My Homeschool is Better Than Yours

My Homeschool is Better Than Yours

My homeschool is better than yours. There. I said it. But often, I don’t believe that. And I bet you don’t always believe that either.

We compare our homeschools, our curriculum, our mothering, even our food choices. And we always come up short in our own minds.

  • Susie homemaker down the street makes fresh bread every week for her family. Why can’t I be more like that?
  • Mrs. Charlotte Mason reincarnated over there has so much fun in the dirt with her kids. Why can’t I be more like that?

Those are comparisons that lead to believing lies that we aren’t good enough, that our kids aren’t getting the best education (or enough socialization), and that we just don’t measure up and we never will. Enough! I am going to tell you why these comparisons and lies are just not true.

  • God created you, knowing the family he had planned for your future. Think about that the next time doubts about your mothering skills start to creep in.
  • You know your children better than anyone else on this planet. You chose your curriculum based on that knowledge. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be right, but it does mean that your carefully considered and crafted homeschool resources were picked with more knowledge and care than anyone else out there would have dreamed of putting into the task.
  • You watch your children learn and grow, you grow with them, and because you are their teacher, you are able to tweak and adjust their learning environment according to their and your needs. No one and nowhere else has that ability.

Homeschool mom, you are awesome!

Today we are flipping this comparison on its head. I want you to comment below on why your homeschool is better than mine (and hers).  And then I want you to believe it because your homeschool really is the best one for your family. God picked you to be the teacher, the mother, and the glue of your family. Pray everyday that as He sings over you, He sings over your homeschool, too.

Why My Homeschool is Better than Yours

If you need a little inspiration, I polled some homeschool moms and here is what they had to say about why their homeschools are awesome:

My homeschool is obviously better than yours because we get so involved in hands on learning, and are up to our eyeballs in Legos.  Seriously, our homeschool works great because we can get moving for my fidgety active kids. – Ticia, Adventures in Mommydom

My homeschool is better than yours because we are board game OBSESSED and play daily :) – Caitlin, My Little Poppies

 My homeschool works best because we allow flexibility for changing interests and asynchronous abilities. No two days look quite the same, so it never gets mundane or dull, and we love exploring whatever topic tickles our fancy this week… who knows what fun next week will bring! – Colleen, Raising Lifelong Learners

My homeschool works best because we use *gasp* workbooks and flash cards! – Kaylene, This Outnumbered Mama 

My homeschool is awesome because we use Living Books everyday! – Meredith, Sweetness and Light

My homeschool works best because we make the most of technology and free learning resources online. My kids can truly customize their education and learn anything they are interested in without having to worry if it’s at their “grade level”. – Aadel, These Temporary Tents

My homeschool works best for my kids because we listen to loads of living books,do weekly projects & experiments and follow the same daily & weekly routines. – Kyle, Aspired Living

My homeschool works best because we are an in-house tutoring service where each child receives daily one-on-one attention. – Sara, Classically Homeschooling

My homeschool works best because I have studied and continue to study the individual needs and interests of my children. – Crystal, Triumphant Learning

My homeschool works best because we use a blend of Charlotte Mason and unschooling. While we are interest-led, we use the principles of the Charlotte Mason method, filling our lives with great literature, art, nature studies, and plenty of real-life learning. – Michelle, Heart of Michelle

My homeschool works best because *gasp* our assignment sheets keep us on task. Weekly checklists help this mama to dot her “i”s and cross her “t”s, and the kids like knowing what is expected of them. – Heidi, Starts at Eight

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Creating a Homeschool Portfolio

Creating a Homeschool Porfolio

The end of our school year is quickly approaching. And for us that means that I am putting the finishing touches on our homeschool portfolios.  I love being able to flip through our notebooks at the end of the year and see all the progress my boys have made and remember the fun projects we did together.

A quick note: Be sure to check the homeschool laws for your state. Where I live, we have the option of either keeping a portfolio or testing at the end of each year.  You want to make sure that you are in compliance with whatever laws are in place.

In my early homeschool years, it was a mad dash at the end of the year to get our portfolios together in time for evaluations.  I finally learned my lesson and work on each notebook all year long. This way when evaluation season rolls around, we are ready to go. And I like to keep things really simple: 3 ring binders, dividers, and sheet protectors.

Here are some tips to help you get started with homeschool portfolios

1. Have a Homeschool Portfolio Plan

I am a big planner,  typically planning our entire year in advance.  I use these lesson plans to help get an idea of what I want to keep for our portfolios.  I also use our plans to create sections for the portfolios: math, reading, copywork, history, etc.

2. Don’t Keep Everything for the Potfolio

You don’t have to keep every single piece of paper that your children work on during the school year. The point of a portfolio is to show progress. I like to pick 3-4 items for each 12 week term to include in our portfolios.  I often ask my boys what they want to include.

Things to keep include any paperwork that you have to turn in to the school board, lists of books your child has read, and a list of what curriculum you’ve used.

3. Take Pictures

This is something that I just stared doing last year.  Anytime that you take a field trip, take your camera along so you can include a picture from the location in your portfolio. Also pictures come in handy for those big projects that won’t fit in your notebook. Video is another great way to preserve projects and abstract assignments.

4. Scan and Save Digital Versions

I like to scan the contents of our portfolio and save the image files on my computer. Depending on the rules in your state, you may be able to email the document for evaluation. I like to go in person for ours, but I am required to keep the portfolios for three years. I like the idea of saving things digitally instead of having lots of paper to store.

5. Let Your Kids Make it Personal

Each year I print a cover for my boys’ notebooks. They are allowed to decorate this page anyway they want.  I also give them an About Me page to put in the front. This helps the teacher who does our evaluations get to know my boys better.

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3 Questions to Ask Before You Plan for Next Year

3 Questions to Ask Before You Plan for Next Year
About halfway through our school year I get really excited about the upcoming year. In the past I would usually create a plan that I would end up regretting about halfway through the year. Noticing this pattern, I chose to make a change.  I put my life coaching skills to work as I started evaluating our year before making plans for the upcoming school year. I found these three questions extremely helpful during that evaluation and planning process.

#1 What went well?

This is a very important place to start. When you are in planning mode, you can save yourself a lot of searching and stressing if you know what went well for that year.

Did you finally find a history curriculum that your entire family loved? Great! Stick with it for next year!  If you figured out that your child will not complain about math if he can work on math facts in a mask and cape, stick with it.

Looking at the things that were successful for your year, will help you see the progress that you’ve made over the last few months. I have found that anytime that I can feel like I’ve accomplished something, it motivates me to keep going.

#2 What didn’t go well?

For the past four  years there is always something that simply doesn’t go as planned.

  • projects we didn’t get to
  • curriculum that didn’t work for us
  • scheduling that was a big flop

Just as you need to look at the success from the year, you also need to look at what didn’t work. Seeing what didn’t work will give you a starting point for making changes.

#3 What needs to change?

Here’s where some actual planning comes in. Take a look at the things you wrote down or thought about from #1 and #2 and note where changes need to be made.  Do you need to find a new resource or curriculum all together? Maybe a minor tweak of how you use something you already have will be enough.

When I finished going over those 3 questions this past month, I realized that there wasn’t a lot that I needed to buy for next year. There were things that went really wrong this year (like math) that I found a good fix for and other things like nature study that we rocked!

What about you? How do you get started with your planning for next year?

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Announcing Civitas – a Card Game for Learning about World Governments

Bright Ideas Press is proud to announce a brand new product release by Tyler Hogan, the author of WonderMaps and North Star Geography.

Civitas Card Game • learn forms of government • by Tyler Hogan of Bright Ideas Press

Civitas is a card game about forms of government. It’s designed for ages 10 and up and is an outgrowth of the chapter on world government from North Star Geography. See the product in our store here.

Reserve Your Civitas Government Game Now

The Civitas card game will be available summer 2015, but you can reserve your deck by placing a pre-order today. As soon as the cards are in the warehouse, you will be shipped a set.

More About Civitas

In this smart, fast-paced game, players pass laws, solidify leadership, and rule the table while they get a world government lesson. Mix-and-match the 8 included decks to rule in a:

  1. Democracy
  2. Monarchy
  3. Communism
  4. Theocracy
  5. Plutocracy
  6. Military
  7. Republic
  8. Anarchy

Features:

  • Ages 10 to Adult
  • Play time: 5 Minutes to an hour
  • Minimal setup/cleanup
  • Box includes 225 Playing cards, 12 leadership cards, and simple rules

Testimonials About Civitas

Hand of cards“Honestly, any game that has my college kid, my high school kid, my middle school kid, and my elementary kid playing together and unplugged from electronics… that’s a huge win for this homeschooling mom!”
—Stacey Lane, Layered Soul

“Got to say that we thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a winner. It kept everyone (of all ages) engaged constantly in the game.”
—Hal and Melanie Young, Raising Real Men

“Civitas is an engaging way to immerse yourselves in forms of government. Not only do you get to behave as a government would, you get to do it in a fun, fast paced card game with multiple rounds.”
—Heather Woodie, Blog She Wrote

Click the logo below to see Civitas in our online store and pre-order today.

Civitas

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Homeschooling: Melding Spontaneity with Reality

melding spontaneity with reality

Looking in the rear view mirror at the homeschooling road behind us, I see more than an educational system. I see a life lived. Make that four lives.

Each of the four people in our family has a different story to tell because each of us look in our own rear view mirrors. We may have been on the same journey, but we saw different sights, had different points of view, and in some cases, used different maps taking different roads to where we are now.

For research purposes, I was about to spontaneously email my family and ask for a 200-300 word synopsis of their thoughts on the homeschooling experience.

However, I paused for a moment to think of their lives.

It’s nearing college finals for two of the four, and my husband’s co-worker has vacation this week, so it’s not really a good time to ask them to write an essay even if it is a short one.

Time Sways

And there it is, today’s homeschooling lifestyle tip:

There are good times for some activities and bad times for the same activities.

Learning our families’ time sways – analogous to mood swings — can save us much drama.

What happens when our inspired moments meet our family’s realities?

Let’s take that mini-essay I almost asked my family to write as an example. It’s about as close as I come to assigning homework these days, other than planning our occasional pow wows.  Even those I’m taking a break from as much as possible this year.

The Great Idea

First, we have a Great Idea. Here was mine:

Ask the family to write about their homeschooling experience.

Factoring in personalities, I sized it at a doable 200 to 300 words each because some would take the writing prompt and not feel it was complete until a three-volume set was bound and ready for sale. Another might be tempted to hand in a canned sentence and call it a day: “Homeschooling was very good to me.”

Had I followed through on the idea, I would have liked a solid written snack, not a mouse nibble or an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The Plan

After we have a Great Idea, we usually make a plan that would make life easy — on ourselves.

I chose email.

It’s so easy to shoot off ideas when we are the ones initiating the project.

The ones on the receiving end may not be as thrilled at its timing, which leads me straight to the third point, which thankful I reached before I hit send.

Their Realities

This is where:

  • Our plan converges with their reality.
  • Our desire can meet their resistance.
  • Our interests may slap their plans in the calendar face.
  • Our power as parents can be abused.

Yah, I don’t like that either.

But if it’s true, it’s better we face it while we can change our thoughts, ask forgiveness, and make new plans with our families rather than against them.

Autoschediasms May Instigate Drama

As parents, we have the right to mold our children’s plans.

We even have a responsibility to do so.

Which is why this post is about off-the-cuff assignments (dare I say edu-rabbit trails?) not our regularly scheduled curricula plans.

If the kiddos are in the middle of a project that is taking their hearts and souls to new learning heights, let’s be careful not to throw an extemporaneous curve ball, an autoschediasm, into their already-in-work plans.

We may end up with an unplanned Greek drama on our hands. Time sway meet mood swing.

The Solution

It’s rather simple, actually; ask them if this is a good time.

If not, tuck the idea onto your planning calendar for the next day or the next week. By the time you see the idea again, it may not be as important to you as it once was.

If it still burns a hole in your heart wanting to get out, ask your family if now is a good time. They may have a bit of free time to squeeze in your amazing idea. Or they may not.

The Prize

Either way, you’ve respected their time, modeling the behavior you want them to share freely with you when your project has wings of its own and they want to direct its flight path.

Life Tip in a Nutshell

Blend your spontaneous plans into your children’s reality – with cautious, loving care.

Oh, and did I ask the family if this was a good time to write a short essay?  Nope.  I knew it wasn’t.  And I love them more than I love my great idea.

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Five Ways To Add Spring Fun To Your Homeschool

Five Ways To Add Spring Fun To Your Homeschool

I can say without a doubt that spring is my favorite season. After months of being stuck inside while it’s cold and wet outside, I am more than ready to see the sun and shoo the kids outdoors. If your homeschool has seemed to drag on through the winter months and kids are a little stir crazy, add a little spring fun to your homeschooling.

Sit outside

It seems simple, but just moving some lessons outdoors can really change things up for you and the kids. Do your read alouds sitting on the swing. Send kids to sit on a bench outside to do their independent work. Do a hands on science project in the driveway. Just being outdoors can feel refreshing— even when you’re doing the same work.

Visit (or Plant) a Garden

We’ve tried a garden a number of times. Rarely have we succeeded. The deer ate what we planted behind our house. The small container gardens dried out with too little watering. The rain made everything so muddy we missed the planting season. Despite good intentions, we can’t seem to manage a garden.

But we’ve found an alternative to raising our own vegetables — visiting the community garden in our city or local farms that offer tours.  It’s a bonus if you find a farm or garden that allows you to pick your own produce.

Head to the Nature Museum

Many nature museums offer outdoor activities as the weather becomes mild. Nature centers and preserves typically have trails on which you can observe plants and wildlife.

Stretch your dollars by inquiring about family memberships and discounts for homeschoolers.

Head to the State Park

State parks are usually very inexpensive and some have homeschool days for a discount or free admission. Roaming the park’s trails is great in the beautiful spring weather. At a state park you can also often visit museums that feature prominent, local historical figures or showcase how people lived in the area during different time periods. Some state parks have the added bonus of a river or lake for fishing or boating.

Study Nature

Head outdoors with a sketch pad or notebook for a nature journal. Find things that interest you and sketch them. Older kids can also write a short description. Challenge kids to look for different things and see who can find them first— a cocoon, a bird’s nest, moss on a tree. If you or the kids find something that particularly interests you, look it up when you head back indoors and learn about something new.

It can be fun and motivating to your homeschool when you take time to enjoy spring by changing up your normal routines and getting out to experience the sunshine and warmer temperatures.

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