Thursday, March 29, 2012

Train up your child...

Homeschooling is about so much more than ABCs and 123s. Focusing on academics would be much easier...

image courtesy of bulldogza
But that isn't my calling, nor is it my heart's desire.

Of what use is a head full of knowledge if it hasn't been lovingly shaped into wisdom? What have we accomplished in our little homeschool if my children's hearts haven't been softened and shaped by the Holy Spirit?

Character training is so difficult. In fact, it is often the most demanding part of my "job" as a mom. But it is absolutely essential. In a world that tells us whatever feels good is right, it is my duty to teach my children a more excellent standard.

Sometimes, as I open God's word to train my children, I realize that I still need some work. *smile* But that is the beauty of training. I can speak truth to my own heart as I teach my little ones. I can apologize to my children when my actions weren't right, repent and go forward - hopefully in a better way.

In the midst of all the training, I feel exhausted. Working on first-time obedience with Little One is a full-time job in itself. Helping my older children learn diligence and perseverance in their school work requires my full attention...and I feel so inadequate for the enormity of my task.

image courtesy of dan
This is not a battle won by my human efforts. This is a battle won on my knees as I pray and intercede for my children. This is an ongoing work of God in my children's lives.

Just when I feel I am making no progress, God lovingly shows me the fruit of my labors. Little One didn't get what she wanted and joyfully exclaimed, "I didn't whine, Mommy!" Little Man labored over 100 multiplication facts with focus and smiled as I congratulated his efforts. Precious Girl folded some laundry as she read her Chemistry lesson, and I applauded her helpfulness.

As the Holy Spirit tends to my children's hearts (and mine too!) I know that all the love and attention poured into them now will bear fruit.

Some day, when I am on the other side of all this training, I will sit back and enjoy the beauty I see in my children.

It will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A bittersweet anniversary...

Today is a bittersweet day. Always I meet it with trepidation because I am not sure how my heart will react. I have healed, but I never forget...

This year, I awoke with a smile. It is a wistful smile, but a smile nonetheless.

She would have turned 4 today. 

But there will be no party, no balloons or presents...

And my heart wonders...

As I hear the laughter of my other children, I wonder how her laughter would have blended with theirs.... I wonder if she would have had my green eyes or her father's dark hair...I wonder how it would feel to hold her in my arms...

But it was not to be. 

Her life, although brief, changed mine forever.

Because of her, I know that God's grace is sufficient.

Because of her, I hold my other 3 blessings a little tighter.

Because of her, I know that my Abba Father loves me deeply - and that His love is all I need.

Because of her, I can say
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.
(Job 1:21 KJV)

Happy Birthday, sweet baby.

Linking Up:
Women Living Well
Deep Roots at Home
A Wise Woman Builds...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our book review policy...

image courtesy Phiseksit
We have a review policy in our house. That means, whenever the children want to read something that we haven't read, my husband or I must review the book in question first.

Sometimes a very cursory review is acceptable. When we're in the library, it often takes nothing more than reading the back of the book or scanning a few pages to make a decision. Other times, my children can say, "So and so read this book and said it was amazing/funny/interesting..." If I know the child who recommended the book (and what their parents allow), I can often give my permission without hesitation.

Sometimes, it's a bit more tricky than that.

Recently, Precious Girl mentioned that she wanted to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Despite all of the recent media hype, I had never heard of the book or the author. (No, I don't live under a rock. I just don't really watch TV that much...)

I did a quick search on our local library's website and found (to my disappointment) that there were over 100 holds on the book. At that rate, she would be able to read it sometime before she graduates...When I mentioned the book to my husband, he said that he'd heard it's being made into a movie and that it was very popular among the middle school crowd.

To make a long story short, we ordered the trilogy with the stipulation that I would read the books first according to our "review policy." I presumed I'd find little to stop Precious Girl from reading it. I had read a review on Focus on the Family (link here). They included some very compelling discussion questions at the end of the article and I felt prepared for what I'd find in the pages.

I was wrong.

I tried to read with the eyes of my little girl, and I was stunned and disturbed at what I read.

Many people I know and respect have read the book and enjoyed it -- but they are adults. As a book marketed and targeted to children, I knew it was not for my daughter's least not now.

You see, this post really isn't about the Hunger Games at all. Next week there will be another book hot off the presses that promises to be another bestseller. But that doesn't mean my children will read it. It also doesn't necessarily mean that they won't...

But their father and I will decide. Hopefully with both prayer and wisdom we will decide what books cross the threshold of our home.

For better or for worse we help our children choose what fills their tender minds and hearts. We try to guide them to make choices that will help them learn and grow. Sometimes, they will have to read about difficult topics - but not alone. We will be there to ask questions, to provide answers, to pray. The hope is, that we are raising children who will make good choices in what to read. Choices, not dependent on what is popular, but on what is right for them.

So, for now, our review policy stands. We will not allow the world's standards of acceptability to influence our choices for our children. We will make mistakes along the way, but we will learn and grow and continue to look for
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8 ESV

Linking Up:
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time Warp Wife
Workin' It Mondays

Monday, March 26, 2012

Holding my own torch...

Why am I doing this?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Usually, it is accompanied with lots of sighing and perhaps with hands raised in the air...

It's hard at the end of the year to see the finish line, but also know there are many days left to fill...Your energy (and perhaps your enthusiasm) is lagging, and you may wonder if you have the strength to go on...

The hardest part of a race is always that last little bit before the finish line. The part where you are certain that you cannot take another step forward, your strength is gone and you are

I've been feeling a bit burnt out lately. The cumulative effect of 160 completed days of school and the daily management of our household seems to have caught up with me.

Spending time in God's word has been a source of strength, but honestly, sometimes I still feel like I'm running on empty.

It doesn't help much that this is the busiest time of the year for our family. Precious Girl is taking extra dance classes to help her in upcoming competitions, Little Man (and his daddy) are in full baseball mode...There is only one evening a week that we have nothing on our schedule...

But the problem really isn't our schedule or the fact that I still have 20 school days to log.

I've taken my eyes off of the goal. Instead of seeing the finish line just ahead, and knowing I can make it; I've started to focus on the bumps in the road ahead. And boy, do those hills look big when I'm trying to run in my own strength...

The problem? I'm walking in the light of my own torch. Isaiah 50: 11 is a sobering reminder to all of us who are attempting to carry a torch to light our own paths.

image courtesy John Kasawa

Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire,
and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment.
                        Isaiah 50:11 ESV

The verse just prior to this one is a beautiful reminder of how we should walk with the Lord...

Who among you fears the Lord?
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
     Isaiah 50:10 ESV

The choice is simple. I can either choose to continue to walk in my own feeble understanding and live in torment or I can put my hand in the hand of the Lord and let him guide me with the light of his eternal perspective.

I don't know about you, but my arms are weary of holding my own torch. My own understanding is too limited. The light I cast is feeble and dim.

I want to be so close to my Savior that it is hard to tell where he stops and I begin. I want to walk in simple faith and trust and let him lead me to the finish line

no matter how far I have to go.

Linking Up:
These Five of Mine...
The Better Mom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Redefining a "date"...

Candlelight, fancy dinners, tables for two...
grocery shopping...
grocery shopping??

image courtesy of Ambro
 Grocery shopping has a new definition at our house. It is now a date for my husband and I. Is it romantic to stroll through the grocery aisles with the love of my life?
Not exactly.
But is it good for our marriage?
Yes it is!

Thirteen years ago, this would NOT have been my idea of a date.

But now, in this season of life, it seems just perfect for our family. It's just a little excursion, but my husband and I get to talk and laugh and discuss things without interruption.

The bonus? The grocery shopping gets done, and it's even become an enjoyable chore.

The lesson I've learned in our grocery store dates is, it's not the location, it's the company that is important. And while, on occasion, it is still nice to have candlelight and fancy dinners, these little grocery store dates are enough of a break from the daily routine to make them fun for both of us.

How do you carve out time with your spouse?


Linking up:
Women Living Well
Deep Roots at Home
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Finishing well...

Spring weather has come early to Central PA, and this unexpected warmth has been a huge blessing.

image courtesy Simon Howden
My magnolias are in full March?!

But this beautiful weather has also caused a huge problem in our little one feels like doing school anymore.

(Unfortunately, this malady struck the teacher as well.)

On Thursday, as I was diligently reading aloud to Little Man, I looked up to find his little chin resting on the window sill as he gazed longingly at the sunshine...

Later that same afternoon, Precious Girl declared that if she couldn't get outside sometime soon, she might just die...

Me, I was dreaming of hanging sheets and towels on the line for the first time this year...

In my Bible reading this weekend I came across the verse:
...and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us...
Hebrews 12:1 ESV

So as we all dream of Spring time and sunny days, the question becomes, how do we finish well?

How do I run with endurance until the end without having to duct tape my precious children to their desks? *wink*

1. Be flexible.
This is not easy for me as I can tend to be a bit rigid, but flexibility will keep everyone sane in these last few weeks of schooling. On a sunny afternoon, read your history lesson on the front porch. Your children can do their reading lessons outdoors. Spelling words can be written with chalk on the driveway...

The possiblities are endless and you will make memories as you accomplish your schooling. 
Everyone wins that way!

2. Be accountable.
In Pennsylvania, I am required by law to complete a certain number of days by a certain deadline. My first priority is always to meet the requirements so I can bring honor to God in my homeschool. However, no one ever said that all of those days have to be "classroom" days. Studying outdoors is just as valid as sitting at a desk. Also, this can be the perfect time of year to do a few field trips just to mix things up a bit.

3. Be joyful.
My attitude is contagious. If I'm dreaming of digging in my garden when I should be conducting lessons, my heart will be in the wrong place...As long as I keep my attitude cheerful while we do school everyone will work better.

Finally, if nothing is working, a "mental health day" may be in order. I'd much rather take some time off and get our hearts right and work on character issues than slog through a miserable day.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Living each day...

Did you ever have one of those days where you just wanted to turn back the clock? Maybe it was one of those awful days that you'd just rather erase from memory...

or, if you are lucky, it is one of those wonderful days you'd like to re-live over and over again...

But whatever the reason, we really can't get time back. As much as we'd like to either forget or re-live moments, it's just not possible.

We do have the opportunity, however, to live each day to the fullest.

To be fully present with our children.
To be fully engaged with our husbands.
To be fully obedient to our Heavenly Father.

I pray for days that fill us with wonder and excitement. For days we'd love to re-live... for days full of Jesus...for love...for laughter...for peace...

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Controlling technology so it doesn't control you...

I'm usually quite a low-tech person...

I mean, unless it's going to wash and fold laundry while I do school with the kids, I'm probably not interested. (If you have a gizmo like that, please send me a message...)

But a few weeks ago, my husband got us an ipad...
image courtesy Salvatore Vuono
...and I'm sort of in love...

It's a great little device, with hundreds (thousands?) of FREE apps that can do anything from help teach Little One her ABCs, to tell us what star we're looking at in the night sky. (The latter is our family favorite app!!)

In many ways, I think it is a wonderful tool IF we know how to keep control of that slick little device.

1. In "Settings" you can choose "Restrictions" for many different aspects of your ipad. For example, you can prevent the download of songs with explicit lyrics or control the ratings of movies and TV shows. You can also choose what your kids can access or prevent them from downloading apps all together.

2. Preview each and every app and game your children want to download to the device. 
My kids downloaded a seemingly benign drawing app. Little One was happily using it with her siblings when I heard a lot of giggling and a "Mom's not going to like this!" Being the astute mother that I am, I recognized signs of trouble. The drawing app contained a "sticker" of a pile of poop (I'm not kidding) complete with bathroom noises to illustrate its placement...It was summarily deleted. Lesson learned.

3. Set a password to access the device itself.
If you have tied your personal email and/or facebook accounts to the device, someone could have access to a whole lot of personal information if the ipad was ever lost or stolen. There is even a setting that will wipe the whole thing clean if the wrong password is entered 10 times...

4. The ipad is a tool, not a substitute for hard work.
Yes, you can download an app for Spanish vocabulary or Multiplication facts, but the ipad will not help mastery of these concepts if your student isn't willing to do some hard work on their own!

Remember, this cute little device should be firmly controlled so it doesn't end up controlling you!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A new reading plan...

A few years ago, I embarked on an ambitious mission - to read through the entire Bible in one year. It helped that there was a nicely laid out reading plan right in the back of my Bible. Each day as I read, I felt immense satisfaction as I checked off the day's reading. That time with God every morning became precious to me - something that I hungered for, and missed when I forgot my reading for the day.

image courtesy Arvind Balaraman

I learned so much that year, and if you haven't done that, I'd highly recommend it! There are some wonderful reading plans available online - and they are FREE (that is certainly important to this homeschooling momma, who tends to be a bit cheap frugal). Back to the Bible (link here) has several offerings on their website. My favorite one is the chronological study - through it, you read the Bible in order as events happened in time, not just Genesis through Revelation. My husband and I did that study many years ago and it was awe-inspiring to see how God laid out his story in the Bible.

Lately, however, I haven't felt called to read through God's whole book cover to cover. I've simply read what I feel my heart pulled to each morning. For me, an inveterate list-maker, it's refreshing to have no particular goal in mind but to read what God wants to teach me for the day. It should come as no surprise that the passages I read are always exactly what I've needed to hear from my Heavenly Father. Isn't God awesome?!

More and more, I find my attention drawn to the Book of Proverbs. The richness of what God has laid out for his children overwhelms me and it has cultivated a new love of the scriptures in my life! That book is truly an instruction manual for living God's way, and I find myself eagerly poring over what God has to say to me.

One day, as I was reading Proverbs chapter 31, it occurred to me that there are also 31 days in many months...and I smiled as I realized that God's instruction manual in the Proverbs could be read, one chapter a day each and every day of the month (sometimes you'll have to double up, but you see what I'm getting at). Each morning, with my cup of coffee (and often a Little One on my lap), I've read a chapter of Proverbs. It has been amazing! What is more, these beautiful verses are becoming familiar friends! Someday maybe I will even be able to memorize some of my favorites just by continuous re-reading...

As mothers, it's so easy to prioritize other things above reading the Bible (I do it too!). But we would be better wives and mothers if we'd take a few moments out of each day and read what God has to say to matter what reading plan we follow.

As we approach the beginning of a new month, I invite you to try it too! Or even better, just jump right in today and start reading in Chapter 13!

for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
Psalm 119: 47

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90: 14

Blessings on your quiet time with the Lord,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is your heart hidden?

Thank you to Kingdom Housewives for the image!

Yesterday, this popped up in my facebook news feed several times. At first, I ignored it. Sometimes the things people share are not for my eyes...But it kept drawing my attention...So I took a chance and clicked on it...

My eyes filled with tears as I realized the truth that this little image contained. As I heard my husband's laughter drift in on the breeze from our backyard baseball game with friends, I wondered, have I been living with my heart hidden in God?

Sadly, the answer for this weekend, is probably no. I've been living with my heart hidden in homeschool planning, recipe gathering, spring decorating and searching for local Irish Dance feisanna... I've been a bit distracted and (dare I admit it?) irritable grumpy.

Whenever the things of this world become my focus, I become self-absorbed and a bit less pleasant to live with. While the planning and recipe gathering etc. are all worthwhile pursuits, they should not have become my focus.

When my eyes and heart are firmly affixed on Jesus, I am better - a better wife, a better mom, a better friend...

I want my heart so hidden in Christ that my husband has to seek Him to find me!


Thursday, March 08, 2012

The comparison trap...

I've shared several days of homeschooling tips this week, but this last one is very close to my heart...

As a homeschooling mom, it is very easy to fall into the "comparison trap." After all, many of us (when we really admit it) have a bit of silent insecurity about the whole homeschooling thing - we're different, and many in society question our decision to teach at home. Sometimes at the end of a hard day, we may even wonder if we're capable of doing this...

This insecurity can rear its ugly head especially when we start to compare our children or our homeschooling with others.

All of Mrs. Smith's children read by the time they were 4 and are doing advanced algebra in 3rd grade. You may have a 2nd grader struggling with subtraction and a 5th grader who still struggles with reading. You may begin to wonder, is she more qualified to homeschool? What is her secret? Or more destructively, what am I doing wrong?

Mrs. Jones' children are all accomplished musicians and they have a family band. Your children can barely play Mary had a Little Lamb on the ipad app...are you a musical failure?...are your children destined for a life of musical ignorance??

How is her house always clean, and her laundry always done? She even bakes her own bread???!!!

The comparison trap is a slippery slope. It's so easy to begin that downward slide just by looking at someone else's accomplishments and seeing how you fall short. Comparing ourselves to others is quietly destructive because it's a trap that we set for ourselves.

Our skewed comparisons are not how our Heavenly Father sees us. I don't think God looks down at my humble little homeschool and says, "her bread never rises evenly, and are those shriveled peas on the kitchen floor?" He is infinitely loving and sees even our meager obedience as a sign of faith.

Whenever we start to compare ourselves with others, it is harmful. Why?

We can't look around us and still keep our eyes focused on God. 

He doesn't want his beloved homeschooling daughters to walk around this earth feeling inadequate for our calling just because someone else has different gifts.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139: 14 ESV

I've found that this verse is very comforting when I have to climb out of the pit of comparison. It's like a lifeline for me!
image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono

I am fearfully and wonderfully made and so are you. (Go ahead and say it out loud!) Our gifts may be vastly different, but we both cause our Father to rejoice with singing! 

The same God who made sunsets that leave us breathless with their beauty, made us. His work in fashioning us is no less wonderful. Your unique gifts are perfectly suited to raise and homeschool your children.

If you are struggling with comparisons that aren't beneficial, remember the last line of the verse, "my soul knows it very well." It's ok to know and recognize the wonderful gifts that God has poured into your life. Know them and use them to His glory and you'll avoid the comparison trap!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012 steps

I've talked a lot about planning lately...but once you have all those wonderful materials for next year, now what?

Since I use a wide range of materials, nothing is planned out for me. It's a lot of work over the summer, but when you are sitting on the patio enjoying the beautiful sunshine with some cold lemonade, it is actually quite enjoyable.

The first step, is page through all the materials and try to decide how to break up long chapters into manageable pieces, or decide how many days a week we will use the materials. Then I sit down with my planning grids and write away...I plan everything from quizzes to movies to extra books from the library...All of this up-front work saves a lot of time during the school year.

This grid is set up to plan any subject for up to 5 days a week. You are welcome to get a free copy of my planner at the following link: Blank Lesson Planner. (When you print it, be sure to change the orientation to landscape so it prints correctly.)

I fill one of these lesson planners out for each subject. Then as we go through our school year, I check off the boxes as the assignments are completed. I like the flexibility of this system - if Little Man wants to do an extra lesson of Math, I just check off an extra box and it hasn't ruined weeks of plans.

Then I take the lesson plans by subject and put them on individual assignment sheets for each of my kids. Yes, this is a bit labor intensive, but necessary in our house. The kids were confused looking over the grids to find their assignments and I got tired of having to write each assignment on the white board. I print out one week's worth of assignment sheets and put them in a 3 ring binder. The kids can look at their assignments even if I'm busy.

I only plan one week at a time. (And, coincidentally, I don't post on Fridays because I usually spend that afternoon after co-op planning for the following week.) If someone isn't able to complete everything on their assignment sheet, it just gets moved forward to the following week. If someone completes extra lessons, I record them and check them off on the planners - again, it doesn't mess up 2 weeks worth of carefully planned assignment sheets.

I've found this is a really useful assignment sheet, 1 page per day for upper grades (6th +). You are welcome to get a free copy at the following link: Assignment Sheet Upper Grades. When I use this for Precious Girl, I print it 2 sided so I don't waste paper.

Here is a link to the another week-at-a-time assignment sheet for those who like that system better: Assignment Sheet Weekly. (Be sure to change the orientation to landscape so it prints properly.)

I hope these resources were helpful to you!

Blessings as you plan,

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

When planning feels like bondage...

image courtesy of Michal Marcol
Sometimes there is a fine line between having a plan and becoming a slave to your plan...

This is an area that I have struggled with extensively over our years of homeschooling. When I first started homeschooling, I didn't realize how many rough edges I had - rough edges that would be lovingly sanded by my Heavenly Father through homeschooling. But could be another post all its own...

I'm a perfectionist at heart and the ugly truth of that was, if something was written in my plans and I didn't get to check it off - at the end of the day I felt like a failure...Or perhaps worse, I worried that I may have failed my children...

I would lie awake at night and worry that a workbook page remained blank...and what would the school district think of that??

Neurotic? Yes. True? Sadly, yes.

I was so focused on checking off those little boxes in that slick all-planned-out-for-me curriculum we purchased that I forgot why we were homeschooling in the first place...(you can read our homeschooling testimony here.) Sadly, Precious Girl who needed her mommy to help her heal, was sometimes forgotten in her mommy's quest for homeschooling perfection. 

Thankfully, God stepped in and showed me that homeschooling was not about the lesson plans, it was about my child (and ultimately about obedience to Him). He showed me what a mess I was making by trying to do school in my own strength.

God helped me to see that homeschooling is about bringing honor and glory to Him, not the curriculum company (or showing the school district that Precious Girl was better off at home thank you very much). He helped me to gain freedom from planning bondage when I put our homeschooling fully in His infinitely capable hands.

He gently taught me flexibility when there was too much to do...
He taught me the beauty of a mental health day when everything was going wrong...
He taught me that the only plans worth following were His.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

There are still days when I struggle with those things that are left undone, but I've learned that having a joyful journey with my children is much better than a bunch of neatly checked boxes.

Tomorrow I will share some more homeschool planning tips! I hope you'll join me.

Linking Up:
Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Time-Warp Wife
Deep Roots at Home

Monday, March 05, 2012

Homeschool Planning part 2...

Happy Monday!

On Thursday I started a series of homeschool planning tips. (If you missed it, you can read it HERE.) Today I'll share a few more tidbits that make planning for a new year stress-free and enjoyable.

1. Know your children.

Just because Easy Grammar worked for Little Man in 2nd grade, doesn't mean that it will work for Little One when she starts school. Each child is a perfectly unique gift from God. Know each child's strengths and weaknesses. Pray for wisdom in your teaching and decision making. Then make it your goal, as their mom and teacher, to play to their strengths while gently working on their weaknesses.

The ages and interests of your children play a huge role in homeschooling. I have a son who loves to do math problems but hates to write (*sigh*). My oldest daughter thinks that a day spent writing and reading is a day well-spent, and if she never had to do math again... well, you get the idea. I've had to do a lot of research and trial and error to find things that work for both of them (and the fact that my lovely neighbor is a math whiz helps a lot too!).

2. Know your limits.

I love teaching my children at home but that does NOT mean that I want teaching to take 8 hours a day. For me, a program that would take that much time would be stressful. A stressed-out momma is not an effective momma.

If you are a "plan as you go" kind of homeschooling momma, a highly scripted and structured curriculum may not be a good fit. However, if the thought of writing a year's worth of lesson plans make you want to scream, that same highly scripted set will work wonderfully for you.

3. Know your goals.

If you haven't yet, come up with a vision statement about your homeschool. It doesn't have to be flowery and grandiose - unless you want it to be! - just make sure it defines your family's goals for your children's education.

Having a stated goal will be very helpful on those trying days when you may ask "Why am I doing this again?"

Ours is simple. We want our children to develop a love of learning and to become wise adults who love God with all of their hearts. A natural outpouring of this goal is to ask ourselves:
1. How will this workbook, curriculum etc. help our children to cultivate a love of learning?
2. How does this (fill-in-the-blank) line up with what we believe?
3. How will this work for our children?

4. Budget your time.

Figure out how much of your time and attention each child needs. (Your kindergartner will need a lot of hands-on attention, but your middle schooler may need a lot of time for questions...)

Also keep in mind how much time and attention each child wants. (My Little Man wants me to sit with him as he does his work, while Precious Girl hates it when I "hover"...) Again, knowing your children makes you a more effective mom.

Having a game plan will keep everyone happy!

Tomorrow I will share some tips on keeping your plans from enslaving you...


Linked up with:
These Five Of Mine...
The Better Mom
Raising Arrows

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Homeschool Planning...part 1

It's that time of year again...

The homeschool materials catalogs will come to my mailbox in just a few short weeks, and I find that I am excited about planning for our next year.

But let's face it, those sleek new curriculum packages and words like "guaranteed" and "success" and "less work" sure do sound enticing...

It is tempting at times to scrap everything I've done so far and start over from scratch - relentlessly chasing after the next great curriculum. If I make changes, I want them to make our homeschool better - not just different!

Here are some guiding principles my husband and I use to plan our homeschooling materials purchases.

1. Assess your year.
image courtesy of Surachai
My 2 oldest children are given a "Pro & Con" sheet of paper. Their job is to honestly assess all of the books and materials we used and tell us what they liked about it, and what they didn't. Obviously, there are some cons listed that can be ignored ("I hate spelling") but sometimes the children have insight into what works for them. One time, Precious Girl commented that the pictures in a particular workbook were distracting when she tried to work. That was something I had never thought of. Upon further discussion, we decided a change should be made.

I also do my own Pro & Con list for our school year. I try to honestly assess how each subject worked (or didn't) and then also figure in ease of use, prep time, etc.
After all the votes are in, we can better see what is working well and what may not be. Sometimes the things that aren't working can be tweaked without switching (what if we only did 2 lessons a week instead of 3?). If you can't come up with a practical "fix," it may be time to switch what you are using.

2. Ask questions.
When we were having trouble with our history lessons last year, I asked a few friends who also used the same book how it was working for them. I tried some of their suggestions to make it better, but eventually found that we did need to change. Had I not asked questions, however, I may have hastily switched and wasted money on something I didn't need.
With lots of online forums available, chances are really good someone else is:
1. Using the same materials
2. Experiencing (or even better) has overcome the same problem
See if other homeschooling moms have a creative solution! You can always feel free to post questions here or on Homeschooling and Other Adventures on Facebook.

3. Buy used.
We are blessed to have a large number of homeschoolers in our area so there are several used curriculum sales that can really save a lot of $ $ for our family. Knowing what you need before these sales can save a lot of headaches and unnecessary purchases. I research by looking up the average cost of the materials online. That way I know whether I am getting a good deal at a used book sale or if I need to keep on looking. Knowing what materials you need will save you from impulse buys just because something seems inexpensive.

Join me on Monday as I share a few more Homeschool Planning Tips!

Blessings as you plan,

Linking Up:
Our Simple Country Life
Raising Mighty Arrows
Deep Roots at Home
Women Living Well