Homeschooling When Life Refuses to Cooperate

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I was excited. This school year looked to be starting out just right.  About the only thing we do that could be considered traditional is our start and end dates. We “traditionally” begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day and end the Friday before Memorial Day. It just works easiest that way. We feel like we’ve had a full summer and can get down to business.

So we started this year on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend. We were ready. I felt the boys were taking their learning seriously and just knew that attitude would carry us well into the year, if not through the whole school year. Yeah, wishful thinking, I know.

Our first week was pure joy. Each day we accomplished more than I had expected.  It was a short week, we only do school Monday through Thursday anyway and we’d already missed Monday so we had three really good school days. The first week was a success. And I went into the weekend thinking about how to build on our momentum.

Then I got a phone call. On Sunday afternoon, I was informed that my grandfather had fallen and I was the only one able to drop what I was doing and head to Florida to take charge.  So that’s what I did. I dropped everything, including our school schedule, and spent the next two days driving from Iowa to Florida. I took one adult son to help with the driving and my youngest to keep him company while I spent unpredictable hours at the hospital. The two of them would be fine together.

I brought school work for my student to do on the trip and left instructions for my other high school student who would be staying home because of his part-time job. I tried to imagine that our perfect start to the school year would continue seamlessly over this hump in the road. Of course, that was more of that wishful thinking. While they made an attempt to do some of their work, very little was actually accomplished.

So, what do you do when your well-laid plans for school don’t go as smoothly as you would like? Well, after twenty-two years, I can say that it happens every year. Our very first year included my mother’s death from cancer. After that, there were babies being born, job changes, illness, surgeries, vacations, houseguests, financial setbacks and a cross-country move. You name it and we’ve homeschooled through it and around it.

I used to panic that my boys wouldn’t be well educated because of all the interruptions. How could we possibly do a good job with all the distractions? But year after year I dealt with the issues as they came and we seemed to do just fine. I remember thinking that we’d just had a bad day and things simply had to get better. Then there were times when we had a bad week or month. A couple of years I realized that we’d just had a bad year and that was all I could say.

I watched my boys and realized that even with long stretches that seemed to me like wasted time, or marginally productive at best, they kept learning anyway. Sometimes, the most valuable learning took place because of the other issues we were dealing with.

There are several things that I learned through these times. Things that have molded how I view our homeschool efforts and have helped me to relax.

Homeschooling is much more than book learning. We always hear that homeschooling is a lifestyle. This truth is never clearer than when we are going through something that upsets the regular flow of our school day. We learn to adapt and flow with life, using every opportunity to allow learning to happen along the way. Each experience teaches life lessons you can never find in a book. The book learning has to happen at some point, in some way, but it isn’t the most important. Building character and life skills is so much more valuable over the course of a lifetime. On our recent Florida trip, my high school son learned a lot about making sacrifices for others and about life and death. He learned patience and had the opportunity to learn some priceless life lessons from his final conversation with his 96-year-old great-grandfather. I’m so glad he wasn’t home reading a textbook.

Students can overcome all sorts of obstacles if they are motivated to learn. The thing that has helped us the most is that I’ve made it a priority to teach my boys how to learn on their own. They don’t need to be spoon-fed, so they can learn large chunks of information in a short time all on their own when they put their minds to it. When we have setbacks of weeks or months when things aren’t going as planned, they find ways to keep learning anyway. I used to think we were so far behind we’d never catch up and then I would remind myself that we aren’t trying to keep up with anyone. We are just moving along at our own pace which is all we should be doing.

You can homeschool anywhere. The idea that we have to be in a schoolroom or at a table or desktop computer for optimal learning to take place is a myth. We have done school in airplanes, in cars, in bed, in the backyard on a blanket, at the park, at the library, at church, in a hotel room, and at other people’s houses while on vacation. Sometimes we use books, sometimes we use laptops and sometimes we just use life.

So when you hit your own detour or delay in your homeschool journey, try to remember that in the grand scheme of things, this is a temporary obstacle. You can recover. You can find ways to continue the learning process in spite of the issues at hand. Remember, homeschooling is a lifestyle and that means it happens while you’re just doing life, no matter what that entails.

 

 

50 States Notebook

notebookingIf you are familiar with the concept of notebooking, you will enjoy this website full of ideas for creating a notebook of the 50 states.  If you have never considered doing notebooks with your students, this topic lends itself very well to learning the ropes.

By doing one state at a time, you can easily get into a rhythm of working on it a little at a time. Here are some possible plans.

              • You can work as fast or as slow as you want. You could do one state every couple of days for the entire school year and get a simple overview of each state.
              • You could stretch it out and do one state a week and cover everything in two years. Perhaps pulling in a little history in the process.
              • You could also allow several weeks to each state and use it for geography and regional studies for all of your middle school years.
              • If you wanted to work with several students who are in different grades you could start the oldest one and when the next one is ready, have them work on each new state together until the oldest one is done and then complete the states the younger ones haven’t done yet. You could probably work with students from grades 5-9 at the same time, just requiring a little more effort from the older ones.

There are many subjects that work quite well for notebooking. Try the 50 states and then go on to other topics. Soon your students will have a collection of their learning adventures to share with others.

Here are a few other resources that might help.

The Homeschool History Notebooking Journal

Notebooking: For Homeschooling, A Beginners Guide

Exploring the 50 States Notebook Journal

Free Kindle Books!

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I think most homeschoolers look for bargains when it comes to buying curriculum. That’s why the market for used curriculum material is so hot.

I ran across this post this morning for free educational books you can download for your Kindle. You don’t own a Kindle? No worries…you can download Kindle apps for your browser, smartphone, or tablet here. This means you can download and use these books even if you don’t own a Kindle. All you need is an Amazon account.

Take a look at these books on Frugal Homeschool Family. But don’t wait…they won’t be free for long.

Resources to Help with Visualizing Large Numbers

Here are a couple of great resources that will help students visualize very large numbers.

One is a book written for early elementary ages called How Big is a Million? published by Usborne. It gives a simple illustration about understanding large numbers that young children can grasp. It comes with a poster to further help children visualize what a million looks like.

And for older students, we recently found a very interesting website called the MegaPenny Project that shows large numbers by using stacks of pennies. The first image is one single penny and by the time you get to the end of the illustrations, you are at a Quintillion. While we will,  in all likelihood, never actually have to use a number that big, it’s still quite fascinating to see the stacks of pennies grow to that enormous number.

Have you found other sources that help with this concept? I’d love to hear about them.

 

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 by Ruth Beechick

If I had to pick one book on homeschooling to recommend it would be You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick. In my twenty-two years of homeschooling, I have never read a more useful book for grades 4-8. Actually, the concepts Ruth discusses in this book will be useful for your entire homeschool journey.

This book is not a curriculum that you can pick up and use directly for instruction. What you will find is page after page of sensible, practical suggestions on how to teach the subjects you need to be teaching your children. The author gives you dozens of examples of ways to teach using books you already have or books from the library. You can still choose to purchase a standard curriculum like Abeka or Sonlight and use the ideas in this book. But you can also use this book as a guide to help you create your own personalized curriculum that meets your student’s unique learning style.

The book’s approach is simple, natural learning. It focuses on taking what is available to you and making it a tool for learning. The author doesn’t give you lesson plans and information to teach. Instead, she helps you find ways to gain confidence in yourself and your student and helps you relax in your homeschool journey. That makes it less stressful and much more enjoyable. Learning becomes a natural part of everyday life and not something artificial and irrelevant.

Ruth’s methods are easy to understand and easy to implement. You will find that you refer to this book over and over. My copy is falling apart!

The Threat of Pornography in the Home

I raised seven boys during a time when home computers and the Internet were gaining momentum. These tools have become invaluable resources for teaching your child at home. Unfortunately, left unsupervised, your child can get drawn into pornography. It happens innocently enough…a click on a link takes you to a less than wholesome site. Or curiosity takes control and the search engines like Google or Bing lead us to sights and web sites that our child’s young brains and eyes aren’t prepared to handle. Before long, this curiosity can become an addiction.

This video explains how pornography works on the brain and better yet, provides hope in that the addiction can be reversed. Continue reading

Ohio Homeschoolers Granted Equal Access

Ohio FlagGreat news for those families that homeschool in Ohio. Legislation was just passed that provides “… the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities offered at the district school to which the student otherwise would be assigned during that school year.”

In other words, a student is no longer required to enroll in their local public school system to be able to participate in sports, music, and other extracurricular activities.

Another significant provision of the bill is that homeschoolers can receive funding from the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Program (PSEO). This program pays for dual enrollment college courses at participating Ohio institutions of higher learning.

You can read more about the bill, including the text of the legislation, on the Home School Legal Defense Association web site.

Let’s hope that other states take notice and follow suit.

Resources to Assist You

Homeschool Support Resources

Websites:

http://www.home-school.com/ (lists articles, groups, events related to homeschooling)

http://homeschooling.about.com/od/magazines/Magazines_and_Publications.htm (a list of homeschool magazines)

http://www.nathhan.com/index.htm ( homeschooling special needs children)

http://www.homeschool.com/ (has message forums, resource lists, and Podcasts)

Books:

Homeschooling from Scratch (1996)  by Mary Potter Kenyon

Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath-You Can Do This (2004)  by Terrie Lynn Bittner

Educating the Wholehearted Child (2011)  by Sally Clarkson

Audio Books: A Great Way to Forget the Winter Chill

At our house, it has become a tradition to spend the cold days of our Iowa winters listening to books on CD. We are often finished with our schoolwork shortly after lunch which leaves the long afternoons to work together on a jigsaw puzzle while we listen to a book on CD. We have listened to some wonderful books over the years and I wanted to share our list of favorites with you.

As my children have grown we have chosen more challenging stories but while they were younger we listened to books like these:

The Magic Tree House Collection by Mary Pope Osborne ( many sets to choose from)

Little House on the Prairie Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder ( there are several of these to choose from)

Your Story Hour collections (there are many of these to choose from)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner ( there are many of these to choose from)

Charlotte’s Web by E B White

When the boys got older we listened to books that required a little more concentration like these:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

Adventures in Odyssey by the AIO Team ( there are many of these to choose from and they are all good!)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey ( this one is hard to find. Check your library)

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (this one is hard to find. Check with your library)

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck ( also by this author: A Long Way From Chicago, Here Lies the Librarian, and A Season of Gifts)

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater ( and the sequel – Looking for Bobowicz)

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Penderwicks by Jean Birdsall

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Right now we are listening to the third book in a series by Trenton Lee Stewart called The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is by far our favorite series to date. The first two books are called The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.