True Confession: I’m Writing a Book

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I can’t tell you the depth of fear that comes with admitting that I’m writing a book. Talk about a fear of failure! Now all 3 of you who are reading this will know and have to hold me accountable.

So, excuse me a moment while I adjust my cape and remember who I am.

homeschooling book, true confession

Ahem. Cough, cough.

Hello, my name is Jane and I’m writing a book. It’s a book about the diversity in homeschooling.

So here’s why I’m digging deep, all the way down to my guts, to find the courage to share this admission with you: I need your help.

If you’re a homeschooling family and would be willing to fill out a questionnaire about your homeschool (I’m collecting some data for the book), please send an email to courageousjane@gmail.com with the subject line “Homeschool Questionnaire.” I’ll send the questionnaire back to you via email with directions for sending it back.

Thank you for your help!

~ Courageous Jane

M is for …

If you aren’t familiar with the Homeschooling A-Z series, you can start here: What is she talking about?

Today I’m continuing the Homeschooling A-Z theme, with the intention of demonstrating that homeschooling families have so many similarities, and yet it’s what makes each family unique that makes homeschoolers so special. Can you relate to any of this?  

Today’s letter of the day is … M! 

M is for ...

 

In most home schools, M is for Mom. Mom, Momma, Mommy. Whatever you call her, most homeschool teachers are of the female persuasion. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a random dad out there who’s the primary teacher, but they just don’t look the same in their denim jumpers, know what I’m sayin’? That said, I know the dads play different roles in each family. Substitute teacher, principal, superintendent, personal assistant, financial manager, custodian, cook, disciplinarian, chief bottle washer. What role does Dad play at your house? In our house, Dad plays all of those roles except disciplinarian and financial manager. He also teaches really useful life skills while I sneak away to my bedroom for some peace and quiet.

(M is for “Momma needs her quiet!”)

In addition, M is for mistakes. We all make mistakes! We spend money on a resource that doesn’t work for us, we yell when patience would be more effective, we employ constructive criticism right when the child actually needs encouragement and praise, or vice versa. One of the first things I found myself teaching my kids when we started homeschooling was that mistakes are ok. We had a sign that reminded us that “Mistakes are opportunities to learn.” I’ve always tried to be very forgiving about mistakes, being very nonchalant about them. My kids have heard me say many times, “Oops. Let’s try that again!” in a cheerful voice. I’d much rather have my mistakes handled that way, and I’m sure they will appreciate my approach someday. How do you handle mistakes?

Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Oy. Sometimes M is for miserable. Let’s just admit it. Some days we just feel miserable. We don’t always know why. Maybe we’ve been stuck in the house too many days in a row. Maybe we’re second-guessing our decisions. Maybe we’ve abandoned our schedules and now no one knows what to do with themselves. Whatever it is, let me reassure you: the misery will end. No need to panic! My advice is to roll with it. Take the day off, troll through Pinterest looking for words of inspiration or ideas that will motivate, turn on some music and dance, or curl up in bed with a movie or a book. Dumping the written work for the day and playing board games or reading books instead has an amazing ability to lift us from the doldrums. Even with my kids being in middle school, I can still pull out a stack of funny picture books and all of our spirits are lifted by the time we’re done. We all have miserable days now and then. (And sometimes weeks!) FYI: If your misery is lasting months on end, you might be suffering from depression and I hope you can find the strength to reach out and ask for help. You’re definitely not alone or unique in that respect. Many others have been there and are willing to help.

Do you ever feel like M is for magic? I don’t mean the hocus-pocus stuff. I mean those magical moments when something clicks with your kids. I mean that day when you suddenly realize that you really did teach your child to read! I’m talking about what it feels like when your child instantly clicks with another homeschooler and you know you’re witnessing the birth of a new friendship. Those moments feel like magic.

M is for madness. That’s what I call those “semesters” (for lack of a better word) when we accidentally sign our kids up for too many outside activities and schedule too many playdates. Suddenly there’s not enough time for the math and spelling because we’re running to art and dance and soccer and youth group and the theater and the library and yet another field trip. Everyone’s first argument against homeschooling is the lack of socialization, but they should really be worried about our lack of downtime! 

Just a few more quickies here: M is for: music – because it can soothe the savage beast, inspire, grow brain cells, and stimulate the synapses; money – some can find ways to homeschool for free, but you have more choices if you can find a little something in the budget to purchase what you need; and mopping – a great chore you can give a child of any age! If you knew how infrequently my floors get mopped, you would understand that even done poorly, but proudly, by a toddler, everyone will still live. A little dirt never hurt!

Speaking of mopping, what is a chore you assign to the kids because you really just hate to do it yourself? (Mine is emptying the dishwasher.)

Happy homeschooling, Friends!

~ Courageous Jane

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Temptation to Change

Dear Homeschool Friends,

My most frequent advice to homeschoolers is to not be afraid to change things up when needed. If something isn’t working, scrap it and try something different. You hit a wall and aren’t making any progress? Look for new ideas. You hate the curriculum you chose? Find one in a different style. Kids aren’t “getting it?” Try a different method. Maybe you haven’t found their learning style yet. The work you have them doing is too easy or too hard? Be honest about that, sell it to someone else (if you bought it), and find work for them at a more appropriate level. Be flexible.

However, I also want to advise you to avoid the temptation to change when you’ve finally found something that works.

I recently realized that we’ve finally found some materials that really work for us! After four years of learning to homeschool, we have figured out what works for us, and what doesn’t. Year Five has been the most productive thus far, and my children have made the biggest leaps this year.

Four years of trial and error, purchases, borrowing, returns, scouring the library, internet, and the homeschool convention, curriculum fairs and book swaps, and peering through friends’ bookshelves and garage sales … guess what I have now? (Besides a store room of unused materials that now need homes.)

I have an email inbox full of sales notices. I have a snail-mailbox full of catalogs. I have piles of temptations! I have thoughts like “Oo, that looks like fun!” or “What a great idea! We should try that!” “I wonder if that would work?” “Oh, that would make an interesting study!” “50% off?? I should try that and see if my kids like it!”

homeschool curriculum catalog textbooks sale clearance for sale used books

Friends, the last few months have been an exercise in self-control for me. We’ve found materials that are working for us very well, but the temptations don’t stop coming. I really need to keep my focus on taking baby steps forward with what we already have and stop looking at alternatives. I need to wear a sign when I’m with other homeschool friends that says “Got what we need! Don’t tell me about anything else!”

Just to reiterate my top two pieces of advice about curriculum choices: don’t be afraid to change it up until you find something that works; and, once you find something that works, resist the temptation to keep trying out different things!

Happy homeschooling!

~ Courageous Jane

L is for …

If you aren’t familiar with the Homeschooling A-Z series, you can start here: What is she talking about?

And the letter of the day is … L! This might be my favorite letter so far! (Even better than C is for courageous?)

Remember, I’m all about truth here, and if we’re gonna talk about truth, let’s start with … L, in relation to homeschooling, is for l-o-n-g.

Not only can homeschooling days be long, but the entire journey is long, just like the parenting journey. In fact, since I’ve done it both ways, with two already graduated from public school, I can say with certainty that the homeschooling journey is longer. Face it, we are together all day, every day. When my olders were in public school, the weeks flew by. I was busy with my day doing my own thing, and they were off doing theirs. We had a few hours together in the evening, if they didn’t have an activity or practice they had to attend.

Nowadays, Thursday rolls around and some weeks all I can think is “Are you kidding me? I have to do this for two. more. days?!?” … “… for how many more years?!?” (Which reminds me of when my oldest started her last year of high school and I realized my youngest was only starting kindergarten … I couldn’t believe how much longer my life got that year.)

At the same time as it feels so long, I also can’t believe we’ve already put in almost 5 full years of this adventure! When we started, people would ask how “long” we were going to homeschool. I didn’t have an answer back then, but I’m pretty sure now we would answer “forever.”

A better truth is that L is for laughter! Our best school days are the ones where we laugh together. When things start to turn sour and I can tell our day is going downhill, that’s when I know it’s time to pull out some fun, get a little crazy, and stir up the laughs. Of course, sometimes I’m the only one laughing.

Last week, Andrew had the word “locomotion” in his vocabulary book. I tried giving him hints, but he didn’t get it. He was getting frustrated because I wouldn’t just tell him the answer. To ease the frustration, I pulled up YouTube and found the song, “Locomotion.” I got up and started dancing (and impressed myself with the fact that I still knew every word by heart). He really tried not to have fun with this (being a fifth grade boy and all), but I loved the high I got from laughing about it.

Now for the best truth of all … L is for Love. You knew it, right?

Lego Love

Lego Love

We give our “reasons for homeschooling” all kinds of different names, but what it all boils down to is love. We might not love every minute of every day of homeschooling, but we do it because of our love for our children. (No, not love of control or power, silly! Where did you get that idea?!?) No teacher, however much she loves teaching or loves her students, can ever love our children more than we do. We love our children enough to say, “This is the better choice for us.” We love them enough to say, “I am willing to give up a career in order to give you more of what you need.” We love them enough to say, “I would rather be with you than without you each day.”

Homeschooling Mom and Daughter

At our house, we love homeschooling. We love the freedom to come and go as we please, without signing in and out “at the office.” We love the fact that our kids are home at lunchtime with Dad since he doesn’t get home from work until we’re all in bed. We love the fact that we’re rarely sick because we’re getting enough sleep and pacing ourselves through the day. We love that we don’t have to stress over packing or buying lunches, unpaid school fees, lost school library books, and … no stress over grades! We don’t do grades at our house. We learn to learn, not to pass a test or get a good-enough grade.

What else is L for?

Learning with Legos

Learning with Legos

L is for Legos … I’ve done the whole Google search for Homeschooling with Legos and Learning with Legos and Math with Legos and Language Arts with Legos … the list goes on (L is for lists! Lots and lots of lists!). If you want to know how to incorporate your child’s love of Legos into your homeschool, skip Google and head straight for Pinterest. The ideas are there … for free! You can follow my Learning with Legos board on Pinterest by clicking here.

 

L is for lousy … as in, “No school today because we all feel lousy.” Or, “You need to erase that and do it again. It looks lousy.” … Not … “You need to come get your child. The whole class is lousy.” (infected with lice)

L is for laps … as in, homeschooling children get to sit in their parents’ laps during school, as they learn in a loving environment … Not … “Your parent didn’t sign your notebook, so you’ll have to walk laps during recess.”

L is for listen … as in, my children love to learn by listening to: stories, books on cd, the tv, music, and each other, but not my voice when I say, “Turn that off so we can do math.” But they do it anyway, because the alternative is not an option. The alternative is to go back to public school where their needs are not met so readily. The alternative is to get up each morning, rush to get ready, and ride a bus to the building where they can’t sit on a couch to learn history or go swimming before lunch for phys ed. The alternative is homework before bed, being hungry before lunch, and going outside for recess even if your socks got wet on the way to school.

L is for long days full of laughter, love, and life done together. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Happy homeschooling, friends!

P.S. I think I just heard a certain friend say “L is for looney!” As in, “The woman who writes this blog is definitely looney.” Yeah, well, I hear ya, sister, and you are looney, too!!!

A Homeschool New Year

Happy New Year! This is the day I’ve been waiting for … time for a fresh start. Time to plan for the second half of our school year, establish new routines, and figure out a rhythm that will work for us! I’m so excited!

As a family, we’re not all what I would call highly-disciplined. My husband is probably the most consistent of the group, but I happen to be very flexible with my schedule and my time, however, my kids have been homeschooled by me and have therefore learned my habits.

I’m the type who needs some alone time at the beginning of my day to get some caffeine pumping through my blood, some kind of printed words in front of my eyes and into my head, and quiet. My ideal day starts with my coffee, my bible, and a good chunk of quiet. More often than not, it starts with my son getting up before me, turning the noise box on for company, and the dogs asking to be let out of the crate … all before the coffee is done brewing.

As the totally unstructured days of the holiday break are quickly falling behind us and I’m craving some order in our life, I’m coming to the realization that we need to, again, establish some consistent routines … I need to work in time for our school work, chores, basketball, and my writing, reading, meetings, and the ever-present appointments that must be kept. We’d also like to make time to get to the Y for some exercise. I feel like it’s nearly impossible to work all of that in! But I’m giving it a good try.

To begin with, I finally got smart enough to realize I can’t do this myself. As my kids get older and more independent (and independent-minded!), I’m finding it harder to maintain command of our schedule and routines, so I finally figured out that I should talk to God about this. I prayed for His help, asking for guidance, support, and strength. Not long after, things began to come together in my brain.

Thankfully, we’ve already got our materials and books, so I don’t need to go down that road right now. I can focus strictly on what needs to be accomplished and what time is available to do that.

After prayer, I turned to *a great planner created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She’s offering the one I’m using (Arrows) for free in the month of January, although she has created some others that might be more appealing to you for only $5 each! That’s a huge bargain compared to anything you can buy in the stores, and it includes TONS of homeschool forms that will help you throughout the year. Plus, it’s all downloadable … no need to run to the store before getting started, and you only have to print what you’ll actually use. (For instance, I use a different Notice of Intent form, so I won’t print that.)

Confession of a Homeschooler Lesson Planner Arrows

Arrows Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

After downloading this planner, I made a quick list of the subjects we need to cover, added “chores” and “YMCA” to the list, and printed just one copy of the page called “Weekly Schedule Overview.” This page has hourly time slots for each weekday. Then I penciled in our meals (we aren’t even consistent on mealtimes, for goodness sake, and I often forget that we haven’t eaten yet!), our scheduled basketball practices, piano lessons, church activities, and the weekly bible study I attend.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. Since the kids are still on their “break,” I didn’t want to sit and talk with them quite yet. However, I’ve now done the beginnings of my part, and my next step is to pull them in and start a discussion about time management. We’ll reflect on how our time is currently being wasted, what our goals are for the next five months (my oldest daughter is getting married at the beginning of June so our school year will end in May this year), and how our schedule can work with “who we are.” We don’t need down-to-the-minute planning, but we need to establish routines that work within the time frame created by our outside commitments.

After our little talk, I’ll let them help me figure out what times would be best for each subject … would math be better in the morning or afternoon, and why? We’ll pencil everything in so we can erase and move things as needed until we find something that works.

Once we start, I intend to keep track of how well we do. I don’t expect that we’ll hit everything all the time, but if we’re making an acceptable amount of progress (guidelines set by my husband and I), settling into a rhythm and routine, and I’m not missing any appointments, I’ll consider it a success.

I’m so excited to get back to “normal” around here and have enough time set aside for all we need to do!

Have you already found a system that works well for your family or are you starting fresh with the new year, too? Please click on the little conversation bubble at the top of this post (by the title) and share your own story. Let’s learn from each other.

*I am in no way affiliated with Erica other than being a fan of her writing and her creations. I am not being compensated for writing this … I’m just sharing what I’m using and what I like. :)