20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

What is Your Teaching Style?

Homeschool Teaching Styles and Philosphies.png

When I started homeschooling over eleven years ago, I had no idea that there were different homeschool teaching styles (or philosophies, if you prefer to use a fancier word). I just started on my merry way and a few years later someone asked me if we were Charlotte Mason or Eclectic.

Say what?? Who in the world was Charlotte Mason and eclectic…well, that just sounded so scattered!

Honestly, I had no idea what my answer truly was, and it was something that made me sit down and look things over (because my Type A personality just HAD to know). For those of you newer to homeschooling, or maybe as clueless as I was, a quick look at several of the different approaches may be helpful to you too. 

What are the Different Educational Philosophies?

Just like our children are all different, there are many different ways that we can approach teaching our children. Believe it or not, we as parents are different too and have different ideas and beliefs on how to best approach education. These approaches aren’t just in the homeschooling realm, but also exist in the public school realm as well.

It’s great to have a basic understanding of the different philosophies and honestly, they each have aspects that are helpful. Don’t put down one idea over another. There is something to glean from each area!!

This post briefly covers a few key philosophies:  Traditional, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Studies, Unschooling, and Eclectic. Keep in mind that you may identify with parts of different philosophies – and that’s okay!

Traditional

This method revolves more around traditional textbooks and worksheets to determine if a child is learning. Work may be graded, tests given, etc…and can look more similar to a traditional school setting. Many may say it just is the school classroom dropped into a home.

Your family may use this method in certain subject areas and not in all (for example math or grammar). It may also be your overall teaching style as well (we have friends who follow this method exclusively).

A few companies to consider for the traditional method: A Beka and Rod and Staff.

clip_image002

image courtesy of Microsoft

Charlotte Mason

This philosophy began in the 1800’s by a woman named Charlotte Mason. She believed that children should learn from real life through playing and creating. Part of the real-life learning would include plenty of nature walks and art studies. Instead of textbooks, children use “living books” – or books that make subjects come alive. This approach also includes more discussion and narration, not test taking for determining learning.

Helpful texts for this approach include A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola and Ambleside Online.

Classical

This method uses the Trivium: reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric. Not sure what that means? In the early stages of learning, children learn the basics of reading, writing, and math. They then move into the grammar stage, then the dialectic stage, and then rhetoric (usually high school age).

One of the key things that you’ll notice about this method is the four year teaching cycle of history and science (the topics repeat every four years). We have followed this approach in our history studies and you may already be familiar with a text that follows the classical approach, Story of the World. This method also frequently focuses on learning Latin as a part of study.

Helpful texts for this approach include The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer and Teaching the Trivium by Harvie and Laurie Bluedorn.

clip_image002[5]

image courtesy of Microsoft

Unit Studies

This method of study is fairly straight forward. If your child is interested in the ocean, you would read  books that covered that topic, write about topics that related to the ocean (writing/grammar/spelling), learn more about scientists and animals {science}, etc. It can also be tied into a literature theme (i.e. based on a book that is read together).

Basically, unit studies cover a certain theme. Some parents may come up with all of their material on their own for a theme, but there are many companies and sites that offer lessons and ideas packaged together. It might get a little trickier as students get older to include all subject areas. This is how we initially started our homeschool journey – with country studies that led us around the world and studying all sorts of different things!

A few companies that use the Unit Study approach: Five in a Row and Konos.

Unschooling

This method would be mainly opposite of the public school philosophy. Instruction is led by the interests of the child and is very relaxed. Formal lessons may not be involved. It follows the belief that children are all curious and natural learners and they will continue to learn as they grow and develop.

Book for further learning: How Children Learn by John Holt.

Eclectic

Basically, this method focuses on a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It’s eclectic! Maybe you are classical in your history approach, Charlotte Mason in science, a bit more traditional in math, etc… You cover subjects with your family in a manner that best suits your individual needs.

What is Your Teaching Style?

Quite honestly, our family fits more in this latter category now that we are a bit down the road of homeschooling. Depending on our children, we’ve adjusted pieces of our curriculum (and teaching) to flow with how they learn best and what works with our family.

Over the years you may notice your teaching style changes – that is fine!! Don’t panic! Be sure to read up on the different philosophies and do a little more research on your own too.

Have you determined your teaching style? Leave a comment below and tell us yours – we’d love to hear.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

 

Practical Homemaking Hope for the Tired Homeschool Mom

practical homemaking hope for the tired homeschool mom

How do you do it all? Isn’t that a question that we all ask – either about other moms when we see how beautiful or immaculate their house/kids/etc…appear via Pinterest and Facebook and begin comparing the piles of laundry and leftover dishes piled in our sink with crusted-on food. It can be downright discouraging.

Let’s face it – it is SO easy to get overwhelmed and feel like life is out of balance. Quickly! Many of us are just tired homeschool moms – looking for a glimmer of hope as we dig out from under the huge pile of laundry that threatens to swallow us whole.

That nagging ‘how am I supposed to do it all’ can really throw us for a loop, but first I need to put out a few disclosure: I desperately believe that we need to redefine ‘all’ to match what is reality – not expectation.

Maybe you are looking for a few tips on tightening things up around the house. Maybe life feels completely out of whack. Here are a few tips and resources that have been so helpful to me over the years – and ones that I need to remind myself of as well!

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 3 meals. Housework may be pushed to the side for a day or two.

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

Pay Attention to How You Are Spending Your Time

While it seems intimidating, planning your day is something that can be done. Having a schedule or routine in place can help bring organization to your homeschool day and ensures that you are getting enough educational time each day as well. In the past I’ve shared our weekly routine and how I learned the importance of budgeting our time wisely.

Use Small Segments of Time to Your Advantage

A 20 minute time block is one of my favorite ways to get things accomplished. And truly, you all – 20 minutes can put a HUGE dent in a task that needs to be finished or started. It seems like a small amount of time, but it can break up something huge and make it more manageable. Maybe it’s tackling a larger project 20 minutes at a time. Or maybe that 20 minutes will be all it takes to get it DONE and off your list (and mind). The short time frame is also a great way  to stay focused, and then you can switch to a different task when that time is up.

Find an Organizational Tool You Love – and USE it!

Daily Planning Pages printable - free download for February. Also link to the FULL 2015 Daily Planner - get organized this year.

I’m a paper and pen kind of girl, although my Google calendar has a part of my life too!  There are two things in my life that help keep me organized and give me an overall view of our year/month and then a look at the day-to-day of life: my Yearly Personal Planner and my Daily To-Do List.

These documents are a paper version of my brain and keep me focused on what needs to be done. I can prioritize a list and get working on it. I will admit that I have been known to add things to my list that I’ve already done, just so I can check it off (don’t judge – there is something wonderful in seeing what you have accomplished!).

Define ‘Clean Enough’

Our house isn’t white-glove ready (please don’t bring any with you). You’ll find spiderwebs, dust, fingerprints and more. I have in mind what is the bare minimum needed for rooms in our house. In our home we focus on the main living area (our busiest area and where we spend a lot of our time) and try to keep that picked up, while I let the kids have a little leeway (ok a LOT) in their rooms. My trigger areas are also kept up until deeper cleaning can be done. We tidy up those areas each night so we are ready to go the next morning. Kids rooms are supposed to be picked up some, but I’ve let go of perfection and they do a more full clean on weekends.

Delegate Work and Have the Kids Help

One thing that has definitely helped in house management is letting the kids be involved in tasks around the house. From the time they were young, we’ve included our kids in the cleanup process and given them responsibilities from wiping down tables and matching socks to washing/folding laundry and cleaning out the chicken coop.

There are some things they do just because they live in our house and are a part of a community – we all pitch in and help because we are a family. We make our beds, pick up after ourselves, put our dishes away, etc… You can get a closer look at our chore system here.

Plan Your Meals

Meal-Planning-Tools.png

Taking the time to work on meal planning, even a week or two at a time, can be a huge time saver. There isn’t any rush at 5pm wondering what you can thaw in time for dinner, and that alone is worth it!

Freezer cooking has also been a huge help to our family in the busy seasons. It does take planning, but having meals ready to use is wonderful.

Pulling Your Homeschool Time Together

As homeschool moms, keeping everything in order with the house can be hard because we are teaching in the same space we live. Here are a few additional tips for keep

  • Do school when it works for you – there is nothing that says you have to start school at 8:30 am. If your family sleeps in each morning (I may be jealous!!), work on school in the afternoon. Or Saturdays.
  • Teaching Kids Together – We have several subjects that we work together on to help save time and my sanity – history, science (for two), Bible, and art for a few. While the kids are all learning things on different levels, it has been a great time for us to work together.
  • Help kids become independent learners – As our kids get older, the goal has been for them to do subjects more independently. In the younger years subjects are more 1:1, but each year they can add a little more to do on their own. With our oldest two (grades 6 and 8), the bulk of their subjects are independent during the week. At the beginning of the week we go over what they need to cover that week and work on and later in the week we sit down together to review.

The Homeschool Basics series has many posts covering helpful topics from choosing homeschool curriculum, planning your homeschool day, to homeschooling multiple ages.

Mornings Can Be ROUGH!

If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that my morning routine makes a HUGE difference in the overall mood and productivity of my day. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible to recover, but if a few tweaks and changes can make the day run much more smoothly – than I’m ready to try them and run with it!

My friend Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com (and author of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode)  has created a 14-day course called Make Over Your Mornings – just for you!  It is designed to help you rebuild the very foundation of your day, and help ignite a new sense of passion and purpose in your lives – all in only 15 minutes a day!

Take Time to Rest!

couch and resting

One of the best additions to our daily routine in the last two years has been REST TIME. Yes, our oldest is 13, but really truthfully, this (almost) daily time has added more margin in our lives and brought peace to our day. During this time the kids (for the most part) have to stay on their beds, can sleep, play with Legos, read, listen to audiobooks, etc. This just helps bring a time of calm to the day – and a break in any fighting (grins).

For me – this is NOT a time to work. It’s literally a time for me to make myself a cup of tea, sit down and read my Bible, do devotions if they haven’t been done, read a book for growth or fun – but just to relax and not be ‘doing’ something. So – for ½ an hour to an hour we try to unplug and just BE.

Those are just a few tips in helping keep things sane around the house. Again – remember moms (and dads) – there is no home that has everything remarkably together. We all have different priorities, involvements, and family lives. I’d encourage you not to compare what is happening in your home to another’s home. It’s always great to learn new tips and implement things that may help our process run more smoothly – but don’t beat yourself up, especially if you are in a season of life that requires more of you as a momma (hello, newborns!) or there are situations out of your control.

Hang in there! You CAN do this homeschooling thing and get things done! Know what is most important to you and your family and focus on that above all!

What are Your Homeschool Year Goals?

Goals and Purpose in Homeschooling

 

The last few years one of the most helpful things BEFORE starting our homeschool year has been to have a written plan for our year. It isn’t anything elaborate, just a few short paragraphs to serve as a visual reminder of the goals for our family during our homeschool time.

Last year I shared a post on Setting Homeschool Goals and Knowing Your Purpose that went into a lot more detail (in case you are interested in reading it – wink).

This week I’ll be praying, planning, and working on our 2014-15 goals and vision and wanted to share a few things that I’ll be considering in the process.

  • Why are we homeschooling? (Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of the core reasons you are doing this – because there are TOUGH days that you may want to give up. Ask me how I know.)
  • What do we want our children to accomplish? Think of academics, behavior, books to read, etc… Measurable goals are important here (not ones you really can’t determine easily).
  • What are my goals as a mom and teacher? Are there any areas to focus on specifically? Patience (cough.cough)?

One of my biggest struggles in general as a mom and as my children’s teacher is patience (it is so easy to get frustrated with the endless repetitive questions and what feels like constant arguing between siblings). There are days that I just want to throw in the proverbial homeschool towel and call it done. Just keeping it honest.

And in today’s age of ‘we must be connected 24/7 to some sort of technical device’, it can be very hard to disconnect and remember to CONNECT in real life. Maybe I get busy taking pictures or get distracted with a phone call. My mom seems to call every single day at the same time – and she knows we are doing school. This year, my phone is going to have a ‘quiet time’ during our school hours. Apps that can be distracting – well, they will take a hiatus from my phone as well.

Another area that I really want to continue in this year are the paperwork and tea times with the girls (hot cocoa for the boys!). Those were such GREAT connection time with the kids last year, and they also allowed us to make sure we were on the same page with assignments. Truthfully, when we were consistent with them, our relationships were so much smoother and frustration levels were way down.

What areas do you struggle? Maybe you would like to be more accountable in: starting school by _____ time or finishing by ______ time. Create a list for yourself too and have a friend or your spouse hold you accountable in those areas.

Evaluate Your Goals and Plans Regularly.

Just remember, there are going to be things that will require tweaking during the year. A good rule of thumb is to sit down every 6 to 8 weeks and review your progress for the year and evaluate how you are doing. Are your kids reaching the goals you set? Are you following along with the goals you set for yourself? .

There will be tough days during your year (ask me how I know). While it may take some time and planning on the front end, having your goals and plans written down ahead of time will only help you and strengthen your resolve on those tough days. Homeschooling is an amazing blessing and responsibility – and you CAN do it! Take some time today to remind yourself why you first started – or why you want to begin!

Homeschool Goals and Purpose Printables

 

 

Before you go, I have a question for you!!

We all have different reasons for homeschooling our children, but what is goal that you want to set for yourself the rest of this school year? What one thing would you like to see your children accomplish? Leave a comment today and chime in {and then let’s encourage each other in those goals}!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Quick Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

There are so many times when we get ‘stuck’ in the ‘What are we going to use?’ rut for homeschool curriculum. Choices abound and can be overwhelming!

Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum



Next week I’ll be sharing what our family will be using for the 2014-2015 school year (you can see our choices from last year here), but here are five tips for helping you make homeschool curriculum choices (and they are things that I have to remember every year!).

1. Your homeschool doesn’t need to look like another family’s school.

Just because your best friend is using something and has her school time set up in a specific way doesn’t mean that yours needs to mirror everything just so. You and your family are unique! (And that is a good thing).

The opportunity to homeschool our kids is a blessing and it can be so tempting to try to be just like another family and put expectations on ourselves and our kids that really aren’t appropriate. Please remember that your family may have different priorities, you may be in a different season of life (young kids vs. older children), and you may be facing different parenting challenges.

Your quickest way to burnout and making some bad decisions is comparing yourself or your kids to others. Focus on what is important – your family and what is best for them! (Trust me on this!)

2. Consider what you as a parent need, just as much as you consider what you are getting for your children!

While it is important to consider your child’s learning style and your teaching style, sometimes you may be in a season of life where you need all the help you can get! Maybe that means looking at a curriculum that requires little planning on your part. It’s okay to consider something that will make life easier for you!! There have been times in our family life that life was crazy (lack of sleep, a move, etc…) – take it all into consideration before making your final choices!

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you buy!

Whether it be asking another homeschool mom, searching blog reviews, getting a hands-on look at what you are considering at a homeschool convention, or calling and talking to a company in person. Keep in mind that what works for one family may not work for yours, but you can do research before you make a commitment.

It’s also great to know the guarantee policy of a company as well. There are several companies (such as All About Learning Press) that offer a one year money back guarantee – that can be a great help when you are looking to buy!

4. Stick to your budget.

I know – not a fun word, but keep in mind that just because something is expensive, doesn’t mean that it’s the best (or only) thing that will work. You may be able to find the same curriculum used, borrow it from a friend or the library, or find an alternative to that piece you have your eye on.

It is SO easy to get carried away (trust me, I know). Put together a rough idea of what you need, set some $$ limits and see what you can do. If you have a limited budget, be sure to read How to Homeschool on a Limited Budget for some great tips!

5. Ask your kids what they would like. 

Maybe it’s just my kids, but they seem to have opinions on what they like and don’t like. Granted, they can’t do whatever they would like all the time, but some of our best times together have been focused on topics that were interesting to them.

With our oldest embarking on her high school journey, we sat down together and looked at programs that she would enjoy too. We talked about things that she wanted to be involved in, compared programs together, and looked at what has (and hasn’t) worked in years past. Sometimes we’ve been able to incorporate what they wanted into our plans, and other times we’ve had good discussions on how we can adapt something we’re using. Including older kids in the process is so important – especially as they become more independent in their learning.

 

Other Helps for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum

How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

How to Homeschool Children with Special Needs

When curriculum isn't working - www.homeschoolcreations.net

Looking for some additional helps in choosing homeschool curriculum? These posts may offer some additional tips for you:

What one tip would you offer other families when choosing curriculum pieces? Leave a comment below and chime in with your thoughts.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Plans for Summer Homeschooling

summer homeschooling



Summer school isn’t something that we typically go around advertising to the kids. Quite truthfully, it is fairly informal, low-key, and just enough to keep up with the basics so little brains don’t go wandering off and require a lot of reminders at the beginning of the next school year.

Our typical school year is a six weeks on and one week off rotation which does allow for a bigger block of vacation time in the summer and around holidays, but there are some benefits to continuing learning time during the hot, summer months. Yes, we do relax and enjoy the summer, but we also try to keep a bit of a routine going in our home too.

Subjects and Things We’ll Do

This summer we’ll be focusing on a few of the basics and then if some other fun interest-based learning (the beach will likely bring up some interesting critters to study).

  • Reading – a few of our kids could use continued reading practice, and we’ll also be finishing up some read-alouds together.
  • Math – aside from a lesson or two a week, we’re taking some time to review and work on math facts together via a few fun games and manipulatives.
  • Science – we’ll focus on all the fun learning that surrounds us.
  • Field trips
  • PE – there is going to be a LOT of swimming. Swim team starts up in just one short week and that involves a whole lot of practice, practice, practice! (wink)
  • Rest – it may seem that we’ll be busy, but we do fully intend to relax and have fun too.

When We’ll Work

Our afternoons tend to be the time we relax and enjoy the side of the pool, so our morning routine will remain similar to how it is currently set up – just a little more relaxed. Breakfast, chores, and then a bit of school – that will be the basic setup.

The idea is to keep it simple and fun. Front porch swings can be a great place to keep the learning going!

Advantages to Summer Homeschooling

Even if you only do one or two subjects over the summer months, there are a few advantages for your family:

  • Less review time when the official school year starts. You know those worksheets at the start of many books that just seem like repetition from the prior year? Yep – they are. Keeping the learning cycle going during the summer months can cut back on many of those ‘repeat’ lessons and let you get to the new concepts faster.
  • It’s easier to get back into the normal school routine and schedule. Just working on one or two things a day can keep the learning routine going in your mind and in your child’s, making it easier to ease back into the new school year routine.
  • There are TONS of great things to do in the summer. Ok, technically there are lots of great things to do all year round, but the summer time definitely offers a few things like summer reading programs, field trip options that may have been unavailable during the summer months, educational classes at a local children’s center or museum, etc. The opportunities for summer hikes and walks abound – really, so much to do!
  • It’s a great time to try out new programs without changing everything. Maybe you have a different approach you’d like to try for reading, but it didn’t mesh with what you’ve been doing during the school year. It’s a great time to try out some new things in an informal way.

Will you be schooling through the summer?

What does your family have planned?

Homeschool Socialization: Who is Unsocialized?

At some point during the homeschooling years, the question of socialization comes up. Maybe you’re out and about with the kids during school hours, and people realize that you homeschool. Maybe a well-meaning friend or relative pops the question.

“How do you plan to socialize your children?”

While I always try to politely answer the questions as they arise, there are times I honestly want to bang my head on the table because of the irony of the question. Our kids are almost so socialized, it’s ridiculous.

Let’s Review the Meaning of Socialization {shall we?}

so·cial·i·za·tion  [soh-shuh-luh-zey-shuhn]
noun
1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

{from dictionary.com}

Our children do not attend a typical school and spend the day with a classroom full of children their age, but they do spend time with other children {as well as adults} in plenty of other social situations and learn how to navigate being socially appropriate in ALL situations. They have and continue to make friends. And believe it or not, they have fun and do not feel that they are missing out on life {thank.you.very.much}.

This past week though, something happened that really made me sit back and ask the question…

Who is Really Unsocialized?

Homeschool Socialization

 

Our outreach director at church asked me to help out at a monthly soup kitchen, but it fell during a time that I would obviously have the kids. When I asked if it would be okay to bring the kids along to help, the answer was a resounding yes.

To be completely truthful, I was a little nervous, because let’s face it – you never know when kids are going to act up. But they were all so excited to go along and help, so we pulled everything together and headed out.

There were ten adults and our four kids. Do you know where most of the adults were the entire time? Standing in the doorway of the kitchen, chatting with each other, and looking out at those coming through the doors.

Do you know where the kids were almost the entire time? Setting up, serving those coming in, and INTERACTING with everyone. Playing and keeping a little one occupied so her mom could eat. Talking to adults and inviting them to church. They were the ones socializing with everyone.

While I stood in the doorway and held back from interacting.

Again – who is really unsocialized? {This is me waving my hand sheepishly.}

Fear can so often hold us back, and I’ll be the first to admit that venturing out in the unfamiliar is difficult for me. However, if sitting back watching from a doorway is what socialized adults end up doing, well – there are many lessons that I can learn from my homeschooled children on how to be TRULY socialized.

Do you have a socialization story to share with us today? Feel free to leave a comment sharing with everyone ~ we’d love to hear it!

For More Reading…

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in.

Here are a few additional links you may be interested in regarding the topic of homeschool socialization.

photo image purchased from fotolia.com