Even Homeschoolers Can Benefit From a Tutor’s Assistance

So we are at the end of the first semester according to some school calendars. Whether you closely adhere to such a calendar or just do your own thing, you have some idea where your child could be struggling by now.

I think homeschoolers are sometimes hesitant to engage a tutor because they feel it reflects poorly on their ability to teach. But the fact is, NO ONE is an expert in every subject at every grade level. It just isn’t possible.  There are several other reasons a tutor might be helpful.

  • Your child may have a learning disability that you are not able to address on your own.
  • Your child may get easily frustrated and may work better with someone who is not so focused on their success. Not that a tutor doesn’t care about the student’s success, they just don’t have an emotional attachment to the child the way a parent does. Sometimes the stress of the parent wanting them to succeed so badly puts pressure on the student. This can cause a disconnect between the parent and the student. A tutor is a neutral party and can focus just on the subject or subjects she is addressing and leave all the other areas to the parent.
  • There may be many students for one parent to work with and having a tutor for specific areas eases the load a bit so each child can get the attention they need.
  • Perhaps a parent is also trying to work outside the home and just doesn’t have the time and energy to address something more challenging right now.

No matter the reason, there is evidence that having a tutor for a season is of great benefit.

What makes tutoring a successful investment?

  • Consistent sessions – usually an hour long and no less than once per week.
  • One-on-one rather than group sessions.
  • Working on processes and skill building rather than “studying” information. In other words, teaching the student how to study effectively, not spending a lot of time helping them study for specific exams.
  • Not giving up too soon. Learning takes time. Bad habits that have formed need time to be relearned in a more productive way.

There are several ways to set up a tutoring relationship. I personally do much of my tutoring at my home. It sets the mood to learning for the student because it isn’t the comfort of home with all the distractions. I also sometimes work with a student at a library. With the ability to do sessions over the internet, there is also that option and online tutoring can be much easier to schedule. It’s still a one-on-one relationship and can have great benefit to the student in an easier format for the parent. All you need is a quiet room and a computer that will run Skype.

Here is an article to check out as you consider whether tutoring is a good addition to your homeschool.

Does Your Child Need a Tutor?

My latest experience was with an elementary student who was bringing home Ds and Fs on his language arts papers. We began working together and after a couple of months, he brought home these two papers. He was so proud of his improvement!

A tutoring relationship can be a short-term activity. Usually, a student just needs help to get beyond a specific skill challenge. Sometimes a more long-term plan is good, especially in the case of a student with special needs. Working closely with your child’s tutor can help direct you as you make the best decisions for your child.

If you would like to discuss your situation on a personal level please contact me.

Sometimes Unconventional Learning Works Best

What do I mean by unconventional?  I mean anything other than textbooks. Most of us were brought up to believe that the only way to teach is with a textbook that you assign to the student, they study it and then they take a test to see how much they’ve learned.

But is this the way we learn as adults? Not me. When I’m interested in learning about a new topic the first thing I do is go to the library and find out what books they have on the subject. Now I know, some of you are already thinking that I’m behind the times. Many of you would be quick to point out that the Internet is a far better resource than the public library. Call me old-fashioned, I am a reader and would rather have a book in my hands than stare at a screen. But since you brought up the Internet, there are lots of ways to gain information there too!

Some homeschoolers are uneasy with a truly unschooling method. This is where you allow the student to completely control their learning environment and the topics they choose to explore.  I am not necessarily saying that to go unconventional, you have to go completely unschooled. There are many degrees of learning between conventional schooling and unschooling.

I’ve collected a selection of resources that might help you feel more comfortable with a less structured learning model.

Carschooling – when you have to spend a lot of time in your vehicle and can’t seem to get any schoolwork done, here are some ideas to make the time profitable.



Project Based Learning – Choosing projects that help your child explore their interests in depth. The possibilities are endless. What is your child interested in?

Notebooking – Creating notebooks to collect information as the student learns about a topic.


There is also a website called, “Lifestyle of Learning Association of Christian Home Educators” (LOLACHE). The founder is Marilyn Howshall. I read several of her books on homeschooling about 20 years ago. If you can find them, they are very helpful for a more relaxed homeschool experience. They are out of print but if you go to Marilyn Howshall on Amazon you can see what is available used. I bought the 4 book set.

Delight Directed Homeschooling – a method of learning that follows the child’s interests but is more structured than unschooling.

There are also many classes that you can sign up for at your local library or community center. Check for co-ops in your area for group experiences for your students too.

Life After Homeschooling

I’m not sure I actually remember our first day of homeschooling. I guess I can ask for a little grace in that department. After all, it was 1991 and we’ve had quite a few first days since then. Twenty-six to be exact.

But this year is different. As I saw many friends posting pictures of their cute little scholars getting ready for school I got a little sentimental.  It’s the first year I have no student starting a new season of learning. They are all finished. All 7 have gone on to other things. Hopefully, I succeeded in instilling a love for learning in each of them and that will never end. But the days of working at the table with a little boy whose eyes lit up when he completed his math assignment with no mistakes are long gone.

Actually, I haven’t had any of those moments for a long time. High schoolers don’t normally get too excited about assignments! Sometimes I wish I knew at the beginning what I know now. If I had it to do over again, I would be less concerned about performance and focus much more on character building. I think we got better at that towards the end but even so, I still felt pressure to aim for some man-made standard.

I have realized how much time and energy we put into competing with others to see how we measure up and it’s just not worth it. In the end, you just do your best and keep moving. The things I remember worrying about with my boys, the areas of learning where they seemed to be struggling, caused so much stress at the time. And now, looking back, I can say that all those times of striving for something more have had no visible impact on my boys’ success in life. They are all doing just fine.

How do you measure success anyway? Isn’t it simply about setting goals for yourself and working toward meeting them? At this point, none of my boys have bachelor’s degrees. None have letters after their names. So what? They each have found their sweet spot. They are pursuing what interests them and doing it well. And…most of them have no school debt! I couldn’t be happier for them.

And for me? How do I embrace this next season?  Right now I am looking for ways to share what I’ve learned. First is this blog. Hopefully, I will continue to share insight that will help other homeschoolers. Also, I have taken on some students to tutor. I am looking at ways to tutor online as well. I see myself as a homeschool coach that can offer strength and encouragement to other moms who may be at the beginning of their homeschool journey.

But it’s also a season to dust off the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Quilting, genealogy, reading the zillions of books I’ve been wanting to read, and writing.  And I get to spend time with my grandchildren which gives me great joy.

If you are in need of someone to come alongside you as you travel this homeschooling path, contact me and we can discuss how I can help you. I know it was a great help to me when I was just starting out to spend time with veteran homeschoolers. It made the journey less daunting to see those who had survived!

How Not to Be a Smothering Parent

As a homeschooler, I have always been very aware of the cultural trend toward keeping children overly supervised “for their own good.” Because of this, I found myself becoming concerned about letting my kids outside while others were in school. What would people think? Would my kids be in trouble for having such freedom? But then I would think, “how will they ever be independent if I keep them tied so close to me?” It brought to mind that saying we used to hear about being “tied to your mother’s apron strings.” It was considered a negative observation.

I finally decided that I was going to let them grow up. Let them be individuals. But as I watched people around me, not just homeschoolers, but all parents, I saw something unsettling.

The cord between parent and child is getting shorter instead of longer. It used to be that the parenting model was to gradually give your children more and more responsibility and freedom with their own lives. Now it seems that a parent becomes negligent if they so much as let their child walk around the corner out of sight for a split second.

I’ve read many articles lately that discuss the challenges that parents are facing from the general public as well as the legal system concerning what is seen as responsible parenting and what is not. I am a baby boomer and my generation remembers well the freedom that we had as children.

I remember my summers as times to take off on my bike and ride anywhere I pleased in our small college town. I could ride to the local swimming pool six blocks from home, stay for hours, and then ride home on my own. As long as I was home for dinner and then again before the street lights came on, I was fine. I walked to school with just the neighborhood kids, or sometimes by myself when I was in the first grade. No big deal. I suspect that the very idea of sending a first grader several blocks to school alone horrifies a young parent today.

How did we get here? How did we become so deathly afraid of letting them grow up? I know, everyone immediately jumps to the argument about human trafficking and the dangers that exist for a child in our culture. But why has American culture become so fearful?

I recently read an article titled, From Tokyo to Paris, Parents Tell Americans to Chill, that discussed free-range parenting from an international perspective. It seems we are lagging behind the rest of the world in training our children to be independent. Or perhaps it’s that we used to be better at it and have lost perspective.

If you research the crime statistics over the past fifty years you will find that the number of crimes has steadily decreased. This includes those committed against children. It is actually, statistically safer for kids today than it was when I was growing up in the 60s. So why all the hyped stress?

I think we are more fearful today because we have been trained to fear EVERYTHING. We fear illness, having our identity stolen, mass shootings, being injured in an accident, having our home broken into, and having our children abducted. And the list gets longer every day. We spend more money on safety measures than ever before.

And in the process of being more fearful, we have become smothering parents. Our kids can’t do anything unsupervised. So why are we surprised when 20-somethings are still living at home and expecting their parents to make all their decisions for them?

I think the remedy lies in a few common-sense principles.

First, learn to trust yourself as a parent. You know your kids better than anyone. You can judge when they are ready for an increase in responsibility and freedom. Stop listening to the running commentary about how it’s reckless to allow your kids to learn to think for themselves before they turn eighteen. There will be times when you have to trust your gut. You just know that something is good or bad for your child. It must come from inside you, not from the opinions of others. God gave your child to YOU for a reason. I have said this often to homeschoolers that I’ve coached over the years. You are the person best equipped to parent your child.

Trust your children. They are smart. Probably much smarter than you think. They can figure things out if given time and encouragement. They want to feel successful in their decision making. They want to explore their own interests.

One of the most important things I learned as a homeschooler is to trust my boys to make choices. Sometimes I didn’t agree with them at all. Sometimes they went ahead and did something against my advice. Most times, after a while, they finally came around and realized their mistake. They learned valuable lessons from those times.

Give your children a firm foundation of your values and let them learn from their mistakes. They won’t always get it right. But did you? I’m sure you can instantly think of actions you took when you were young that were less than responsible. Maybe they are even embarrassing to think about now. But you still grew into an adult that can manage your life. They will too.

Finally, trust God with your children. He designed them. He has a plan for them. He placed your children in the right environment to allow that plan to be birthed. He can protect and guide our children much better than we can. But He’s chosen to give us the privilege to participate in the amazing process of raising a child. You can trust yourself and your child all day long but if you don’t entrust that precious one to God, you will always be fretting and worrying about their safety, their choices, and their future.

So try to loosen your hold a little and let your children experience childhood. There are so many opportunities that will encourage them to become independent individuals. But they can’t do it if they are still tied to their mother’s apron strings. Let go and see them fly!

Want to Encourage Creativity and Curiosity? Check Out This Website


I was introduced to the Colossal website a while back and spent way more time than I expected exploring their offerings. My first thought was of course, from a homeschool perspective.  I am always looking for something that sparks a new burst of enthusiasm for what is possible.  Being able to experiences other people’s genius is an incredible way to encourage creativity.

The website has several categories that are all very interesting. If you only want to take a small amount of time on each visit, I would recommend choosing the Random button.  It will give you an endless supply of some of the most interesting things you’ll see on the web.

This morning, after clicking the Random button three times, this is what I found.

Three Great Stop Motion Shorts Not to be Missed


Delicate Pencil Lead Carvings


The homepage for the website is This is Colossal.   Enjoy!




3 Ways to Use Smilebox in Your Homeschool

I am a grandma. All eight of my grandchildren live at least a day’s drive from me. I don’t get to see all of their accomplishments and milestones. My daughter-in-law has found a fun way to keep all the long distance relatives up to date on the kids’ activities.  I regularly get emails from her containing Smilebox photo collages.  She does them for birthdays, new skills like riding a bike, vacations and even encounters with the tooth fairy.

Recently when we visited our Florida family we got excited about their tadpole adventure. A neighbor gave them some frog eggs which they  put into a fish bowl and added pond water and plants. We watched the eggs for a couple of days but had to return home before the babies arrived. We were disappointed that we couldn’t participate in the experiment but that disappointment dissolved quickly as we started getting regular updates about the tadpole population explosion.  There were pictures and video on almost a daily basis. One day I received this Tadpole Smilebox in my email. As I watched the videos and looked at the pictures I realized that this would be a wonderful way to share what goes on in our homeschool adventures.

Perhaps you don’t know what Smilebox is all about. Smilebox is a photo sharing service you can subscribe to that allows you to use your own photos and videos to make birthday cards, announcements, and many other personalized creations. You can add clip art and music too. It works like an online scrapbook that you can either keep for yourself or share with anyone who has an email address.  Over the past several years, my daughter-in-law has sent out over 300 Smilebox creations to share the activities and celebrations of her children.

Sharing with friends and family

Smilebox is a great way to share what you are doing  in your homeschool with family. It certainly is a wonderful surprise to be included in the lives of my grandchildren but it might also be a good way to convince the critics. We all have those who might think our homeschooling efforts are not so wonderful. Perhaps sending a Smilebox would soften their opinion a bit. You never know!

Family keepsakes that don’t take up physical space 

The longer you homeschool, the more “stuff” you seem to accumulate. It’s hard to part with all those projects and the memories that go with them. Creating a Smilebox is a great way to preserve the memories without taking up shelves of space in the basement. Younger students can contribute  to a Smilebox that mom is designing while older ones can easily learn to create their own Smileboxes.

Student designed projects

Once students learn the techniques to creating a Smilebox, the possibilities are endless. They can use them to document unit studies and book reports. If they include video, it gives them a chance to work on their narration skills as they describe what is happening. They can learn about design and layout for the best visual effect. It’s like creating a documentary all their own.

To get started making your own Smilebox creations go to Smilebox.com. There is a free version but for $3.99 a month you can access the full selection of designs. I would recommend subscribing to get the most out of the service.  To subscribe to Club Smilebox go here.

Tinkerlab for Your Child’s Creative Mind

With my boys almost grown, I don’t often have activities for the younger crowd on my radar. But this book caught my eye and I am so glad it did.  The author, Rachelle Doorley, has some of the best ideas I’ve seen for engaging young children in creative play. We’ve all heard that a child’s work is found in his play. This book does an excellent job of creating an environment that encourages exploration and discovery that will delight your young learner.

The first section of the book outlines the steps to take in preparing your Tinkerlab and equipping it with a vast variety of supplies to encourage creativity and learning.  The author discusses what things to consider when setting up your creative space. She gives attention to things like organization, controlling clutter and handling messes.  She then gives recommendations for what supplies to include in your space and includes lists of suggestions in several categories. The next section is a wonderful discussion of how to create a “creative mindset” that will encourage your child in exploring and venturing out on his own.  Doorley concludes part one of the book with some thoughts on the idea that everything can be an experiment. She says, “A habit of experimentation is good for many reasons. Experiments teach children that there are multiple ways to approach a problem. When children solve self-designed problems, they learn how to think for themselves. Experiments also remind parents that they are co-learners who don’t have all the answers. The spirit of experimentation, exploration, and pushing boundaries is at the root of innovative thinking.”

Part two of the book is where you’ll find the fifty-five experiments the author has gathered. She divides these activities into four groups. The first group entitled “Design” is all about creating with paper, glue, paint and other art supplies. The second group called “Build” focuses on creating three-dimensional projects with a variety of elements such as straws, toothpicks, string and items from your recycle bin. The third group is called “Concoct” and includes activities you can do using common household ingredients such as flour, water, vinegar, and baking soda and soap. Some of these experiments are even edible. The final section is entitled “Discovery” and expands the activities to exploration outside the confines of the creative space you have set up. It includes activities such as examining nature, scavenger hunts and experimenting with light.

This book is aimed at an audience up to the age of six but I can see older kids finding plenty to hold their attention.

Teaching Time Management to Your Homeschool Students

Study Time

One of the most important underlying lessons we should be teaching our children is time management. They need to learn to pace themselves and to prioritize their activities. One way to do this is to have a daily deadline. This is easy to do by giving them the responsibility of daily chores. They also need to learn the life skill of planning their activities in a larger time frame. If they are required to meet a deadline every day for everything they never learn the discipline necessary to accomplish tasks that can’t be done in a day. They need to learn not to procrastinate. One way to do that is to have weekly, and sometimes even longer, deadlines on some things. This teaches them that they have a responsibility to make steady progress on a task that no one is going to see on a daily basis.

For my boys, we have always had four regular school days and then Friday was a catch-up day. Field trips or other special activities were also planned for that day. They knew that their weekend activities would be at risk if they weren’t done by Friday evening. Recently this has worked well for my high schoolers because they have an older brother living on his own who invites them to spend the night on the weekends if they have their work done. This works wonders!

I think that a certain amount of distraction and just dawdling is to be expected from children and it will help them more, in the long run, to learn to manage this themselves instead of having someone nagging them to stay on task every minute. It makes for a more self-motivated student and employee in the long run — a skill sorely lacking in the general population these days.

Talk with your child and come up with a plan that works for them. Some children are naturally more motivated than others. I had one son who wanted me to just hand him a folder with his assignments for the whole month and leave him alone. He paced himself and got his work done with no problem. Another son needed his assignments broken down into daily lists and sometimes only wanted to know one task at a time. Even a daily list of assignments overwhelmed him. We had to work much harder to get to the place where he could monitor his own progress without being overwhelmed and shutting down completely.

Now that my youngest students are in high school, we have a very relaxed homeschooling environment. They know that they are required to complete their work on a regular basis but it has become their responsibility to make that happen. They know they are required to have at least four math lessons completed each week. When they do those lessons is up to them. Younger students may need daily goals for things like math but can begin to take responsibility for other assignments. Reading and writing assignments are a good place to begin setting longer deadlines.

It’s wise to allow your child to help set the goals for his own activities.  If he is allowed ownership of his goals he is much more likely to follow through and complete them. Set up a system where they can see what things need to be done daily and what things need to be completely weekly or even monthly. One way to help them figure out how to pace themselves would be to break down assignments in smaller chunks. If they have to have a book completed in a week help them figure out how many pages they need to read per day to keep up.

Letting them set their own goals must be combined with the understanding that they will over- or underestimate what they can accomplish in a given amount of time. Trial and error are the best teachers here. Let them try and help them figure out what they need to do differently when they fail to reach their goals. Let them know that falling short is okay and help them learn from their experiences and move on.

One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s more important to teach the life skill of time management than it is to have every assignment completed exactly when you expect it to be.

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful.

Teaching Time Management Skills to Teens

How to Teach Kids Time Management

Teaching Children Project Management

Avoiding This Common Homeschool Trap May Save Your Sanity


We all want to see our kids excel. Whatever the reason we decided to homeschool, the bottom line is that we felt it would be a better education than what was offered in the government school system. That being said, we are compelled to make that a reality.

How do we do that? We find the best curriculum. We look for the greatest extra curricular opportunities. We try to take advantage of every possible experience that could enrich our child’s home education. We want it all. We want it for our kids. Our motives couldn’t be more pure, right?

But in the process of doing this wonderful thing for our kids, we can also become dangerously close to a trap. I call it the “Super Achiever Trap.” I’ve seen this countless times in my 23 years of homeschooling. I’ve seen the high school student who was  involved in an unbelievable number of activities just so they could put them on his transcript. Some of the activities were things he wasn’t even interested in but would “look good” on his transcript. Another family I worked with had a first grader who was studying more subjects than most high school students. She studied Latin, Spanish, History, Science and Bible in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, every day. Add phys. ed., private music lessons and art lessons every week. This child was exhausted from memorization and recitation on a level that we wouldn’t expect from much older students.

What was the problem with both of these examples? The parents, in their zeal to provide the most amazing education, were in overdrive. They didn’t want their child to miss a single opportunity or experience so they crammed it all in at the same time. I have no problem with exposing children to all kinds of experiences but the motive shouldn’t be so it “looks good” or because the parent can’t wait to experience a particular subject with their child. Sometimes in our excitement to see our kids learn, we go way overboard.

There is plenty of time for that first grader to learn all those subjects. She doesn’t have to do it all at once. And high school students need to have opportunity to experience many different things, but maybe they should be allowed some input as to what those experiences look like.

Falling into the Super Achiever Trap causes much more harm than the good  we think we are doing for our children. They can become so achievement oriented that they lose the joy of discovery. They become machines that crank out products but miss the chance to just sit for a while and marvel at the amazing world we live in. Sure, they may do fabulous on the SAT and they may win all kinds of trophies and contests but do they love learning or are they just exhausted?

And we haven’t even talked about what this trap does to the parent. When we fall into being a super achiever parent, we find there is never enough time. There is always something that seems to be compromised or forgotten. We are constantly running from one thing to the next and we never really get to enjoy any of the things our kids are doing since we are already looking to the next event or activity. We end up just pushing, pushing, pushing with no end in sight.

Here are some ways to help avoid falling into the Super Achiever Trap:

* Have a conversation with your child and find out what his passion is. Does he love sports? Is she excited about literature? Does he have an insatiable desire to learn about science?

* Help your child to focus on what gets him excited. Find ways to use the subjects he’s passionate about to propel the ones that are not so exciting by making his assignments relevant to what he loves.

* Remember, especially with elementary students, that you have plenty of time to expose your child to many wonderful experiences. You don’t have to do it all in the first year. That goes for older students too. If you are just starting to homeschool when your child is in the 8th grade, resist the temptation to jump in with too much too soon. You don’t have to make up for lost time in the first year. You have plenty of time. Take a few deep breaths and just enjoy the opportunity to be with your child!

* Be willing to throw out the plans for the day  if some wonderful opportunity is presented to you. You are not a slave to the curriculum. You don’t have to finish every page of every workbook. You don’t have to cover all of a subject in one school year. Relax!

If you want more information on this topic you might find these previous posts of interest:

  1. Is the Goal of Education the Process or the Destination?
  2. Are You too Busy?
  3. The Death of Education, The Birth of Learning


Send Your Perfectionist Packing

BeaIMG_5276I heard a rather bizarre story the other day. A young mom was telling me about another new mom she’d met at an event. They talked about how much of an adventure raising children was. The other mom then proceeded to explain her parenting strategies. She said that she didn’t allow her child who was crawling, to pull up to furniture because she was afraid he’d fall. She didn’t want him to get hurt. She wanted to wait until he learned to balance before she was going to let him begin to pull up and stand on his own.

I tried not to laugh… but my first reaction was “how in the world is he ever going to learn balance if he isn’t allowed to fall?”

Sometimes as parents, and especially as homeschool parents, I think we want out children to learn without having to experience loss, or error or failure. We want them to somehow just absorb what they need to know and then do it perfectly the first time they try. Imagine your child trying to learn to ride a bike without experiencing a tumble or two.

It doesn’t work that way.

Learning is a process of successes AND failures. The famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison says it well. He said, “I did not fail, I found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb.”  If he’d have been a perfectionist he might have stopped after one failure or he might have looked at his odds of succeeding and never tried at all.

I believe that our homeschool environment is the safest place in the world for our children to learn. It is the perfect place for our children to try things out, to fail and to try again. At least it is if we don’t allow our own perfectionism to interfere.

As homeschooling parents, part of our job is to encourage our children to use their curiosity and imagination to learn. But it’s like that new walker we talked about at the beginning. If we keep them in a padded room with no furniture to pull up on, how are they going to ever learn to walk? If we control our child’s homeschooling experience so that they don’t experience failure, how are they going to learn?

I think every parent at one time or another watches their child struggle with a concept and is tempted to step in and say, “no, here is how it is done.” When instead, we should step back, be patient and watch to see how they figure it out. And it’s the same way with teaching them to do their chores. Yes, the floor would be much cleaner if you swept it yourself but is that your primary goal in teaching your kids to help around the house? If it is, you are missing the point. The goal should be more about them learning to do their best and about not giving up when they don’t do it perfectly the first time. Problem-solving skills come from having a problem. If everything is perfect and there are no problems, how will they learn to problem solve?

The only way for this to work is for us to intentionally tell our perfectionistic selves to take a hike.

And this perfectionistic point of view not only squelches your students, it can also paralyze you! You can end up trying so hard to give your child that perfect education that you cram their days so full of structured activities they never have time to discover things on their own. And you and your student are both exhausted.

The key for all of us is to relax and enjoy the learning that happens every day, usually in spite of us! Relax a little and watch them accomplish more than you ever imagined!

Here are a couple of links that you might find helpful.