5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Homeschooling

We all decide to homeschool for a reason. Maybe that reason has to do with health issues or scheduling. It might be because of bullying or poor school choices in your area. And it could be a decision that you made long before your child was ready to start school. Whatever your reason, you have decided to take this unconventional path. There will be good days and bad, and some days you might question your decision.

When you start on your homeschooling journey it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many different options, just picking curriculum can be daunting. I know when I was first looking into homeschooling I felt stressed. I wanted to make the “right” choices and do the best for AJ. If I could go back, the first thing I would do would be to relax. We are now in our sixth year of homeschooling and I have learned quite a bit along the way.

With the knowledge I have now, here are five things I would tell myself six years ago at the beginning of our homeschooling journey.

5 Tips For those who are starting to homeschool

1. You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Some homeschoolers are able to teach all of the core subjects along with art, logic, Latin, Spanish, and do huge hands on projects. That is great for them, but it isn’t for everyone. When you are starting out, focus on what you have to teach according to your state laws. Then if you have the time and desire add in an additional subject or two. If your third grader isn’t learning Latin, it isn’t the end of the world. Focus on your child and what is best for them. Give them a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math, and the rest will follow.

2. Ask Your Child for Input.

Giving your child options about their learning can change their entire attitude. If your child is not enjoying their current history study then give them a few options for what historical period they want to study next. I don’t give AJ final say, but I will ask her what topics she wants to study. In the beginning I made all of the decisions. Now I have a list of things I want her to study and give her the choice of what to learn about next.

3. Sometimes it is Worth the Money to Buy a Good Curriculum.

Writing has been a difficult subject since she was in public school. I tried a few free and cheep options to help her improve. We tried daily journal writing, but nothing seemed to help. She hated writing and it was a subject that brought constant tears. We were finally blessed to review IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) and it has changed the way she views writing. I wish I had spent a little bit more money in the beginning. I can’t imagine how much better her writing would be by now if she would have been using it from the start.

4. Start Independent Work Early.

This was one of my biggest mistakes! Independent work is important. The child needs to be able to practice what they have learned on their own. Since it was just the two of us, I usually was close by to help AJ when she needed it. That made her very dependent on me. It got to the point where she wouldn’t do any work unless I was sitting right with her. I am glad we have moved passed that point, but if I could go back I would make her do at least two subjects by herself daily. They wouldn’t have to be major subjects. It could be writing spelling words or working on math problems. Copywork is another subject that can be easily done independently. Find something your child can practice on their own. It will help to build their confidence and improve their work ethic.

5. It is Okay to Make Mistakes.

Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Let kids know that they don’t have to be perfect, that they need to work hard and do their best. Sometimes failing a math lesson or a spelling test is a good thing. It lets them know they need to work harder. It may mean they need to approach a task from a different perspective and try new methods. This goes for parents too. You might make the wrong choice on curriculum or feel like you are not getting through to your child. It will be okay. Try something new the next day and learn together.

Homeschooling is a journey. You will have hard times, but there will be so many great times. You will get to see your child grow and learn. You will see them preserver through subjects that are difficult. The best part is you get to be with them as they discover the world and how it works.

What is something you would go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your homeschooling journey?

10 Unit Study Ideas for Fall

Whether you celebrate Halloween, despise the holiday, or fall somewhere in the middle, the fact is that decorations and costumes are in almost every store. Is there a way to use some of these seasonal items to liven up your child’s learning during the months of October and November? There sure is! Here are 10 different topics you can easily study and have fun with this fall.

Fall Unit Study Ideas

1. Bones.

Grab a plain skeleton and do a unit study on the human body. Depending on the age of your child, they can learn a few bones, or learn all of the bones in the human body. It is also a great time to talk about healthy eating and keeping our bones strong.

2. Spiders.

With a pack of spider rings and a package of spider webs, you can do so many things. Make a sensory bin with the spiderweb and fall items, use the spiders as counters for math, sort the spiders by color. Use the spiders to practice position words like: over, under, in, etc. For older students, you can find the mean, median, range, and mode of the spider colors, and even do graphing activities. This site has numerous spider activities to do with your little one. Round out your study by reading a fun book like Charlotte’s Web.

3. The Moon.

Autumn is a wonderful time to study the moon, and there are so many different activities. You can chart the phases of the moon each night, calculate your weight on the moon (you can use this website), make moon pies, and so much more. Here is what we did when we studied the moon.

4. Mummies.

You can learn all about Ancient Egypt and the science behind mummification. You can even mummify an apple. Find the directions here. Another fun activity is to take a roll of toilet paper and mummify yourself. There is so much to learn about Ancient Egypt, you can stop at just mummies, or take it further into a full on history study.

5. Frankenstein.

Not a good choice for the younger crowd, but if you have an older student it can be a fun study. There are numerous study guides available, and after you read the book, you can compare it to one of the films by the same name. (Use caution with picking the film.)

6. Owls.

They are often portrayed as spooky and scary, but owls can be a very fun subject to study. Add a hands-on element to your owl study and dissect an owl pellet. Students learn so much by hands on learning, and dissecting an owl pellet will be an unforgettable experience. We did it this year, see how it went .

7. Cats.

Another animal that is often made out to be scary or spooky is the cat (especially the black cat). Learn all about cats with a free lapbook from Homeschool Share.

8. Harvest.

You can learn about farming and harvesting. A great read aloud for a harvest study is Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It appeals to both boys and girls and gives a great look at how harvesting and farming were in the olden days.

9. Pumpkins.

Study the life cycle of the pumpkin from seed to plant, decorate pumpkins, make exploding pumpkins, even make homemade pumpkin pie. Here are 40 fun filled activities involving pumpkins.

10. Candy.

You can take a candy study in many different directions! Learn about it from a nutritional point of view, learn how candy is made, make your own candy, and so much more. No candy study would be complete though without reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or at least watching the movie.

There are many other topics to study during the fall, no matter what you decide to learn about, have fun!

Planning Your Homeschool Year

Post Contains Affiliate LinksThere isn’t a right or wrong way to make a plan for your homeschool. Everyone is different and as long as you follow any laws your state requires, there are quite a few ways to make your homeschool schedule. Every year I look at our schedule and tweak it based on how our life is and how AJ is doing with the topics she is working on. This year we are  trying a more structured schedule, but we have had several different types of plans in the past.

How to plan your homeschool year

Planning Your Homeschool Year

The first step you need to take when planning your homeschool year is to decide what you want or need to cover. Depending on your state laws you may need to cover certain subjects. If your state laws are lenient then you have a few more options. To figure out what to study you can use books like What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know as a guide. You can also look up standards for students in public school to use as a guideline. If you are using a set curriculum then you should have a good idea of what your child will be learning.

A lot of times you can simply move on to the next concept once your child master’s their current one. After your child masters multiplication the next logical step would be to start division. Once your child can write a paragraph then you can work on writing a story with more than one paragraph. Those type of skills are harder to schedule, because you don’t know when your child will be ready to move to the next concept. For subjects like Math and English I like to have a list of goals and make plans up a month or week at a time based on my child’s progress.

Homeschool Planning- Goals

Once you have a basic idea about what your child will be learning it is time to plan your year. Some people like to schedule out the entire year. Others make a list of goals and once their child has mastered a goal they move to the next item on the list. One thing that I liked to do when AJ was younger was to roughly plan out what we would be learning each month and then each month make more detailed schedules.

Here is an example of how I planned out our year of Earth Science.

  • August – Basics of Earth Science
  • September – Earth Structure, Age of Earth, Fossils
  • October –  Rocks, Gems
  • November – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Mountains
  • December – Water Cycle, Fresh Water
  • January – Oceans
  • February – Earth’s Atmosphere
  • March – Weather
  • April –  Astronomy

Then each month I would make a more detailed list for the topics we would learn about the following month. Here is an example for what we would learn about in November.

  • Week 1 – Plate Tectonics & Continental Drift, Mountains
  • Week 2 – Earthquakes – locations, causes, earthquake preparedness
  • Week 3 – Volcanoes – Ring of Fire, Hawaii
  • Week 4 – Volcanoes – Destruction, lava, Model of Volcano

Then for each week I would find resources I wanted to use. I pulled together lessons form online, books, and activity kits.

Even if you aren’t detailed I feel it is best to have a set of goals for the year so you can stay on track.

A Month at a Time

Another thing we have tried over the years is having a monthly schedule. At the beginning of each month I would look at what we had left to cover for the year and I would make a list of lessons that AJ would need to do. Then we would go down the line and when she was done with the work for that month I would make a new list.

The only real difference between scheduling out the year more at the beginning of the year or throughout the year was time. I spent more time when I made a rough scheduled of my year at the beginning of the year, but I had less to do each month. The downside was that sometimes we would stay longer on a topic than I originally scheduled so then I would need to take time and rework the schedule.

Daily Schedules

We have had a few different daily schedules as well. We have tried block scheduling, a list schedule, and a normal schedule where she completes subject daily.

Block Scheduling

This is our favorite method. We complete a large amount of work in one or two subjects a day. This is how we catch up if we get behind, and how we work if we need to finish the school week quickly. It has some downsides because your child isn’t studying the topic as often. It doesn’t always work well with subjects like reading and math. But we have seen a lot of positive things from block scheduling. It lets is dive deep into learning and lets AJ spend a long time in one subject without worrying about the other subjects that she needs to get finished.

Here is a sample of what block scheduling looked like for us.

  • Monday- 5 Math lessons, spelling grammar
  • Tuesday – 3 Literature lessons, spelling
  • Wednesday – 5 History lessons, spelling, writing
  • Thursday – 5 Science lessons, spelling, writing (This was always her favorite day)
  • Friday – 2 Literature lesson, Art, grammar

Math has always been an easy subject for her, so doing 5 lessons in one day wasn’t hard for her. We did have to split up spelling, grammar, and writing because it was too much for her to do at one time. I think block scheduling can be very beneficial.

List Schedule

We have done a list schedule quite a few times. It is simple for me. I just write a list of all the work she needs to complete during the week and she completes the work in any order. Scheduling with a list helps her to learn time management. It also lets her feel like she has a say in her school day. We did have a few weeks where she did the “fun” subjects first and left the harder subjects for the last day. It was a learning experience and now when she has a list to work with she usually makes smart decisions.

We have also used a list when we have been very busy. At times we have had to do a little bit of school 7 days a week because of doctor appointments or other family situations. When that happens we just work on the list of assignments until all of her work is done then we go to the next week. It may take a little longer, but all of her work gets done.

Regular Schedule

Now that AJ is in middle school block schedules are not as easy. Now I schedule out 1 math, 1 literature, 5 history, 5 science, 5 Spanish, 3 grammar, 3 writing, and 3 Bible and 5 spelling lessons throughout the week. She doesn’t always finish her work on the correct day, but it is a work in progress.

There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Find a schedule that works for your family and have fun learning together. This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop. Check out what other members of the Review Crew have to say about planning!

5 Days of Homeschool 101


Picking Homeschool Curriculum

There are so many different curriculum options available that it can easily become overwhelming. Picking curriculum is one of the most important parts of homeschooling, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming! It is easy to feel like you need to use the most expensive or the most popular product, but you don’t need to. Finding the curriculum that works the best for your family will make your days a lot smoother.

How to Pick Homeschool Curriculum

Most people will tell you to first look at your child’s learning style when you are picking curriculum. I completely disagree with that. Yes, your child’s learning style is important, but your teaching style is more important.

Find Your Teaching Style

The first thing you need to decide is what you want your school day to look like.

Do you see yourself reading lots of books and keeping worksheets and tests to a minimum? Do you picture a lot of workbooks and writing? How much technology do you want to include? Would an online program work for your family? Do you picture weekly or monthly themes where all of your child’s subjects will relate to one  topic? Are you comfortable with teaching all of the subjects that need to be covered? Does the thought of teaching of 7th grade math make you sweat? Are you religious, and if so, do you want curriculum based upon your beliefs, or would you prefer a secular curriculum? Are you crafty? Do you want to do time consuming projects like; building salt dough maps, making castles out of sugar cubes, or building a wigwam? Maybe you want to mix a variety of  different options.

You don’t need to know all of the answers right away, because most curriculum can be tweaked to fit your preferences. But you should be honest with yourself.  If you hate messes and don’t like projects sitting all over your house, then picking a history program with a lot of projects isn’t going to be a good fit for you.

If you are unsure about what you like, take this quiz and see which type of homeschooler you are most like.

Decide on a Budget

You can easily spend over $1000 per child on curriculum. Or you can use the library and internet and school for almost nothing. Either way will work, but most people fall somewhere in the middle. We have a tight budget so I can’t spend very much.  The most I have spent is about $175 and the least was under $50 for one child. When piking curriculum set a budget and stick to it. Drooling over an expensive program that you can’t afford is  just wasting your time.

When you are deciding on your budget there are a few things to think about.

  • Will it be better to buy materials or get them from the library? Think about possible late fees and the possibility that you might not get the books when you need them if someone else has checked them out.
  • Are e-books a better value? They may be, but think about the cost of ink and paper, and the time that you will need to spend printing things off.
  • Is there a subject that you don’t want to or can’t teach? It may be worth spending a larger amount on a good writing, math or science program if your child needs it. It might be worth it to spend a large portion of your budget on one subject and then find free or low cost items for others.
  • Don’t forget to include funds for things other than curriculum. You may want to join a co-op or have your child take a class some where. You should also think about field trips, extra curricular activities, and any online subscriptions. (Like Always Ice Cream, HelpTeaching.comSchoolhouseteachers.com,  SuperTeacherWorksheets.com, IXL.com or record keeping programs.)
  • How much free time will you have? There are thousands of free worksheets, unit studies, and curriculum ideas, videos, and lessons available online. It can take s a lot of time to find what you need.  Is your time and effort worth the savings?

These answers may change, but it is good to keep them in mind while picking curriculum.

Figure Out Your Child’s Learning Style

The next step in picking curriculum is to figure out your child’s learning style. Are they a visual learner who needs to see things? Do they learn best when they hear things? If so they are an auditory learner. Maybe they are a kinesthetic learner who learns by doing things. You can take a quiz to see which style fits your kids the best.

Check Your State Laws

Now that you have figured out your teaching style, set a budget, and learned your child’s learning style it is time to see what you need to teach. Each state is different. Some make you get curriculum approved or require you to teach specific subjects. You may need to teach a certain number of days or hours. Once you know what is required it is time to start looking at curriculum.

Pick an Area of Study

Now you need to decide if you want to go with an all inclusive curriculum, or if you will piece together the topics your child will study. If you decide to go with a program like Heart of Dakota or a program that is leveled by grade, then you simply  pick the level that matches your child’s age and ability level. If not, then you should pick a time period in history and a discipline of science that you want to teach.

Read Reviews

Once you know what you want to study and you have a basic idea of the type of curriculum that will work for you, it is time to look around. Use your searching tools and check online sites like Rainbow Resources  and Christian Book to see the type of products available. Narrow down the number of curriculum options that meet your needs to three or four items per subject. Write them down along with the prices from each site. Then comes the fun part of picking curriculum, reading reviews.

Just type in the name of the product followed by review into Google and you will find dozens of  reviews from homeschool bloggers. Read a few reviews for each item you are thinking about. Look for balanced reviews that tell the good and bad of each product and then decide if the pros and cons of the product will work well for your family. Remember just because it works or doesn’t work for one family doesn’t mean you will have the same result. But something that didn’t work for my child because she doesn’t enjoy programs with a lot of reading, may be the perfect fit for your child who loves to devour books.

The last step of picking curriculum is to order, download, print off, or pick up you products and get ready for a year of fun.  Remember if the curriculum that you buy doesn’t seem to work out perfectly, it is ok to make adjustments, tweak it, or change to something different. The longer you homeschool the easier it will be to find the best option for your family.

Our Curriculum Choices

If you need a little inspiration, here are our curriculum choices over the years.

This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop! Stop by other blogs to see their advice on picking curriculum.

5 Days of Homeschool 101
 



8th Grade History and Geography

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I have already shared our 8th grade reading list and choices for English and Math and Science. Today I am sharing our 8th grade history and geography choices. One of our goals is to help AJ become more independent with some of her work. I want to be involved, but I also want her to improve on her note taking skills and time management. Our choices for history and geography should provide her with opportunities to build on those skills.

History and Geography choices for 8th grade.

History

We have had an odd journey with history. Before third grade she didn’t have any history in school. Since then we have covered the Renaissance, the Reformation, Early American History, Creation to Christ, and the Middle Ages. She has learned a lot about history in those last few years, but she hasn’t learned very much about anything that happened after the Civil War. Most of the programs that I looked into just didn’t seem to fit what I was looking for. This year I wanted something that would keep her interest, but I didn’t want something that would require her to do too many in-depth projects.

This year we will be using –

I have a lot of lapbooks from Hands of a Child. They are well made and really cover specific topics. The plan is to use the History from Easy Peasy as our base and then add in lapbooks and videos when needed. I think Modern History will be interesting to study with AJ. I know that I will tweak a few things, but I think it will be a year full of learning for both of us.

Current Events

Free Current Event Packet for Subscribers

One thing  I like about the history from Easy Peasy is that the student is instructed to read an article and write a current event about it almost every week. I wanted to make the current events more exciting for AJ so I created some fun pages for her to use.  If you subscribe to my newsletter you will be able to download a Current Event Pack at the beginning of August. If you haven’t subscribed yet, use the form in the side bar or the one at the end of this post.

Geography

Easy Peasy has both History and Geography courses, but I wanted something different.  When I was at the Good Will I found a high school geography book for $1. It was almost brand new and looked like a great book so I picked it up.

AJ will be using:

I scheduled out her entire year for the World Geography course. She has reading to do, videos to watch, maps to fill out, quizzes about her reading, tests on country locations, and a few country reports. I think it will require her to do a lot of work. The plan is to award her high school credit once she is finished with the course.

What will you be using for History and Geography this year? Enter your email below for access to the Current Event Printables and others.


8th Grade Math & Science

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Last week I shared our 8th grade English choices, today I will be sharing our choices for  math and science. AJ enjoys math and science most of the time. Since she was little she has enjoyed watching The Magic School Bus and reading nonfiction books. I think that my choices this year will let her enjoy both subjects and allow me to stick to my very tight budget.

Math and Science picks for 8th grade

Math

AJ is ready for Algebra this year! I didn’t know if she would be ready to take Algebra in 8th grade or if she would end up taking it in 9th grade. After looking at all of the concepts that we have covered over the years I was happy to see that she was ready for a higher level of math. I am not one that usually sticks to a math program, but I am determined to stick with two main programs that we were blessed to review this year.

I wanted a little bit of variety with a good amount of structure to our math plan. Right now I have her scheduled to work on lessons from CTC Math three days a week. The other two days a week she will work on Learn Bop. Between the two programs she will have plenty of practice and she should be able to master the different concepts. We will continue to play games like Sudoku (download a few for free) and Zoologic. We like to add games to our day whenever it is possible.

Science

Science was a hard decision for me this year. We have studied a lot of concepts over the last few years and almost every curriculum that I looked at had a lot of information that we already covered. I know that some things will be reviewed, but when you spend an entire year on Earth Science you don’t want to learn about volcanoes again two years later. The thought of making my own study seemed overwhelming this year. I haven’t felt well so I decided I needed something that was at least outlined for me. After looking at quite a few different options I decided on Easy Peasy Physics and Chemistry.

If you haven’t looked into Easy Peasy, you should check it out. It is free to use and gives you a 180 day schedule of assignments for your child to do. Science has videos, articles, games, and experiments. There are also notebooking pages and lapbooks for your child to make. We will probably skip a few things and we might follow a few rabbit trails and get off schedule. But I like that I have a strong foundation that I can have AJ follow on days that I can’t help her.

Some of the topics we will be studying are:

  • Elements of the Periodic Table
  • Atoms
  • Molecules
  • Sound
  • Acids and Bases
  • Mater
  • Forces
  • Motion
  • and more

Supplements

AJ loves science so I plan to let her do extra experiments on her own. We will also to borrow plenty of books and videos from the library to go with the concepts she is learning about.

Some of the resources we plan borrow from the library are:

Our plan is to really focus on English and Math this year so I think that Easy Peasy’s Science will be the perfect fit for AJ this year.  With a few extra books and videos I know she will have a year full of learning What are you using for math and science this year?

8th Grade English

AJ will be starting 8th grade very soon, but it seems like she was just learning to read a few years ago. Reading and writing are the subjects that she struggles with the most. She has never been officially diagnosed with a learning problem, but I think she has a mild form of dysgraphia. She can make up stories and explain almost anything, but when she is asked to put it in writing, she struggles. AJ has improved quite a bit over the past few years.  This year we are taking a lighter approach with science, history, and Spanish. We are going to really dive into English and Math. Here are our curriculum choices for 8th Grade English.

Our 8th Grade English Plan

Reading

AJ doesn’t enjoy reading short stories, so we stick to novels. This year she will read a variety of books. Most of the books that I picked out are books that we already had. I have study guides for some of them and for others she will be working on literary elements using season 1 of Beyond the Book Report. We were blessed to review it last year, and it was a hit. The lessons are short but they force her to really think about the book. As of right now we won’t be studying poetry this year, but things could change.

Writing

Writing is a subject that I need to be involved in, so it often gets pushed to the side. This year we are making writing a priority! If you have a struggling writer, I highly recommend IEW. AJ likes to watch the lessons. I never thought that she would like a writing program, but I am thrilled that she is enjoying it. When Mr. Pudewa explains something she really seems to understand writing. AJ likes having a checklist to make sure her writing is the best that it can be. I have noticed that the more we use the program the more confidence she has in writing.

Spelling

We have tried a few different approaches to spelling the last few years. Spelling You See was a nice change of pace and Phonetic Zoo was a product that I thought AJ would love. This year I was trying to decide what to use for spelling. AJ ended up asking if we could go back to spelling lists and I thought it would be a great idea. I ended up finding a free 8th grade spelling book online. I had it printed and bound at Staples and it is ready to go for the new year.

Vocabulary

Most of the novel study guides have daily or weekly vocabulary work, but I don’t think it is enough for AJ. She needs a lot of practice so we are going to use a few different products for vocabulary. I found a vocabulary workbook at the same time as the spelling workbook. I decided to have it printed and bound at Staples as well.

Wordbuild Online is great but I wanted an option for those times when the computer doesn’t want to cooperate. We were blessed to review Once Upon a Time in Latin, so we will use it through the year.  I think that between all of those resources AJ will be able to vastly improve her vocabulary.

Grammar

We started Analytical Grammar last year. It is designed to be completed over three years. This year we will finish up the last few units from the first section and complete the second session. AJ doesn’t enjoy grammar, but she is learning. I have learned quite a bit as well. It is a very solid program.

I will be very hands on for AJ’s 8th grade English course this year. Most of the days have her working for an hour and a half to two hours, but I think that the skills she will gain this year will really help to prepare her for high school.

 

8th Grade Reading List

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As I sat down to write this post I realized that this will be my fourth year of homeschooling AJ on my own and the sixth year in total of schooling at home. Some days it seems like we just started on this journey, while other times it seems like we have been homeschooling forever. This year we are going to focus on English and Math quite a bit. It is the last year before high school and I want to make sure that she is ready.

When I started thinking about the books I wanted to read I thought of novels that I have book studies for, and novels that I really enjoyed reading as a teenager. I hope that she enjoys reading most of them, but she can be reluctant to read books that aren’t about animals or fascinating adventures. My plan is to help her find additional book series that she enjoys.

Here are the books on AJ’s 8th Grade Reading List.

Our 8th Grade Reading List

The first four will be completed using the Memoria Press Study Guides.

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  2. As You Like It – This will be our first attempt at Shakespeare. To make it easier we purchased a version of the book that has both the original text and a text that is easy to understand.
  3. Treasure Island
  4. The Wind in the Willows – AJ read part of this book last year but we put it aside to finish our study on Narnia.

She will complete a study guide from Classroom Complete Press for the next set of books.

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
  2. The Giver
  3. Holes
  4. The Whipping Boy

She will do book reports on the next set of books.

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Through the Looking Glass
  3. Animal Farm (This is part of her History curriculum.)

It looks like we will have a fun filled year of reading. What books are you planning on reading this year?

7 Ways to Get the School Year Off to a Good Start

It is hard to believe that the summer is here. The days go by so quickly,  soon the fun filled days of swimming and playing will be over. How can you make the transition from summer fun to bookwork easier? I feel it comes down to planning. Here are 7 things that can help make the transition from summer to school a little easier.

  1. Go back to bedtimes. Throughout the summer, staying up late and sleeping in may work well, but about a week before school starts try to get back in the habit of going to bed a little earlier. It will make everyone’s first day run smoother if they are back on a good sleeping schedule.
  2. Organize and clean out work areas. Do you work at a desk, the kitchen table, in the bedroom? Whatever area your child does their schoolwork or homework in needs to be organized. Get rid of broken crayons and dried out markers. Sharpen pencils and make sure the tools they need are easily accessible.
  3. Assign Chores. Make sure your kids know what you expect of them and that you follow through. Depending on your family and the ages of your children you may need to put up a chart, make a list, or just discuss what needs to be done.
  4. Go through old clothes. More than likely your child has grown since the last school year. Check to make sure they have socks and under garments that still fit. Don’t forget to make sure their shoes still fit as well. Get rid of or donate the clothes and shoes that don’t fit to make getting dressed a little easier in the morning.
  5. Stock up on supplies. This is the time of year to grab extra paper, pencils, and folders. Get enough supplies to last through the school year and you will save both time and money.
  6. Clear up any fees at the library. If you don’t have any fees, you are a step ahead. Don’t wait until your child needs to check out a book for a report to learn that they lost a book and can’t check out a new one until that one has been paid for. Try to keep your fees paid up so you can use the library as needed throughout the school year.
  7. Get easy breakfast and lunch items ready. It doesn’t matter if you homeschool or send your child to school, you need to have meals easily available. Depending on your family that could mean stocking up on Pop Tarts, oatmeal, and cereal, or cutting up fruit, vegetables, and cheese for lunch time. Prepare anything that you can to make mornings run a little smoother. Make and freeze pancakes or waffles or buy the already made kinds. Just do as much prep work as possible ahead of time so that your meal times run smoothly.
  8.  Make this school year a good one, plan ahead and get organized so that you and your kids get started off on the right foot.

Homeschooling an Only Child

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Homeschooling an only child has a lot of benefits and some draw backs as well. I think it is easier to go off on rabbit trails and go deep into some subjects when you homeschool an only child.  Tweaking one schedule because we decided to spend a month learning about Ancient Egypt or volcanoes has to be easier than trying to rearrange the schedule for three kids.  On the other hand, there aren’t any other kids to answer some of the questions, or to bring different ideas to the table.  Homeschooling an only child lets me focus all of my attention on her. The downside to that is that when I am always available, sometimes she doesn’t try to do things herself. Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives to homeschooling an only child. If you have an only child, don’t let that keep you from homeschooling. Overall it has been a very rewarding journey!

We homeschool with a very eclectic approach and as much hands on learning as possible. While we really don’t have a normal day, I wanted to share what a day in our homeschooling life looked like when AJ was in 6th grade. The day I am sharing is was a Thursday – one of the few days we didn’t have to go somewhere outside of the house. The way we do school changes as our needs change. Currently our school day looks a lot differently because I am still recovering from surgery. I hope you enjoy a look inside our school day.  Parts of this post were previously published at Homeschool Mosaics, but sadly that site no longer exists.

Our day really starts the night before, when I quickly prep the classroom (our garage) for the next day’s work. I pull out any worksheets, write her morning work, and write a list of goals that we need to accomplish the following day.

6 reasons why we have a school room

We try to start our day early, and by early I mean waking up around 7:30am. I know that is sleeping in to some, but getting up before that doesn’t usually happen around here. After she finally wakes up and takes a shower, then she gets dressed and does a few chores, (making her bed, feeding the dog, putting the dishes away) before breakfast. After breakfast, she finishes getting ready and we do a quick clean up of the house and make sure my mom and grandma have anything they need before we start school.

At about 9:30 we make our way out to the classroom and she goes over her list of work that she needs to finish.

She has to do her morning work first, the rest of the subjects she can do in any order. The morning work for today is a logic puzzle. Some days there are sentences for her to correct, a difficult math problem, or questions where she has to find answers using things in the classroom. An example would be to name the 21st president, or list two countries in Africa. I try to switch it up, but keep the routine the same.

She works out the logic puzzle on her easel.

Next it is time for copywork. I usually get my copywork from http://homeschoolcopywork.com/ but today I decided to copy a paragraph out of the book she is reading, Matilda.

Today she decided to start with history. We are using Diana Waring’s History Revealed Ancient Civilizations and the Bible. It is a unit study approach to history and is so much fun. Today we started a new unit all about the Exodus. AJ started off by listening to the audio part of her history called, What in the World? While listening, she colored a picture out of the What’s in the Bible? coloring book.

After listening to the CD, it was time for a brain break. She rode her bike for about 15 minutes while I wrote the key concepts for the history chapter on the whiteboard.

When she came back in she went over the Key topics and Key people that we would be learning about.

Then it was time to learn about the pyramids. First she read a few pages in a library book.

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Next, she made a pyramid fact chart, and then she made a paper pyramid that I found at Don’t Eat the Paste.

Then, it was time for her least favorite subject – literature. She likes the book we are reading, Matilda, but dislikes reading and writing. After she finished reading the two chapters and did a few worksheets, it was time for lunch.

While I started getting everyone lunch (it takes a while because I can’t stand too long) she began working on her math. We are using Key to Fractions. We love it. Everything is explained step by step, and the workbooks are consumable so she can write right in them.

After lunch she finishes her math on the easel.

Math is more exciting on the whiteboard.

Then it’s time to take the dog for a walk, or in AJ’s case, a run.

Next up is science. This year we are studying earth science. We are finishing up our study of volcanoes. While I read a few pages to AJ, she started cutting out her lapbooks.

Then, using the information I had read to her and a few library books, she filled in her lapbooks.

Lap books are a great way to add in hands on learning

We reviewed what we learned the day before when we erupted our volcano, and then our book work for the day was finished.

The volcano she made

Even though the book work is finished, there is still more learning to come. It’s time for cooking. AJ is learning how to cook a few things at a time. Today she decided she wanted to try and cook everything. She made tacos (under my supervision), beans, and rice. She did a great job.

Later in the evening, we made sugar cookies for a play-date she is having to decorate cookies.

When our day was finally finished, we watched some TV, relaxed and then got ready for bed.

It was a great day of learning. We were able to go in deep with some subjects and really have fun with learning. Not every day is this successful, and some days we get more done. It really depends on the day.