Home School, Home's Cool

Journey with me as I share what I've learned about becoming a homemaker and educating my children at home.

So the summer is halfway over and the new school year is inching toward us. It definitely goes by quickly and I imagine even more so for families who are unsure of what this new school year is even going to look like. You may be stuck in limbo with decision making—and I’d say you’re most likely not alone there. It’s hard to make decisions when so many variables are not set in stone. That’s why so many families are turning to homeschool right now. There are just too many moving parts happening with the public school system and it’s too hard to say yes to sending the kids off to school when there’s many districts without a clear cut answer on what school is going to look like. And no one wants to make the choice to continue public school and then be thrown into remote learning again two months into the year and have no back up plan.

Anyway, this post isn’t about making the choice to homeschool- it’s more about getting you through the summer with some sanity left to spare when September rolls around! I wanted to talk about how a summer schedule can help with that. This summer hasn’t exactly been the norm. Most things are closed and trips, vacations and cookouts aren’t happening like they usually do over the summer months in many parts of the country. With that, the days at home with kids can be long. When I say summer schedule, I am not talking about extending the school year–so don’t run away. It’s just that some structure amidst the monotony of feeling like you’re living the same day over and over can help break things up. I found that the best way to help myself stay engaged with my kids and help my kids from going stir-crazy themselves during this time has been to give them some sort of summer schedule. Some intentional blocks of time during the day. It’s not intense and we’re definitely not tied to it—but it gives us some sense of purpose and function especially when the world is flipped upside down. As the school year gets closer, we’ll stick more closely to the summer schedule to get them more ready for the more solid structure again.

I mentioned how the schedule helps me engage with my kids. Maybe you’re one of those moms that I long to be, the type that is just naturally *on* with her kids, without having to put forth much effort. If so, this may not be helpful to you. I don’t know what makes me not like that. Maybe it’s my slow processing speeds and my kids high talking speeds or maybe it’s my introverted tendencies and my kids constantly forcing me to people from sun-up to sun-down. And I don’t know about you but when I am cooped up in the house with my kiddos for long periods of time and there’s nothing on the agenda, my tendency is to check out. Sure I answer their questions but I skim the surface, I don’t go really deep into the answers. Sure I meet their needs, fetch them snacks and meals, wash them up, do all of the *things*, but I don’t spend an afternoon building forts or painting portraits of one another. For whatever reason, I need to be scheduled to do those things!

One day, perhaps a couple of weeks after the school year wrapped up, it occurred to me that our mornings were more rocky than they usually were. I was scattered and unfocused in the morning and my kids seemed to lack direction. So we were pretty much feeling the same. I noticed that we’d let go of a habit that was essential for us starting our day off right. When the school year was in session, we always started every morning with our Bible time and prayer. Then, when school came to an end that piece suddenly went out the window. I didn’t let go of it because Bible time and prayer isn’t important to me. I let it go because I am a creature of structure and habit and Bible was tied into our daily school schedule. Not our daily living schedule. Oops, I’d put God in a school box and not a life box. I hate to say that God needs a scheduled slot in my life but it’s the only way I stick to anything. Anyway that’s what got me to thinking that we needed some sort of structure to survive and enjoy this summer. If you’re looking for a rich yet bite-sized Bible devotional to do with you kids I highly recommend the ones in the photo below. They answer common and thought provoking questions and describe different aspects of science beautifully.

You might be thinking that as an exhausted parent, a schedule sounds like just another thing to do and be responsible for. I understand that, but I have to tell you that when I spend small chunks of time engaging with my kids in meaningful ways, they are in better moods throughout the day. In my house that is worth the weight of a little scheduling! When I am on autopilot my kids sense it and they gravitate toward me even more! Autopilot is never a restful existence even though I sometimes try to convince myself of it. I have fallen off the schedule wagon for a couple of weeks after having big changes to our home life and I’m feeling the disorientation of it. I especially need the structure when there are big changes–so I will be going back!

Staying involved for designated times gives the kids the security that they’ll have time with me, they know what their day will look like to some degree and then they’re more likely to give me my time when I need to restore myself. When I created an intentional schedule to do with my kids, it gave me short spurts of designated opportunity for me to engage in a meaningful ways with them. And if I am exhausted, which I usually am, I know that I can push through and do it because the chunks of time are bite-sized and down-time is scheduled in. It keeps me going. Plus, the beauty of it is that if something more appealing comes up, we can toss it out the window on a whim and do that instead. The schedule is just there to keep us going day after day when there is nothing interesting on the calendar.

So if you’re still with me and want an idea of what our days look like, check out Our Summer Schedule

Of course your days don’t have to look like ours. You might not want it to look anything like ours. It’s just what works for our family and it gives you an idea of what you can do. You may notice I didn’t use any time stamps on our schedule. That’s simply because it’s summer and I want our days to be relaxed and not confined to the clock. We wake up at different times every day depending on how well we slept and I never want to feel like I am rushed or late for something on our schedule. It’s more of a flow. You’ll also notice we only have a small block of educational screen time thrown into the day. Sometimes I am more liberal with the length of time, most of the time I try to stick to the schedule because it helps my kids keep their screen addiction under control. Yes, it is an addiction for them! We do video games on the weekends because one of my boys really needs the strict limits. Again, it’s whatever works for you.

Well that’s enough for today, I’ve gone on long enough. I hope you’ve found this helpful and if not that’s okay too! I do appreciate you dropping by.

Stay sane,

Erin

So perhaps you’ve made the decision that you’re going to educate your children at home this year, but now you’re trying to figure out the logistics of how you’re going to run your homeschool. This may seem like a daunting task and I definitely empathize with new homeschoolers on having to sift through all of the choices out there. Especially when you may not be sure how you want your school to look. It may feel like you’re trying on different boxes to see if you can fit your family into them. If that’s the case, stop right there.

I want to give you a very important piece of advice to carry with you throughout your school year. Use it as a mantra. I even stuck it on the top of my homeschool room’s bulletin-board to remind me where I stand between all of these books and lesson plans. Simply put, it’s this: Let the curriculum serve you, do not let it become your master. In other words, do not become a slave to those beautifully organized, laid out lesson plans. Do not beat yourself up if you’re halfway through the year and are realizing this box isn’t working for you. Allow yourself to break out of it and rebuild it. It doesn’t mean you have to return or resell all of the curriculum you bought and start over. It doesn’t mean you failed the curriculum. It means it failed you in the form that it was presented in. But it is salvageable. You can make it your own. And you will not ruin your children’s education!

Before I go any further, I just want to say that if there is one book I would encourage you to read before jumping into the new school year, it is Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. It really helped to re-frame this frazzled mom’s anxious mind and was recommended to me by a veteran homeschooling mom. In the book, Mackenzie discusses how to let the curriculum serve your needs and does a beautiful job of explaining it.

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Anyway, back to that mantra. The minute you let the curriculum start becoming your master, what do you become? Yup–a slave. Yuck. I caution you against this because I became a slave to our curriculum the first year and it is not a fun place to be, as you might have guessed. My first year homeschooling was basically me trying to replicate public school at home. Please save yourself and your kids some stress and don’t do that! I outfitted an entire classroom out of our home office and bought the most cookie cutter curriculum I could find. I had my preschooler and kindergartner (both boys, mind you) doing distance learning via a DVD classroom experience. Sounds fun right? Well fun wasn’t what I was going for.

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If you read my first post, you know I was kind of thrown into homeschooling by circumstance. I truly believe God uses circumstances to call us to things we would have otherwise said “no way” to. I didn’t exactly feel prepared to educate my kids without following some strict guidelines. I was going for “not failing”! Fun could come after the not failing part. Ha! I don’t think at the time I was willing to admit it, but I believe my reasoning for choosing distance learning was something like this: If I had a virtual teacher teaching them and we were checking all of the boxes that public school checked, then we wouldn’t miss anything, they couldn’t fall behind and if they did it wouldn’t be because I am a horrible teacher who struggles with planning and executive functioning! Can you tell how scared and insecure I was? So if that’s you, I get it! If it’s not you, then you’re already ahead of where I was in the beginning!

Anyway, the way I started out is a lousy way to start homeschooling! But I had to work through that and figure it out for myself. We suffered through this style of learning for almost a whole year. And bless those boys of mine, they did a pretty good job going along with it. Completing the lessons in our curriculum usually took 4 hours a day! There was so much busy work and sitting still. And because I was following the curriculum to a “T” with the fear of missing things and falling “behind”, I put way too much pressure on my kids and myself to complete each lesson in its entirety every day. I never considered the question, “Who, exactly, will your kids be behind? And when, exactly, do they need to catch up to this illusive student body?”

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I didn’t know that education didn’t have to look like this. That’s just what I’d come to know about school from attending public school my entire life. But public schools operate in that way out of necessity. They have 20-30 children per classroom and they need to fill an entire day so that parents can work. While going through this journey, my pastor, who has his Master’s Degree in Education, let me in on a secret which felt like a boulder rolling off of my shoulders. At 5 and 7 years old, my kids only need an hour to an hour and a half dedicated to school time…TOPS! The rest is learned from play and the world around them. It had never occurred to me that my kids can learn and absorb in less than 2 hours, what the public school system teaches children in a 6-7 hour day because I only have my children to teach.Here’s a helpful chart to see where you stand with your kiddos.

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Our second year went much better. I slowly and cautiously broke out of the box. I still needed some coaxing and re-framing with regard to my thoughts around education and school. I still didn’t feel entirely confident that I wasn’t going to mess up my children’s education by veering off the well traveled path of public school methods. So I geeked out a bit and purchased this book, which I found incredibly helpful:

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I threw in a preview of one of the helpful tools (for K5-8th grade) that is provided in the back of the book, which is there to assure the reader that their kiddo is on the right track.

But what I really found helpful about it was the information it provides about the history and philosophy of state education and Biblical education.

I’m going to wrap this up here for today, but I want to just lastly say that when you’re choosing how you want your homeschool to look, remember that you are the boss! You don’t need to fit any mold and your children will learn. When you’re homeschooling it is not about testing and passing exams. It’s about progressing in their learning. So as long as you’re doing the work every day and building onto what they know little by little, at their pace, they won’t fall behind–there is no one to fall behind! I grew up studying for tests, passing them and then forgetting the information. A child will retain much more if they learn at their own pace until a concept is mastered and find joy in learning through spending quality time doing it together with their family! Try not to stress whether they’re at the same level as everyone else or not. It isn’t a race.

I hope you’ve found some of this helpful. I want to encourage you to check back soon. I’ll be writing about a few different topics in the near future including:

  • What it looks like to homeschool in under 2 hours
  • How you can have your own IEP for your special needs child at home
  • How you can introduce a light summer schedule to keep your kiddos structured and help ease them into the new school year
  • How reading aloud together can be a great asset to your homeschool and your relationship with your child

Thanks for reading 🙂

Welcome. If you have stumbled upon my page while looking for encouragement or practical advice relating to homeschooling, I hope you’ll stick around and check back in regularly and that I can be helpful to you. I am here writing for the beginners. For the parent that has been thrust into considering homeschooling for whatever reason and never thought they would embark upon this kind of journey. For the parent who is trying to take it ALL in and keep their head above water amidst the overwhelming sea of information and decision making that comes with making this kind of life change.

I won’t have all the answers, that’s for sure. I don’t even have tons of experience under my belt! I’ve only been doing this for 2 years. But I suppose that’s why I have such a heart for beginners and can relate to that stage so much–because it wasn’t that long ago where I was in that same spot! So as I said, I definitely haven’t been doing this long, but I am going to be as authentic as possible in everything that I share with you about what has worked and hasn’t worked and why.

And I’m going to share with you in my posts why you are the best person on the planet for the job! If you’re anything like I was in the beginning (and even still now at times) you’re not buying that for a minute. Maybe you’re thinking you’re not educated enough or have forgotten too much of your education to homeschool your children. Maybe you think you’re not patient enough, not organized enough, not focused enough….not….ENOUGH. But the truth that I have been learning along the way is this: that is a big fat lie. And you’ve allowed yourself to be programmed to believe it for too long, so it may take some time to rewire that belief.

What does it take to start homeschooling? For me it was literally faith the size of a mustard seed. And a situation that was challenging enough to put me in a spot where I would even consider it as an option! Are you there? I get it. Let me be honest with you—I said I would never homeschool my children. A friend had mentioned it to me when my oldest child was in preschool and struggling with some things. I scoffed at the idea. I was fine with the early childhood stuff but there was no way I could teach them the foundations of their education. I couldn’t be responsible to teach them to read or write or learn math concepts—I didn’t even understand math concepts myself! I had forgotten all of those as soon as I passed the required tests in school!

No, I definitely wouldn’t homeschool my kids and mess up their education. Plus I needed the break that came with them being in public school. My kids were two years apart and non-stop, on-the-go boys and we were just finally reaching the stage where one of them was heading off to preschool! I was a little excited at the prospect of my youngest heading off a couple years down the road as well and having actual ALONE time!

Well, my situation, you know, the one that put me into the spot to even consider homeschool, came in the form of my kindergartner with special needs and an IEP, struggling so badly to fit into the public school box that he was being sent home a couple times a week. The teachers and special education staff simply didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t feel comfortable sending a part of my heart into a building that didn’t know how to help him other than to send him back home to his mama. I’d been wrestling with the thought of not sending him back at all for weeks as things got worse and worse at the school. I knew that keeping him home would mean that his education would rest on my shoulders. There were only two doors. I kept looking for a third door, but it never showed up. God just gave me the two. The one I walked through required faith. All I could muster up was faith the size of a mustard seed, but if you know of this biblical parable, then you know that God says that is enough! I’d prayed and prayed and talked with my husband and church family a lot in those weeks. We decided to walk through the homeschooling door and we decided to homeschool our youngest child as well, who was 3 at the time.

It’s been two years now and we’ve come along way. The kids have learned to read and write and do math, oh my! And they’re quite good at it, I must say. And their mama is learning to break out of the public school education box that she grew up in. I’m learning to see education differently. It’s more about quality and less about test scores. And from that, I am seeing them absorb more and have more time to study what interests them. I hope you’ll come back to visit and read about our experiences and homeschooling in general. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve been learning with you. If you’re considering homeschooling or are new to it and feeling overwhelmed, please feel free to email me with any topics that you’d like insight on. Thanks for reading!