Top 10 Homeschooling Tips:

I am by no means an expert on. . . well, anything really.  However, these are some things that have helped me with homeschooling:

1. Take a breath.  When you are teaching a young child something and it seems tedious and frustrating because they just aren’t getting it, just close your eyes, take a step back, and a deep breath, and just remind yourself that your child hasn’t been doing this for years like you have.  Reminding yourself that this is new to them really helps you gain the proper perspective.

2. It’s ok to take a day off and just play with your kids.  So many times we have not “done school” but instead did silly art or science projects, tried making a recipe of our own without a recipe (sometimes this can be quite interesting!  Did I ever tell you about the time we made green rubber “brownies”. . . )?! Sometimes we get too overwhelmed and just need to laugh and make memories together!  When everyone is getting burnt out, take a day off and just have fun.  It will make the next few weeks a lot less stressful!

3. Don’t treat homeschooling as “regular” school.  Your kids don’t need desks and field trip permission slips.  The joy of doing school at home is the flexibility you have.  If your daughter loves to do her schoolwork outside on nice days, why not let her?  If your son learns better in the afternoon, let him do schoolwork at that time.  There are no “rules” with homeschooling, that is part of the joy!

4. Play with your children outside of “school”.  Yes, it’s ok to take a break for yourself.  Sometimes it’s hard being home with little ones all the time.  We crave adult interaction and quiet time for ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with that, however, don’t hole away in your room ignoring your kids all day long.  Cherish the short time you have together.  Before you know it they will be moved out and having families of their own.  Play, laugh and make memories with your kids.

5. If you don’t like a curriculum, get a new one!  I think my oldest was in 5th or 6th grade before I found the books that I would stick with the rest of the years homeschooling.  I do, for the most part, make my kids finish a curriculum before getting a new one the next year (there have been times where I chuck one in the middle of the year, but it is very rare).  Homeschool books can be expensive, so I try not to change too much in one year.  The first year I homeschooled I bought the Abeka complete grade level curriculum set because it was too overwhelming to choose from all that is out there. After that, I branched out buying only one subject from each “distributor”.  Ask for your child’s feedback, after all, they are the ones doing the work.  Try to find a curriculum they enjoy.

6. Buy in bulk during school sales.  Have you ever gone to Wal-Mart in August, only to be bombarded with school supplies?  Well, grab your cart and fill up!  This is the best time to stock up on art supplies, notebooks, etc.  The only thing I do not buy this time of year is pencils.  I buy packs and packs of pencils after Valentine’s day when they have the Valentine’s sets on sale.  A lot of the Valentine’s come with “treats”, and there are always an abundance of Valentine’s with pencils left after Valentine’s Day. None of the pencils I buy have hearts or anything to do with Valentine’s day on the pencil.  Most are Star Wars or Pirates Of The Caribbean!  I buy boxes of 16 pencils for $0.50 a pack.  I throw out the Valentine’s and use the pencils.  I have been doing it for years now, and it’s great!  I do have one box of #2 pencils that I keep hidden away for testing that needs #2 pencils, but for every day work, the Valentine’s ones work great.  For the rest of school supplies, you need to stock up when they are on sale.  That $2.25 box of crayons are only $0.50 during the sale.  I buy tons (and also I buy extras to put in my Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes every year).

7. Every child learns differently.  What works with one child won’t work on all of them.  It saves a lot of money to just buy the workbooks after buying the teacher book for the first child, however, don’t reuse curriculum at the expense of your other kids education.  If one child thrives on the computer and loves to do schoolwork there, don’t force all of your kids to do the same if they struggle with too much computer time.  It’s not worth the money saved if your child isn’t learning.

8. Put aside money for field trips/extra curricular activities.  Field trips can get expensive.  Not just the places you visit, but gas and food money can add up as well.  Piano lessons and sports also cost a lot of money.  Make sure you set aside money for these activities.  It’s much easier to put $20 aside a month than to be hit with a $150 soccer fee all at once.  Saving in advance can keep the stress to a minimum.

9. Don’t forget to include your spouse.  You may be the teacher, but your spouse is equally important.  Make sure they stay involved.  My husband doesn’t care what curriculum I use but I like to tell him what I want to get and how much it costs.  He doesn’t teach the kids the basic classes (even though they learn tons from him in other areas!) but I make sure they let him know what grade they got on their test and that they show him their artwork.  Keeping your spouse involved really bonds the family.

10. This one is most important to me.  If you sense that your child has some learning difficulties, address them right away.  Don’t wait for the “experts”.  For example, when my second child was in Kindergarten, I KNEW something was different.  She was not reading, spelling, or talking like she should be doing.  After hours and hours pouring over the internet to try and find out what was going on, I realized that she had dyslexia.  There was no doubt in my mind.  She had every symptom listed on every chart I ever read.  So I called dozens of “specialists” and got the same answer EVERY TIME!  “Sorry, we don’t work with dyslexic children until they are 7 years old.  That way we know it’s really dyslexia.” “WHAT?! You’ve got to be kidding me!” was my reply.  They all expected my daughter to struggle for 2 years, getting 2 years behind before they would even help her!  I was shocked, saddened, and almost felt defeated.  However, one of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to change (although sometimes the change happens slowly).  We struggled through Kindergarten, and then halfway through 1st grade, when she wasn’t getting any better at reading/writing, she was feeling stupid and I was very frustrated. We hugged and cried and then I did something for the first time ever.  I chucked the curriculum we were using…in the middle of the year.  What we were doing was just not working.  As much as I wanted to help her, the books I was using were not working for her.  I got a new one specifically helpful for children that learn differently (Sing, Spell, Read and Write).  Even with the new curriculum it has been very hard.  VERY hard.  But I won’t give up on my kids.  I tell my daughter to be proud of who she is. God made her this way for a reason.  When we move and go to a new church, she just simply tells the teacher she has dyslexia and doesn’t like to read out loud.  I have not had anyone make a big deal about it, and she doesn’t hate going to church for the fear of being called on to read.  She is still behind with reading and writing.  She probably always will be that way, but it doesn’t have to stop her from moving forward.  She can read a book to me.  It made me cry the first time she did it.  She can’t read chapter books and she still mixes up or leaves out words/sounds when reading, but she’s reading!  Trust your instincts, if you know there is something that needs to be addressed, find a way to address it.  You are the most important person in your child’s life.  You need to be their advocate.

Homeschooling can be overwhelming, but it can be very fulfilling as well!  Try not to worry too much about picking the “right” curriculum.  You can always try again next year if you are not happy with what you purchased this year.  Happy Homeschooling!

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My homeschooling adventure

Although I don’t see myself as an “expert” in homeschooling, I have been doing it long enough (9 years) to feel like we have the swing of things.  That makes me feel pretty confident in what I am doing with my kids.  The first year I homeschooled my daughter, I was overwhelmed by the catalogs, conferences and online information.  After all, she was in kindergarten (and brilliant if you ask me!).  How hard could it be?  By the time child number 2 was ready for school, I had been homeschooling for 5 years.  I think it was my 5th year of homeschooling that I finally stopped changing the curriculum every year.  I finally purchased the same books  as the 4th year, only for 5th grade.  I was so excited to finally get into the groove of homeschooling. . . when the bomb dropped.  With my oldest daughter, things were a breeze.  She caught on to reading, writing and math very easily.  It hardly took any effort.  With child #2, something wasn’t quite right.  She’s very smart, and is VERY creative, but for some reason she just wasn’t getting it.  I also noticed, even before kindergarten that it took her a very long time to answer a question, and that she would write all of her numbers and letters backwards.  I know this can be normal for a child, however, God gives parents a special insight on their children.  I knew something wasn’t right.  I called around to get her tested for dyslexia and was SHOCKED to be told numerous times that they do not test until second grade.  WHAT?! By second grade, do they know how far behind she would be?  It was a constant struggle to hold myself together and not get upset with her for not knowing how to say the simplest words.  I am not a quite, soft spoken person by nature.  Could this be why God gave me a child that has dyslexia?  Well, I decided I would not sit around and wait for second grade.  I did the self diagnostic tests online, which confirmed that she did indeed have dyslexia.  Her whole first grade year was a nightmare trying to figure out how in the world I could teach her how to read and write.  At the end of her first grade year I was at a loss.  I felt defeated.  It was then that I talked to my aunt that was a teacher for years.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of talking with her sooner, but God has His reasons for timing.  She told me to redo first grade, afterall, her birthday is after the cut off and she never should have been in first grade to begin with.  Also, it would be less stressful on her to redo it, rather that having to work extra hard to keep up.  I decided to let the choice be hers.  I offered to teach her through the summer, or hold her back.  She didn’t hesitate to say she wanted to try first grade again.  I got the curriculum my aunt suggested, I took slow, deep breaths while helping her read.  I made sure I praised her for her efforts, instead of getting upset when she didn’t do it right.  I would tell her she did a good job but that she needs to turn around whatever letter/number was written backwards.  We took it slow, we repeated A LOT of the books until they were mastered.  I talked with her church teachers and told them she did not like to read in front of class, so they would not unintentionally embarrass her in class.  She is now finishing second grade and I cannot believe the change.  She still struggles, and she hates it when her younger brother corrects a wrong word (we now read in private), but she is doing a phenomenal job.  Especially since half of this year has been more of an unschooling year, than a homeschooling due to a number of deaths, illnesses and situations in our family.  I don’t feel like an expert at all, but I do feel like I am trying my best and that my kids are learning.  Every time they take and pass the end of the year test, it makes me feel like I did something right.  I have done a lot of wrong things, got the wrong curriculum, expected too much from them and so on, but I feel that we are past that.  That we can move forward and as long as they are learning, I am doing a good job.  After all, we homeschool because we want what’s best for our kids.  To be raised in a safe, loving environment.

Here are some of the curriculum choices that are my favorites:

Sing, Spell, Read, Write: Great for dyslexia and any child.

Mystery of History: You can use this for multiple grades at one time

Math U See: Manipulatives are very helpful with teaching.  It also includes an instructional DVD for each chapter that the kids love to watch.

God’s Design for Science: You can use this for many grades at one time

Wordly Wise: Great vocabulary curriculum for kids

Vacation Station: It’s supposed to be for in between grades, but I like it for vacations and when I’m sick and can’t pull out all their books.  The kids love the colors and that they only have to do 2 pages a day!

Switched on Schoolhouse: I like this only for Science and Bible.  Too much computer time hurts their heads, and I don’t feel they learn enough writing with the English CD’s.

Bob Jones University English: I love that this curriculum is written out pretty much word for word what you should say to teach them the lesson for the day.  This is what I used for the full curriculum the 2nd year of homeschooling.

Curriculum I don’t really like:
AOP Lifepacs: No pictures or colors, very basic and boring.  The kids didn’t like this at all

Abeka: This is great if you have an overachiever, however, I feel they require way too much busy work.

Saxon Math: Again, no colors, lots of repetition.  The kids did not like this at all.