Our Homeschool Year in Review 2015 – 2016

2016 Review

 

The 2015-2016 school year has certainly been one of transitions and accomplishments from start to finish.  We have seen firsts and lasts.  We have cheered and cried.  And yes, we have learned some things along the way.

Our school year actually kicked off with moving Rucia into her new life at college.

Once we got Rucia all settled in, our school year got underway at home.  It soon became apparent that time management and doing what it took to adjust were going to be key elements to our new year.  I made the transition to being employed once again.  It was wonderful that my new job allowed me to work from home, but it did mean that I was not always accessible.  The boys especially felt this change as they learned to work more independently and to schedule their school day to some degree around my meeting schedule and work commitments.  Mom was not always available to do Math when they got around to it.  They learned some critical time management skills in planning their day just as I did in juggling home, work, and school.

During our studies, Josh and I traveled to ancient civilizations using great literary works as well as a combination of textbook and unit studies for history.  We also spent time getting acquainted with the principles and foundations in Chemistry and Physics.  Meanwhile, Zechariah and I walked step by step through the events leading up to and through World War II.  He too combined his literature studies with history to really get differing perspectives during this critical period in World History.  A highlight of our year was an opportunity to tour a U.S. Landing Ship that was docked for a short time in Cincinnati on the Ohio River.

Life on a LST

Michaela’s studies were focussed on finishing up some high school requirements as well as preparing her for what would come after high school.  She focussed on personal finance, which is an all too important subject to leave out before preparing for life on one’s own.  Anatomy and Physiology were also a heavy focus in preparing for her college studies in nursing.  Time management was a critical skill used time and time again during the year as Michaela found herself too juggling responsibilities in completing her studies, playing her final year of competitive volleyball, and working part-time at a local restaurant.

Outside the Classroom

Outside the classroom, we also some firsts and lasts.  The boys started shooting archery this year with our local homeschool group.  They are fortunate to be developing their skills while also competing in the National Archery in Schools Program.  They both enjoy it incredibly.  It has also shown us just how competitive they are, especially between one another.

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As the boys began their training in archery, Michaela was bringing to a close her 8 year journey in playing competitive volleyball.  She was team captain this year, which helped her to really develop some additional leadership skills.  With lots of hard work, discipline, and dedication, the BCA Lions found themselves moving up to the most competitive bracket in their league and earning a 4th place ranking in the entire state.  Definitely a wonderful way to end a high school career!

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The Culmination of Our Year

In some ways the time has sped by and in other ways it is hard to believe that it has only been a year.  Just last year at this time, we were in the midst of Rucia’s high school graduation and then adjusting to her living away from home while attending Northern Kentucky University.  We find ourselves with yet another wonderful graduation celebration and the upcoming transition of helping Michaela get settled into her new life as a college freshman.  I think I could truly have 15 children and never get used to this growing up and transitioning into adulthood.  I guess we all get growing pains of one sort or another.  We are incredibly proud of both of our girls, but also grateful to have our boys home for a bit longer.

Congratulations, Michaela, on a job well done!

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A Pivotal Moment in Our Homeschool Journey

There are certain moments in our lives that should really be pivotal.  High school graduation is one of those moments and I am happy to incorporate our most recent review of graduation supplies from HomeschoolDiploma.com.  Central to this will be our daughter’s diploma which was custom designed using the many options afforded when purchasing their Exclusive High School Diploma.

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High school graduation is one of those pivotal moments.  A time when we know it is hugely significant and shouldn’t just be simply another day in our child’s life without recognition. It is a time of providing a blessing of passage into the next phase of her life.  We will graduating our second child this year.  A common thread that I have seen so far is that no matter how well prepared our children are or how much confidence we have in them, these kids are scared.  They are scared of having to do life on their own.  They are scared about whether they are “enough” – smart enough to learn material in college, dedicated enough to accomplish their dreams, and well, just enough….  It is also a recognition for you, Mom and Dad, for the devotion of so much to bring your child to this point.

Every family will choice how to celebrate.  We are fortunate to be a part of a homeschool cooperative.  Although our daughter will be the only one to graduate this year, the entire group will gather with friends and family on a special evening culminating her journey to this point and praying over her as she heads out into her future.

As the director of our homeschool group, one of the first questions that I receive from parents new to homeschooling is, “But can I give my child a high school diploma?”.  The answer is yes to both of those questions that seem like one.  Yes, you are capable and have the right legally to provide your child with a legitimate high school diploma.  And yes, you can actually obtain a real high school diploma to her upon fulfillment of her high school requirements.

We have recently had the opportunity to review an assortment of products from HomeschoolDiploma.com that we will be using as part of our daughter’s high school graduation in just a few weeks.  Michaela will be wearing a full cap, gown, and tassel for her graduation.  These can all be purchased through the company with a choice of color and the year of graduation.  Other items available are announcements, thank you cards, class rings, and lots of other fun goodies to put a splash of flare and fun into the event.  Michaela is so appreciative of each person that will be attending her graduation that she specifically wanted to order Thank You cards to send to those that attend.  We were thrilled with the quality and she felt extra special when they came in with her name beautifully scrolled across the front.

 

Each of the things we ordered from HomeschoolDiploma.com were of high quality and professionally done.  However, by far, the most treasured is Michaela’s Diploma.  It honestly took us a bit longer to order it than I thought it would because there are so many different options that allow you to customize it.  You will enter the name of your homeschool, your child’s name, how you want your name and your spouses to appear on the signature lines and if you need one or two signature lines.  Some other things that we were given the opportunity to select were:

  • The emblem on the front of her diploma
  • The color of paper it was printed on
  • The wording of the inside text – loved that we could incorporate our Christian faith and the maturing of our daughter as a person and not just her academics
  • The honor seal on the diploma itself, and
  • The incorporation of Scripture

The diploma is in a padded cover like those that many high school graduates will receive from their public and private schools.  We love that we are able to personalize even high school graduation as the culmination of our homeschool journey, but our daughter is thrilled to get a “real” diploma like many of her peers that are not home educated.

Before I close, it is important to note that HomeschoolDiploma.com also has graduation supplies for your kindergarten and eighth grade graduate as well.

As always, I encourage you to check out the other reviews done by the other bloggers on the Review Crew who are also preparing for their children’s graduation using supplies and diplomas from HomeschoolDiploma.com.

 

Exclusive High School Diploma Review
 

Crew Disclaimer

Tips for Homeschool Parents – #1 Flexibility

As a member of the Review Crew from the Old Schoolhouse, I am participating this week in a series on 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents.  This first tip has been prompted by none other than life itself.

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Life has a way of throwing a curve into any well laid out plan.  And that is exactly what has happened this week.  After giving thought to the things I would love to provide some tips and tricks on as a homeschool mom for more than a decade now, life through us some curveballs and executing that plan has proven to be a bit of a challenge.  So Tip #1 has changed.  The first tip to surviving and thriving as a homeschool parent is flexibility.  This does not mean that you don’t plan.  But that you give yourself the grace and freedom to change course when needed.

There are those days that we have beautiful full days of school planned out and Dad happens to be at home rather than working.  We all love having Dad around, but it definitely has a way of changing our plans.  A day of Dad being on the farm all day combined with Spring like weather can certainly mean bagging the lesson plans and grabbing a hammer to help with fencing.

There are those years where the curriculum that we spent literally hours pouring over in trying to choose just the right thing does not seem as ideal when actually being used by our child.

Of course, there are the day to day interruptions of illnesses, unexpected appointments, days when we really need to focus on disciplining hearts rather than memorizing math facts, and the blessing of out of town guests.

Tip #1 is Flexibility

It is much too easy to get discouraged and defeated when the plan does not seem to work out.  We can get ourselves so stressed out that we are now behind schedule and put everyone under a lot of pressure to make up for that last hour or day.  That type of pressure usually only accomplishes one thing – stealing our joy!

God has ordained each of our days.  We must remember that the plan is not our God, but rather God is the orchestra conductor of our lives that lays out all of the harmonies and key changes to make our lives a living and wonderfully pleasant aroma to Him.  So the next time you feel derailed by life in accomplishing everything written in your lesson book, take a step back and remember that God’s plan will still be accomplished and we can trust Him as we take some unexpected turns.

This is a lesson that I seem to need to repeat many times over.  As a planner by nature, it is a challenge at times to really be flexible and trust God with the outcome.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s tip, which may come in just a few hours.  You see – life happened yesterday and then again today.  The need for flexibility became paramount and the timing and topic of this post is much different than what was planned.

What has not changed are the other great bloggers from the Review Crew that are participating in this week’s blog hop.  I encourage you to check out the great things they are sharing.  Here are just a sample of some of their blogs where they are also posting their tips and tricks for homeschool parents.

Annette @ A Net In Time
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Debbie @ Debbie’s Homeschool Corner
Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook
Diana @ Busy Homeschool Days
Diana @ Homeschool Review
Elyse @ Oiralinde: Eternal Song
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Jen @ Chestnut Grove Academy

Homeschooling High School with a Vocational Focus

When our family first began homeschooling, our thought was that each of our children would attend a four year college after their high school graduation to further their education. Struggles with some learning disabilities in one of our children brought us to further consider this initial assumption. The fundamental question is not what we want, but what God wants for each of our children. He promises us in His word that He has a plan and a future for each of us. As we watch our children grow and develop, their natural talents given to them by God begin to reveal themselves.  These can be real indicators of the direction that God wishes to take them vocationally.  So let me say it in case no one else has given you the permission to think it:

Not all career paths require a 4 year college degree

In addition to a college degree not being necessary for every profession, in many instances there is no economic advantage to pursuing that type of education.  Many professional trades have trade organizations that have their own requirements for training, apprenticeships, and qualification or exams.

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At least one of our children will pursue a professional trade.  Our primary focus is in determining what we need to do to prepare any of our children during their high school years for what comes next.  Here are some of the keys to what that looks like for our family:

  • Scholastic Achievement : Regardless of our children’s post high school plans, we expect them to perform to the best of their abilities during the high school years in their coursework.  This is important, because plans can change.  We do not want them to be less than prepared if their interests change and do make a decision in their senior year to pursue college admission.  
  • Electives as Career Exploration: In our state, a general high school diploma requires the student to have 7 elective credit hours.  There is complete flexibility in how to utilize these credits.  Our son is seriously considering entering a trade post high school, but is not certain which one.  We are seeking to fill his elective credits with courses in residential wiring, small engine repair, a fire safety course or first aid courses, drafting or architecture, carpentry, and agribusiness.  A resource for some of these curriculum based courses that we have found helpful is Christian Light Publications. 
  • Apprenticeships: Some students are doers and just need to get elbow deep in something to be able to determine if it is what they are searching for.  In this instance, seeking out apprenticeships in some areas of interest will not only provide hands on training, but also a role model if chosen well and possibly part-time employment after the initial period of apprenticing.
  • Dual Enrollment: Seeking some initial coursework in the trade through a local community college is also a great way to determine if additional training is desirable.  Our local community college is also a trade school.  They offer certificate programs in many trades such as welding, heating & cooling, medical assistants, drafting, and many more.  It is important to note that in seeking enrollment either as a dual enrollment student or post high school, your student will need to meet admission qualifications that may include ACT/SAT scores or the schools equivalent local testing.

Part of the joy of homeschooling is that our children do not have to fit in the cookie cutter of the public school system.  Coursework can be used to strengthen or explore areas of interest while continuing to develop core subject areas and life skills.  I encourage you to consider how God has naturally wired your child.  I bet you will find that the gifts and talents that He has provided him will mirror what God is calling him to after high school.

 

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and Your Homeschool

Like many other families, when we hear “Apologia Educational Ministries” our first thought goes to science.  However, over the years Apologia has really expanded out.  We were blessed to receive a review copy of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from them.  I call this a blessing as the one thing that really holds our school together is when Mom has a plan.  The last minute scrambling to pull things together really tips the tone of our day in a bad direction.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

After homeschooling for more than a decade, I am sad to admit that I have never purchased a planner.  I have done lots of planning and used different planning sheets that I either downloaded or created using Microsoft Excel, but I have never purchased a planner.  As I began reviewing and using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, the value of this type of tool not just for managing the day to day, but as an archive of our school year really hit.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner contains far more than just weekly sheets to record your child’s assignments on; although it certainly has these included.  When I initially flipped through from cover to cover, I found that it is really meant to follow you through your year.  The opening pages have full year calendars through 2023 and several goal setting pages.  These include both character and academic goals for each child, family priorities for the year, resource lists for curriculum ideas and outside resources to incorporate into your homeschool experience, as well as monthly calendars.  I do want to note that I loved that all of the monthly and weekly calendars are completely blank so this is a planner that really starts when you start using it.  It is not preprinted as an August through July calendar where you lose several months of value if you start using it in November.

Do you get intimidated by a bunch of blank sheets and worry that you might not be using them “right”?  Me, too!  I was thrilled to find that there were several pages in the very beginning that provided dialogue and examples of how others used the pages throughout the planner.  It showed examples of how to complete them and even different ways of really looking at your planning process.

The actual weekly planning section takes up the majority of the planner providing space for up to 48 weeks of planning.  This makes this ideal for both those families that use a traditional school calendar and those that school year round.  Each week is spread between 4 pages.  Yes, 4 pages!  I loved that the week begins with the celebration of the Lord’s Day.  This really puts forth the importance of including God into our plans as well as the study of His Word.  This first page has space to fill in your plan for Bible study for the week, a key verse that you wish to focus on or memorize as a family, specific prayer requessts, and also an area to challenge you to include hospitality and outreach into your calendar.  I love that this is included at the beginning of the week so that it can then intentionally be included as you build your weekly academic plan.

In conjunction with the Lord’s day page is the adjacent page that allows you to record achievements for the week.  How many times do we fail to focus on achievements, but always seem to remember our failures or shortcomings.  I felt challenged to really use this section and then verbalize it to my children in building them up rather than tearing them down.  Just below the achievements section is space for documenting Evidences of Grace.  This can be gestures of grace offered between family members or praises of where your family has seen God’s Grace and provision in your lives.

The final two page spread in the weekly planning section contains a grid of 6 columns by 6 rows.  As with the monthly pages, these pages are not filled in with column/row headings or even the days of the week so there is lots of room for flexibility.  In homeschooling an only child, you could put the days of the week as the column headings and your child’s subjects in the rows and really plan out daily work.  Our family like many others still have multiple children in our homeschool.  We placed our children’s names in the column headings and then the subjects in the rows.  In using the planner in this fashion, I entered in weekly summaries that we would then break up into daily assignments.  In the right sidebar of this two page spread, there is space for notes, supplies needed, and scheduled appointments to take into consideration.

The final section of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner has lots of other great resources for documenting your homeschool year.  There were pages to record grades by student and subject,  reading lists, field trips and outside activities, high school planning grids through graduation, and year end review sheets that can be used to journal about your year in review.  This final section also contained some articles by the author, Debra Bell, on raising an independent learner, motivating reluctant learners, and exploring the different learning styles of your children.

Some Physical Things to Note

As shown in the picture above, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is spiral bound which allows it to lay flat while writing in it.  The cover is a soft plastic with rounded edges and just feels nice.  It is also slightly larger than the printed pages inside, which really helps to protect the written pages from the weather and spills.  The inside of both the front and back covers also have a convenient pocket for placing schedules and flyers from outside events that need incorporating into your plans, receipts, or whatever else you really want to keep with your planner for easy reference.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner also comes in three different cover colors: yellow, orange, and blue.

In Closing

As I already shared, I love to plan, but have never really found a planner that did what I was looking for.  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner may just be the solution.  In being used to recording each child’s daily work, I have always maintained a separate binder for each child.  The idea of having weekly plans for everyone in one place is certainly appealing, especially when combining it with all of the other features that this specific planner has to offer. A big thank you to Apologia for expanding outside the world of Science in speaking to the other areas of the homeschool family’s life.

As always, I encourage you to read the other reviews that members of the Crew are doing after using the Ultimate Homeschool Planner in planning out for their unique family needs, educational style, and activities.  I am headed that way as I love to see everyone’s creativity in approaching different products, especially those with the flexibility I have seen in The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

 

Crew Disclaimer

Living History on the USS LST 325

The guys and I made a spontaneous trip into Cincinnati today after reading a news article about the USS LST 325 being docked for just a few days on the waterfront.  We are studying WWII history this year and there is nothing like being able to walk through history rather than just reading about it.

The Purple People Bridge connects Ohio and Kentucky. This bridge is limited to pedestrians and cyclists.
The Purple People Bridge connects Ohio and Kentucky. This bridge is limited to pedestrians and cyclists.

Our afternoon began by parking near the Newport Levee in Kentucky and walking across the Ohio River into Ohio on the Purple People Bridge.  This bridge was such a great way of connecting both sides of the waterfront in a family friendly way.

The USS LST 325

The USS LST 325 was the 325th Landing Ship, Tank built during and utilized during World War II.  It is recorded that there were only a little more than 1,000 of these vessels built for use during WWII.  More of this particular type of ship were made for use during the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts.  The USS LST 325 is regularly docked in Evansville, IN, and can be toured there when in port.

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The USS LST 325 is the last operational Landing Ship, Tank from World War II.  This actual ship was utilized on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  Being able to go aboard, talk with servicemen, and actually see the different areas of the ship were all incredible.  It was especially significant to meet this veteran who was on board today who were among our servicemen that fought in World War II.

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We entered the ship through the lower hull that would have been opened to allow the troops to storm the beach on that fateful day.  Immediately, we were hit with the difference in temperature and lack of ventilation in this area.  The space the quite large allowing the boys to imagine tanks and other larger pieces of equipment that would have been shipped in this area.  During our visit, this specific space had a variety of educational exhibits.  There were hatches open into side areas that contained storage of equipment, small artillery, and work areas as well as hatches in the floors to show the engine room.

The guys were able to see many functional areas of the ship to give them a glimpse into what life on this vessel would be like.

Life on a LST

I think they were all in agreement that the hardest part might have been exchanging their beds for a bunk as an enlisted soldier. The thought of trying to sleep in these small quarters with so many other men on a bunk that swayed with each tossing of the waves was almost too much to fathom.  Our thoughts had always been focused on the courage and strength soldiers exhibit on the battlefront.  However, there are many other areas that we gained new respect for these men that choose to serve our nation.

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As we went up on the top deck, it was amazing to see just how large a Landing Ship, Tank really is.  In looking at the jeeps and other equipment in respect to the total size of the ship allowed us to get a better feel for its overall size.  And to just think that this was considered to be a relatively small flat bottomed boat that was used only for small distances in order to maneuver up on to beaches.

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Being able to talk with one of the veterans who is hosting this tour, our sons were enthralled by the canons and shells that were shot from them.  This particular canon could shoot off 120 rounds per minute of the shells seen in this picture.  It would take four men to fully operate this piece of weaponry.

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We could not have a more wonderful day weather-wise to walk along the riverfront or visit this piece of American history. I am sure that our soldiers that were on that ship saw all kinds of weather, sickness, and experienced fears and loneliness that we did not experience today.  I find myself struggling with the reality of the ship that we walked upon being on the front lines of battle.  Sadly, it is just as hard for our boys to imagine life with America not at war.  They do not personally know the horrors or loss of war.  They do not understand how war has changed in so many ways since those days in the early 1940s. However, it is still saddens me that our young people are growing believing that war is the norm.

I am thankful for all our servicemen who have fought valiantly for the freedoms that we enjoy today.  My prayer is that as a nation we will turn back to the One True God so that we will once again become a nation at peace both in this world and also with God.

 

 

Homeschooling Where You are Planted

During the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, we have chatted about setting goals for your school year and also realizing that you just can’t fit it all in.  Today’s topic is about Homeschooling Where You are Planted.  Finding freedom in knowing that God has planted you and your family right where you are at this moment in time can be a wonderful realization.  It is actually the key to cutting out the roots of discontentment and doubts.

Where You Are Planted

When we began homeschooling a decade ago, our life was very different.  In our first year, our daughters were in the middle of their elementary school years, our son was a first grader with some learning struggles, and our baby was just that – a baby.  We had converted our dining room into a schoolroom and began our journey.  During those early days, we learned to do the subjects that required extra attention during the baby’s naptime and later when we placed him in the bathtub with finger paints to stay confined and entertained.  The girls were an ideal age to combine science and history into a shared learning time.  It was also a period of intense learning and growing in educating our son who struggled with learning issues.

Throughout our years educating our children at home, we have been a self-employed family whose sole income has been from our family run farm for most of these years.  Running a farm is a family business that requires all hands on deck.  There are days when there are emergencies with the animals, hay that needs to be hauled, or wood that needs to be chopped to heat our home.  FLEXIBILITY is the buzzword for success around our house.  Our children have learned that the needs of the farm must take priority as they provide for our very existence.  This is a valuable lesson, but a difficult one when they want to have a playdate with friends or when I would love to lavish them with violin or art lessons in town.

Even farmers can start to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  After all, our cows certainly think so…

Friends that have only one child and live in a subdivision seem to be able to enjoy an abundance of field trips and incorporate lots of extracurricular activities into the schedule.  Do you hear the envy setting in? The funny thing is that on occasion I can hear that mom talk of the struggles of not having those lively group discussions over a topic in history that families with multiple children have. The need to be intentional in teaching her child patience since there is no one to wait behind to get the help needed on a math lesson is another challenge in homeschooling an only child.

As our family begins our tenth year of homeschooling this year, life has taken us to a new place once again.  We are experiencing the true moving up of one of our students as our oldest leaves for college.  Our school year will be delayed in starting because we all feel like we need to make this transition and adjust to our new normal a bit more before diving into our studies.  We will also be busy as our second oldest begins her senior year and all that comes with that in preparing to graduate and take on what comes next.  Our boys are now in high school and middle school.  Their interests are becoming more defined and rather than dealing with learning issues and challenges of having a toddler underfoot, we are developing skills and character as they start seeing themselves as young men rather than the little boys of the family.

Changes are a part of life.  We all encounter different developmental stages with our children.  Our situations and challenges vary.  But don’t let the differences get you down or discouraged.  God has divinely appointed you to be where you are right now with all of the joys and struggles that this time and place may hold.  He is orchestrating a great story revealing Himself in you and your children that would not have quite the same ending if it were not weaved through the yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows specially designed for you.

Your experience will not be the same as the other families in your neighborhood, church, or homeschool group.  But take heart in knowing that God never lets you out of His hands.

Speaking of differences, I invite you to enjoy the banquet of different topics being shared through the other bloggers participating in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop.  Here a few more that you may want to check out:

Joanie @ Simple Living Mama
Aurie @ Our Good Life
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jenn @ Treasuring Life’s Blessings
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Wendy @ Life at Rossmont
Katie @ DailyLife
Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Melissa @ Mom’s Plans
Annette @ A Net In Time

The Myth of Fitting It All In

Several years ago, friends visited us while on furlough during missionary service in an area near Siberia in Russia.  Over dinner one night, we began asking them all kinds of questions about life in Russia and the greatest challenges they faced in coming back to the States on furlough.  I was surprised by their response.  Grocery Stores!

I was honestly taken aback.  What could possibly be wrong with grocery stores?  From everything I heard so far, it sounded like obtaining food was a much bigger challenge in Russia than it was stateside.  And that was just the issue.  Frank went on to share that there are so many choices in the grocery stores in the America that is completely overwhelming to even enter them.  It is sensory overload at its best.  He felt that it definitely made it more challenging in making choices for what his family would eat.  There were more choices in salad dressing in a typical supermarket than in total food items in a Russian market.

Blog Hop Doing It All

With the growth in the number of families homeschooling, there has been an incredible surge in the number of subject areas and choices for curriculum and supplemental resources. It is wonderful to have so many choices, but honestly it can make it more difficult.  This takes us back to our post from yesterday about goal setting as our starting point.

One of the greatest mistakes we make as homeschool moms is to try to pack too much in.  This can be for a variety of reasons.  Just because something is available does not mean that we have to use it. Just because our neighbor is doing a foreign language curriculum with their 4 year old does not make us a lessor of a parent for not.  Just because we want the best for our children does not mean that we have to pile on the subjects.

It is important to go back to the goals for each child, look at our family situation, what God has provided for homeschool resources, and then to start determining our path for our upcoming year.  There is an old saying that goes

A Jack of all Trades and A Master of None

It is in keeping our focus on the important things and minimizing too many options that we achieve several important things in our home educating of our children:

  • Just as our friend from Russia shared, we can prevent our kids from actually getting overwhelmed and overstimulated.
  • We will have more time to delve deeper and accomplish some real achievements in the areas that we are focussing on.
  • We can prevent Satan from getting a foot hold in producing false guilt over not adding yet more things into our day when we are truly focused on the important things.
  • We can help maintain our stress levels at a more reasonable place which helps to keep emotions in check and respect for one another higher.
  • We will be able to truly take the time to help our children master the important things that they may be struggling with rather than feeling rushed to keep moving on.

In keeping our eyes and schedule on the important things, we also make ourselves more available to times when God directs our path to reach out to others or take a day to really invest in our family in other ways beyond the schoolroom.

There is great pressure to produce great scholars.  But at the end of the day, it is important to remember that we as parents are only one tool that God uses in shaping our children.  His plan for them will prevail with us and even at times inspite of us.  I leave you with the thought that this momma is so happy that there is One greater than myself that has my children in His hands.  For we must not let the educating of our children become our god, but train them to use their education for His glory.

We are glad to be a part of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop that is being co-sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew and the Homeschool Blogging Connection. Each blogger that is part of the blog hop is writing on different topics.  Here is a sample of some of the other bloggers you might want to check out.

Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
DaLynn @ For the Display of His Splendor
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Steph @ Indy Homeschool
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Tawnee @ Adventures in homeschooling
Lisa @ Tales of a Homeschool Family
Jennifer @ Organized Home Organized School

Keeping Your Eyes on the Big Picture

Our topic for this first day of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop is Keeping Your Eyes on the Big Picture.  Many times, this is much easier said than done.

Goals in Planning

I remember as a small child being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up.  It is funny to go back and reflect on my desire to be both a mommy and teacher.  And here I sit – a mommy that is home educating her children.  But life did not propel me to this place on the back of an arrow flying a straight course.  I am not sure that I know a person that has had a straight path like that.  It takes life’s detours that build our character and skills in preparing us for today and the tomorrows yet to come.

It is in accepting this reality that allows us and beckons us to take a step back in our homeschooling planning for the new year before us.

What are my goals for our new year?

The answer to that question is not about the right history or math curriculum?  Is not about using online coursework, traditional textbooks, or unschooling.  The answer is in really praying and considering the changes and growth you would like to see in your children in the coming year, your relationship with them, and development toward their goals of what life may look like after high school.

As I consider this question for our homeschool, the first big goal we will be facing is adjusting to having only 3 students and 5 members of our family at home.  Our oldest will be leaving later this week to go away to college.  This is a very real change and needs to be recognized as we adjust to our new normal.

In taking each of our children that are still at home individually, my husband and I will consider where we think God is taking them, where they are at now, and how to connect the dots.

Here are some examples of some of our goals for this year:

  • Our High School Senior. She is one of the most grounded, responsible, and hardworking young ladies that I know.  Her goals at this time are to pursue further education after high school.  To be really successful in a college environment, we realize that she will need to be able to prioritize activities and assignments, practice good time management skills, and develop strong study habits.  This is the goal we are addressing this year in helping her make this transition.  Yes, there are course buckets to still complete for her high school requirements, but a common thread will be in building her organizational skills.What will that look like? She has requested a course syllabus at the beginning of the year for each of her subjects outlining important assignment and test dates just as she will receive in college.  We will be using the Victus Study Skills System to help firm up some good time management and study habits.  To learn more about this tool, check out our review.  Another big step will be in allowing her to determine what commitments she can make to sports and her job while maintaining her academic goals.
  • Our High School Sophomore. Our sophomore is definitely on the path in growing into manhood.  As a young man, our desire is that he possess a self-confidence that will carry him through the hurdles in life that he will face and also conduct himself with integrity.  We will continue to teach him about being a man of character through daily discipleship as well as some reading on growing to be a man in God’s image.  To assist with building his self-confidence, we are incorporating electives that are life skill based into his school year as well as provide him with additional responsibilities around the farm.  Our words as parents are hollow in praising our children if that praise is not grounded on true achievements.  True achievements come from doing and accomplishing what we didn’t know we could really do.  We will be using some courses in this area of life skill development from Christian Light Publications.  Stay tuned for more information on their company and curriculum in a review coming soon!
  • Our Budding Middle Schooler. Honestly, this is the toughest one.  In sending our oldest off to college, I just want my baby to stay my baby. I don’t want him to have goals and to be growing into manhood.  I want him to stay little.  But that is not the way it works.  I think he is feeling all of the same emotions as we see those rollercoaster of feelings that are so common to 11 year olds.  Our goal for the coming year is to provide the support he needs to handle challenges, disappointments, and the cascades of hormones that are starting to hit in as positive of a way as possible.  This young man has wonderful athletic abilities and loves being around other kids.  It is what fuels his tank.  In being aware of this, his plan for the new year will be using athletics as an outlet to channel both physical and emotional energy and challenge him in areas of sportsmanship that help to develop character.  His academic work is not negotiable so we will work through to a greater degree the reality of doing what we might not always want to do in order to have the time to do what we do want to do.  Developing healthy relationships with peers and fostering some leadership skills are also goals for the coming year as he begins to move into manhood as well.  

Yes, we do need to identify curriculum and map out our academic year.  However, one of the greatest benefits in homeschooling our children is to be able to truly disciple their hearts throughout our days together.  When we lose sight of this, we have failed at our endeavors regardless of what that ACT score may say.

There are many other fabulous bloggers joining in on the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop co-sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew and the Homeschool Blogging Connection.  Here are just a few that you might want to check out today.

Callie @ Mama’s Coffee Shop
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Margaret @ Creative Madness Mama
Nicole @ Some Call It Natural
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
Bonnie @ Write Bonnie Rose
Shawna @ Tenacity Divine
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Kelli @ Adventure Homeschool
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road

Just What Do You Do with Elective Requirements?

Homeschooling High School 3

I love to have a map and to know exactly what is expected.  When we began our journey homeschooling the high school years, elective credits were both exciting and a little bit overwhelming.  What should go in this box?  Are there right and wrong ways to use elective credits?  What if I lead my child down the wrong path?  Many of the same questions that have been asked about other areas of our homeschool journey and even parenting in general.

Relax. There is really no wrong way to complete elective credits!!!

Here are some suggestions of how to start looking at elective credits based on our experiences thus far.

  • Develop Passions for Further Study – Our oldest, who is about to embark on her college career in English Literature, utilized some of her elective credits to take additional classes in line with her anticipated major.  This has helped her to test out if she still loved it after extra study in the area. It also helped to present her as serious about her passion in letting her transcripts exhibit how she decided to spend her time during her high school years.
  • Life Skill Development – Homeschooling through the high school years is just one element of our parenting in general.  My husband and I discussed different life skills we wished for our children to have before going to college or entering the work force after high school graduation.  Some topics that evolved into elective courses were basic computer skills and use of Microsoft Office, Personal Finance, Apologetics, and Critical Thinking.  For some of these courses we did use formal curriculum.  Others we used real life to build these skills to a proficient level.  For example, our local library offers free computer classes.  These classes offer a starting point, but definitely are not enough hours in length to develop proficiency or meet the hour requirements for electives.  So we began incorporating projects in their other classes that required them to develop and exhibit skill in using these tools.  Similarly, we used a formal curriculum for personal finance, but then supplemented this with opening up a checking account in the child’s name.  They were then taught to balance their checkbook, keep a clear ledger, and account for their finances as they earned money from employment during high school.
  • Career Exploration – What better way to know that you enjoy something than to try it?  This is true of ice cream flavors, hobbies, dinner menus, and yes, career paths.  We encourage our children to seek mentoring roles, internships, and part-time employment opportunities in different areas that they may be considering as career options.  They are also encouraged to give serious consideration to career suggestions that they hear repeatedly from others that comment on their skills and talents.  A typical credit in high school is equivalent to 170-180 hours of instructional time in most states.  A student can fulfill these hours by working 20 hours per week during the summer months in an area that they wish to explore.  This can be done in a paid or volunteer role as long as there are skills being developed and knowledge being learned.
  • Grace for Changing Paths – One of our children began her high school years feeling led to pursue further education and a career path in agriculture.  Her first two years of high school were used to complete coursework in Agriscience and Horticulture.  During the summer between her sophomore and junior years in high school, she felt her interests changing in wanting to work more in a health profession with people.  In shifting gears, she now felt “behind” in her science studies.  We chose to shift the courses in Agriscience and Horticulture to elective credits.  This allowed us to fulfill some of those credits allowing her to spend additional time on the other more traditional science courses.  If we had left those credits in the Science area of her transcript, she could have felt burdened to fulfill not only the additional traditional science coursework, but also shoulder additional hours for Elective credits in other areas.  For this reason, please remember that your child’s high school transcript is a fluid document until you begin wrapping things up at the end of the junior year and into the senior year.

There are countless ways to utilize elective credits to build skill, expand knowledge, and broaden horizons.  The most important element is taking advantage of these credits to tailor your child’s education to who they are and where God might be taking them next.  And by all means, don’t forget to have some fun with them along the way!

I encourage you to explore some of the other posts from our fellow Crew Members on their thoughts about electives in the High School Years by following the links below.