 

  • You are not a bad mom just because you have a bad day. 
  • My kids were each given to me on purpose (no mistakes!).
  • Taking a break is important – and needed – in my role as a mom. 
  • It’s okay to ask for help – and admit I am wrong. 

The course features 7 videos (under 15 minutes each), transcripts of each video session, audio downloads of each session, phone lock screens and printables, and 5 additional bonus sessions to further encourage and help you in your journey. 

I purchased the Temper Toolkit a few months ago because I just needed the little reminders (and Lisa Jo also made some beautiful screen savers and printable reminders to go along with each of the lessons). I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual person, so seeing prompts and verses really helps me out. And often I need to hear and see those reminders again and again. 

The Temper Toolkit course is currently waitlisted/closed – and as soon as it becomes available again, I will let you all know. If you have been a reader of Homeschool Creations for any amount of time, hopefully you know well by now that my heart is to help encourage and provide tools for other moms in their homeschool and parenting journey (and yes, you dads too!). 

Discouragement can run rampant and it’s easy to feel like a failure. Quickly. Whether it be in the area of housework, budgeting, organization, or just taking care of ourselves. Homeschooling is one of the many hats we wear!

And mommas – if there is something I can pray for you with today – or tomorrow – or the next day, would you please leave a comment or feel free to email me? I would be honored to pray with you. Sometimes admitting we struggle is the hardest and first step – and I’m hear to support you if I can. 

When the Doubts Creep In (and I Feel Like I’ve Ruined My Kids)

This past week we spent a whole lot of time doing nothing. A little bit of cleaning and organizing here and there, but otherwise it was rest and refocusing on what is coming in the last six weeks of school.

At one point a friend texted me something that hit a wee bit of a rawness in me, because it echoed many of the doubts that have been circling my mind the last few weeks. 

Do you ever feel like you’ve ruined your kids? Having one of those vulnerable moments.  Sometimes I feel like I haven’t involved them in enough.  And I tell myself it’s not too late and that they’re pretty solid kids.  But yeah, sometimes those doubts.

My answer. Yes. I do. Even during the last week of rest there were moments when the doubt crept in. Should I be doing more? Less? We could be doing more. Maybe we should get them involved in _____. Perhaps we need to step up our work in another area. The list goes on and on. 

Yes, there will likely be gaps and things I miss, but honestly, that’s ok. I can’t be everything and the end all. I’m NOT everything and the end all.  I still need to do my best, but I can’t worry about every little detail or I will drive myself crazy. We take things one day at a time and as opportunities arise. Sometimes they are a great fit for where we are in life, and other times they need to be put aside in that moment. 

Many of the books I’ve been reading lately (and there is good reason for it), have focused on scaling back. Focusing on what is important and knowing what we want in our home and family. All timely reminders for me (and maybe you too). 

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the cycle of having everything “perfect” on paper – lesson plans, making sure we are doing all the right stuff academically. We’re trying to involve them in some sports. It’s hard not to compare and see what other families are doing or involved in. But we’ve also made the decision as a family to try to simplify in some areas and not overextend ourselves. 

 

While reading The Magnolia Story this past week, one section really stuck out to me. In trying to create perfection in her home, Joanna Gaines realized something: 

…my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all day long. Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I had envisioned it in the past. Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsession and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process? I chose the latter — and that made all the difference…It all came down to a mind shift in which I asked myself, ‘What am I going for in life?’ Was it to achieve somebody else’s idea of what a perfect home should look like? Or was it to live fully in the perfection of the home and family I have?”  

As we finish up the rest of our school year, the one thing I want to ensure I’m doing is putting my energy into enjoying what we are doing — wholeheartedly — and FULLY enjoying the family and homeschool that we have been blessed with. While my family and school may not line up with what others are doing, that’s okay. We will finish well and in those moments of feeling vulnerable, I will focus on the task in front of me and remember to trust God in all that I am doing. Including my kids’ education.