Homeschooling 101 E-Book

Many of you enjoyed the popular Homeschooling 101 series. Now I’ve compiled it all into one convenient e-book.

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If you’re new to homeschooling or still just considering it, Homeschooling 101 provides answers to all those questions swirling around in your head, such as:

“How do I start homeschooling?”

“Where will we find support and friendship?”

“How do I convince our extended family?”

“How do I choose curriculum?”

In addition to having my blog series compiled into one PDF document, Homeschooling 101 includes two previously unpublished bonus sections:

  • Homeschooling on a Shoestring
  • Tips from Veteran Homeschoolers

Visit my Homeschooling 101 page to learn more, view sample pages, or order your copy.

How to Homeschool: Bookmark Great Online Resources

Today is the final day in the 10 Days of Homeschooling 101 series. I hope it’s been helpful. Before I share today’s post, I wanted to ask for your input. I’m considering publishing the series as an ebook for those who would like to have this series of posts more easily accessible. I want to include a bonus section of advice to new homeschoolers from veteran homeschoolers.

What advice do you wish you’d been given when you first started homeschooling?

By commenting on this post, you acknowledge that you are giving permission for me to use your comments in the upcoming ebook. If you would like me to include your name and a link back to your blog, please leave your blog address in your comment.

Oh, and, don’t forget, there will be no Weekly Wrap-Up this week since I’m on my way to the 2:1 Conference! Squee!!

Now, on to the good stuff…

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The Internet is an incredible wealth of information – so much so that it can be overwhelming. While you need to realize that you can’t do every great craft, science experiment, or hands-on project out there – nor should you try – it is fun to include some great finds in your homeschool.

It’s also good to have some great reference tools bookmarked. And, let’s don’t even get started on Pintrest, an amazingly visual source of ideas (except, I seem to pin more recipes than anything else).

Here are some of my favorites from over the years:

Algebra Help – This is a recently-discovered find of ours and it’s awesome! You can plug in your algebra problem and it shows you how to get the answer. It’s a great resource for those of us who, after not using it for 20 years, are finding ourselves needing to help teenagers with algebra. {ahem}

Jimmie’s 50 States Notebook – A fantastic resource for putting together a study of the 50 states.

Highland Heritage Homeschool – Tons of printables, units, forms, articles and my favorite resource for reading level assessment.

Keeping Your Preschooler Occupied – An extensive list of ideas for keeping your preschooler occupied – and learning! These aren’t just ideas for keeping your preschooler out of your hair so that you can do school with the older kids; they’ll actually be working on useful, age-appropriate skill while they’re having fun.

Brightly Beaming Resources – This is the home of the Letter of the Week curriculum that I used for Josh and Megan’s preschool years. It has learning ideas from birth through early elementary school – and it’s all FREE!

World Book’s Typical Course of Study – We all know that kids develop differently and with different strengths and weaknesses, but if you ever want to know what kids “should” be learning at different ages – either for a little reassurance or for planning – World Book provides a nice set of general guidelines broken down by grade level.

Can Teach – Need an exhaustive list of writing prompts to get the ideas flowing? This one’s for you!

A Book in Time – We love learning history through literature. This site offers a chronological list of historical fiction and non-fiction books, along with lesson plans.

Science Timeline - Want to add some relevant science study in with the historical time period that you’re studying? Check out this list.

Outline Maps – Free outline maps to enhance your history or geography studies.

Paula’s Archives – Great resources for everything from preschool to high school. I’ve referred to this one for years.

National Geographic Coloring Book – Realistic, detailed coloring pages, with facts, for a variety of animals.

Spelling City – Create your own spelling lists for online study and games.

Best Homeschooling – Tons of articles to encourage and inspire. Be sure to read my favorite, “A Preschool and Kindergarten Curriculum.”

Donna Young – Hundreds of great printables for organizing your homeschool.

Vegsource Homeschool – I love their swap boards. They’re set up “flea market” style, so that each individual sets their prices. If you find what you’re looking for and it’s at a price you like, you just email the seller to  purchase it – no being outbid or having a competing bidder drive the price up. I’ve always had great success here and never a bad experience buying or selling.

Simply Charlotte Mason – Loads of great resources for those Charlotte Mason homeschoolers (or those of us with a “little twist of Charlotte Mason”). All are either free or very reasonably priced.

Games to Make – Josh and Megan have lots of experience with these games. You’ll find tons of printable games for your early learner.

Living Math – Don’t believe me that math can be fun? I didn’t either, until I found this site. Go check it out!

PPS Leveled Books – This site, which organizes books by reading level, is a great, low-key way to assess your child’s reading level or find more books to enjoy or challenge at a slightly higher level.

Crayola State Coloring Pages – Have fun working your way through a study of the United States with these great coloring pages.

Now that you have tons of sites to explore, how will you keep track of them all? Pintrest is a great option. You can also set up folders in your favorites/bookmarks. That’s what I do. I have folders such as:

  • Language arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Reading
  • History

What are some of your favorite online resources?

How to Homeschool: Plan Your Calendar

A lot of homeschooling parents are fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of folks. I guess I am, too – to an extent. When it comes to planning our school year, though, I am very much a planner.

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Our state requires that we include 180 days of school in our school year. I like to have those 180 days mapped out so that I know what our school year is going to look like. I like to know when we’re doing school and when we’re taking off.

That doesn’t mean that I’m inflexible. Our calendar isn’t set in stone by any means, but mapping out our school year at the beginning of the year helps me to plan.

My older daughter is using Switched on Schoolhouse. I like to use their auto-assign feature. In order to do that, I have to plug in our school calendar at the beginning of the year.

Also, I like to make sure that we’re always giving ourselves room to finish school by the end of May – when Brianna’s birthday occurs. She likes being off school by her birthday – and I do, too, since mine is less than two weeks later. (For the record, the other kids’ birthdays are school holidays, too. Since Josh’s birthday is in December, we usually try to wrap up for Christmas break by his birthday.)

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I like to use the school calendars on Donna Young’s site. I usually start by marking off my ideal school year. Then, I add up the days to see how close I am to 180. I usually wind up having to add 5-10 days. Once I figure out the best places to take a few less days off, I’m set for the year.

The upcoming school year will probably be a bit different. I’ve thought about year ‘round schooling before, but I never could quite work out all the details with holidays, summer birthdays, and our local homeschool convention’s late-summer schedule.

However, we’re using Trail Guide to Learning now and it is set up as six six-week units – perfect for a six-weeks-on-one-week-off schedule, with long breaks for summer and Christmas. I fully expected balking from the kids when I said the words “year ‘round schooling,” but all three of them have actually said that they like the sound of our proposed schedule.

Does that mean I won’t worry about a calendar this year? Nope! I’ve already been looking at the calendar, as a matter of fact – trying to figure out when we need to start to ensure the Christmas break lands where we want it to. I think I’ve got it figured out. I’m excited about this new possibility.

My suggestions for effectively planning your school year calendar include:

  • Know how many school days are required by your state’s homeschool  laws
  • Mark off days that you know will not be school days – birthdays, holidays, family vacations
  • Consider when you’ll want breaks – The middle of February tends to be a huge slump time for homeschoolers and public schools, alike. We took a four-day weekend in mid-February this year and that really helped alleviate a lot of the burn-out we’ve felt in the past.
  • Leave yourself some wiggle room – On the forms that I have to file with our county school superintendent, I declare our school year from August 1 of one year to July 31 of the following year even though I always plan to be finished by the third week in May. That leaves me some catch-up room if we need it.

Do you plan your school year in advance? What tips would you add?

How to Homeschool: Homeschool and Public School Parents Are not Mortal Enemies

There is a tendency, in society at large, to perceive one person’s choices as a commentary about our own. Don’t believe me? Do you breastfeed? Discuss that with a mom who has chosen to bottle-feed.

Are you a stay-at-home mom? Discuss your role with a working-outside-the-home mom. Have you chosen to circumcise your sons? Discuss that with someone who has chosen not to.

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See, all of these choices are intensely personal ones. None of them are right-and-wrong. None of them are life-and-death. Yet, we, as a society, tend to feel threatened when someone makes different choices than we do.

I still remember when we decided to pull Brianna out of public school at the end of first grade. I was on a very friendly basis with her classroom teacher – not so much with her reading teacher. I talked to her classroom teacher over the phone and discussed my concerns and our decision to homeschool for at least one year. She seemed very supportive.

Then, I went to the school for a meeting.

She had obviously already spoken to the reading teacher, with whom I had not discussed my decision, because they were ready with an arsenal of reasons why this was a terrible decision both of them, including the classroom teacher who had initially seemed very supportive. 

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They both took our decision very personally, even though it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my daughter’s learning needs.

I noticed this shift with other parents, too. I’d mention that we were going to homeschool the following year and I would see their faces close as they said, “Oh,” followed by an awkward silence.

Then, there was Josh’s speech therapist. He had speech therapy through the public school system when he was 4. The first therapist was very homeschool-friendly and everything was great. The therapist who replaced her when she quit was very standoffish – until the day we wound up having a discussion about why my family had chosen to homeschool.

When she found out that I was not anti-public school – or, at least, not anti-public school teachers – her entire demeanor changed. She even confessed that she had thought about homeschooling her own daughter at one point.

I think it’s important to realize – and to convey to your public school parent friends – that we aren’t enemies. There is much we can learn from one another. Some of my best hands-on ideas came from public school friends. I found out recently that a 5th grade public school teacher has linked to my salt dough map post on the website that her student’s parents can access for homework help.

I can’t tell you how many pleasant conversations I’ve had with public school teachers about education when I treated our discussion as one between colleagues. I think that I got the sense across that I wasn’t in competition with them – that I wasn’t looking down on them or their professions, nor was I feeling inferior in my position as my children’s teacher. 

Now, I will say, there are some rather militant homeschooling parents out there – people who think that if you’re a Christian, you should homeschool your kids. They can get very belligerent about the whole thing. I’m not one of those folks. I see the reasoning behind their argument, but it’s not my job to be anybody’s Holy Spirit. That’s a conversation between you and God.

On the whole, though, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling parents and their attitudes toward public school parents. That’s why I wrote the post that has come to be my most popular ever – and has even been printed in The Homeschool HandbookThe Public School Parents’ Guide to Homeschooling Parents.

After October 2011

That post has nearly 200 comments and you know what? Not one of them is negative. I think that’s because it’s a post that takes an honest look at the common misconceptions and shows public school parents that we’re not that different than them; we just chose a different path.

We’re not condemning parents who send their kids to public or private school because that’s their choice. Homeschooling is just our choice. One is not a commentary on the other. Both are just choices.

So, as you begin homeschooling, realize that your educational choice for your children isn’t a commentary on someone else’s choice for their children – and make sure that your public school parent friends realize this.

How to Homeschool: Be Prepared for the NaySayers

If you’ve told anyone that you’re planning to homeschool, you’ve probably already met the naysayers, those folks who want to tell you what a horrible decision you’re making and how you’re going to ruin your kids.

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Now, I will say, if the people who are voicing their concerns are people you love and care about, who love and care about your kids – your parents, your siblings, or even your spouse (because the two of you definitely need to be on the same page) – listen, honestly and with an open mind, to what they are saying and be willing to consider any valid concerns.

However, if those concerns are from random friends and acquaintances who are basing their arguments on their “friend who had a neighbor who homeschooled” or the cousin of their sister-in-law’s sister who homeschooled, be prepared to respond with firmness and grace.

I do think that, most times, that grace part is pretty important. As homeschooling parents who hear those questions, concerns, and arguments quite frequently, it can be easy to get defensive. However, I think most people aren’t trying to be difficult or argumentative. They’re just reacting to a concept that is completely foreign to them.

Let’s face it. The majority of us went to public school. It’s what we know. It’s just what people do. It’s normal to ask questions about a lifestyle that is completely out of your realm of experience.

Maybe some of us have imagined homeschooling since before our kids were born, but for others, homeschooling seemed weird to us, too, until we started considering it for our own children.

If you’re the only homeschooling family someone has ever known, you are the voice for all homeschoolers. Don’t be a defensive, angry voice. You could be talking to the person whom you’ll be mentoring in a year or so.

When I announced that we were going to start homeschooling Brianna, my sister laughed out loud. Really. A few years later, her daughter joined our homeschool for her preschool year. My family completely changed my sister’s opinion of homeschooling – an opinion that was based on one homeschooled kid that she worked with once.

If you have decided to homeschool, plan for the naysayers because they will find you.

Don’t debate. It’s okay to answer the honest questions, but don’t ever let your educational choices be open for debate. Assuming that you did not, in fact, wake up one day and decide to homeschool, but, instead, made this decision after much thought, prayer, research, and discussion with your spouse, your decision is not up for public debate. Even with your mother. Or your mother-in-law.

An answer for someone you love and care about can be as simple as, “I appreciate your love and concern for us, but we’ve made this decision after careful consideration and planning and with much prayer.”

An answer for a casual acquaintance or the lady behind you in line at the supermarket can be, “Thank you for your concern. That is something we’ve considered. So, what do you think about the weather we’ve been having?”

It’s not your job to make others agree with your parenting choices. Know when to pass the bean dip.

Be gracious. If people are asking legitimate questions and you have the time, answer them. Maybe they’re not questioning your decision; maybe they’re just curious. Weren’t you before you chose this lifestyle?

Give some consideration to how you’re going to answer the questions so that you’re not caught unprepared.

The most important thing to remember is that while those snappy little comebacks may sound fun, they can come off sounding snarky and that doesn’t speak well for homeschoolers as a whole and can negatively impact your Christian witness.