Hindsight: It is Worth Repeating

If I could rewind the tape and begin homeschooling my kids today with the benefit of my 16 years of experience, what would I do differently? 

1. I would spend the first 6-12 months to a year organizing my home, working on establishing a daily rhythm, and study my children.

2. I'd go to the library at least once a week allowing them to choose books that interest them, and hand picking random books for me to read aloud. I would be watching for what they are interested in, what makes them excited, what they find boring, etc.

3. I would rely on my husband more in creating a vision for our children, rather than trying to figure out what everyone else is doing. I wouldn't waste a second trying to make what works for your kids work for mine. I'd keep my husband in the loop about our daily escapades and accept his advice more quickly. I mistakenly thought that because he worked outside the home all day he would be unable to see what the kids needed. This piece of humble pie would have been better to consume early in homeschooling.

4. Rather than spending countless hours worrying about this curriculum or that, I would begin with the family goals we have now:

  • Put the highest priority on sharing our love for Jesus with our children. 

  • To insure the kids know their math facts inside and out. Period. Forget learning them, they need to over learn them.

  • To inspire a love for literature by exposing the kids to a steady flow of great books. (I would read aloud daily no matter what their ages). I'd be picking the brains of the veteran homeschoolers, librarians, and authors that are in my sphere of influence for suggestions and I would prioritize a daily reading habit.

  • I would focus all learning to develop excellent written and oral communication skills. I would find my children pen pals so they could perfect the friendly letter.

  • I would have them do copy work from the masters and discuss why the sentences, paragraphs, essays, or stories are so great. I would understand that excellence in writing really comes from being well read and practice, tactics, practice.

5. I would find opportunities for my kids to stand and share in front of others, whether it is during a family BBQ or performing with the local theater- giving them the skill and confidence to speak in front of others.

6. I would view curriculum, tests, quizzes, and state tests as resources to help me customize each of the kids education, not the substance of their learning.

7. I would relax more.
I'd let the kids get dirtier.
I would get dirtier.

We would play in the rain, build in the snow, chase rainbows, cloud watch, visit the farm, play at the beach, collect more leaves, examine more bugs, watch more plays, attend the theater, interview our doctors and dentists, locate inspirational guests like missionaries, mechanical engineers, artists, poets, and ace mechanics to share their passions with the kids. I would put a map of the US and the world under glass or plastic across my kitchen table and every single time we read or heard about a place we would locate it on the map and discuss how close/far it it from us.

8. I would hide the duct tape...

9. I would do it all over again. And again. And again.

I know my children so much more intimately because of homeschooling. I am forever grateful for the vision my husband was given for our family.

How about you?
What are the top few things you would change if you could rewind the tape and homeschool those beginning years with the wisdom you have today?

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Planning Your Homeschool Day

Homeschool kids smell a day without a 'purpose and plan' like wild animals smell fear.

Normally this is not an issue. I take the time to sit and think through what we are doing in our homeschool day about 4-6 weeks at a time. I have a personal calendar that I print off for each of the boys so they know that "mom has a plan for today, so I better get busy."

I am a little stressed right now because my current calendar/plan is blank and school is supposed to start in 10 days. The fact that I am not ready for the next step is like a ticking time bomb.

If I do not have a clear plan of attack for the day and week before school starts, my boys will eat me alive.

They KNOW when I do not have a plan.
The run, they hide, they break out the Legos right after breakfast and look up at me with dirty faces and bed-heads and are shocked and even aghast that we have learning to do.

If I do not have a plan, they will forget how to get up, make their beds, add and subtract, multiply and divide, and write legibly.

Sometimes I think it is a conspiracy. "Psst-Maybe if we pretend to forget how to do school mom will let us play all day and live in our pajamas."

Can you relate?
If kids do not see that we are well prepared for our day, week, or topic they do not buy in to whatever learning experience we set before them. They see us grab our teacher's manual and then say, "OK, let's get going. We have a lot of school to do today." They see us begin reading the lesson and make that certain face that says, "what am I supposed to do?"and slip out from under our radar.

When we, the teachers, finally grasp the core of today's lessons they have snuck away from the school area and are resentful that we try to lasso them back to school.

If I am honest with myself, I would resent attending a class where the teacher wasn't prepared. I took the time to come to school, surely she could have prepared in advance to teach me.

Our kids are no different. They need to see that we have invested in their education by taking the time to become familiar and excited with the learning material before we declare it is time for school.

Kids smell a day without a plan and begin wiggling to get out immediately.

What can we do:
  • Plan school for 2-6 weeks at a time.
  • Become extremely familiar with the material before we try to present it to our kids. (remember the teacher from Ferris Beuller? Help us not be like him!)
  • Schedule lessons out for 2-6 weeks in advance. 
  • Write them in pencil, so that when life happens you simply erase and begin again the next day.
  • Never try to teach the school week without a plan. Even if you take a rabbit trail because your kids show a sudden interest in penguins, you will be much better prepared.
  • As homeschoolers include a dinner plan/menu into your school day.
  • Be excited about what you are learning together.
How do I plan?
Calendar! Time Management: Student Planner and Weekly CalendarI have 4-5 weeks of student calendars printed and ready to go, labelled with their names and dates.
I teach 5 core subjects: Bible, Math, English, History, and Science
  • I schedule math in first. It usually is just the next number lesson. I include activities like flash cards, videos, and games in my calendars. If I do not schedule flashcards, the kids do not do flash cards.
  • Next I schedule those easy tasks, like handwriting, phonics workbook pages, and spelling. These are similar to math in that they tend to simply be "the next page#'s".
  • In our home we learn memory verses, so I fill in the verses the kids are working on that week.
  • History is my core, my golden thread. I try to incorporate English and Science activities that go along with what we are learning in history. I have to skim the readings, pull vocabulary and scour for student activities that will work with my boys. This year I am using Story of the World and they have a great Activity Book from which I pull reading comprehension, map, art, and cooking activities. And then of course, there is Pinterest. I have Homeschool boards for every subject and I scour for activities for my boys and pin them often. 
  • Science is my weakest subject as a teacher. I am not entirely sure why, but even superman had a weakness. Science is mine. This year I am trying to integrate our science with what we are learning about in history. For me that means that I am looking for and creating learning activities for the boys.
  • I plan English last. This year I am teaching from Shurley English and LOVE it. It is very well planned, so in all honesty it is another, "just do the next lesson" curriculum. I glance through the lessons as I am planning and try to spot potential issues. For instance, my boys need two days for the writing assignments, sometimes two so I take that into account.
  • Lastly, I double check my pencil calendars against the master calendar looking for conflicts. Are we home all of the days I planned to teach school? Are there any obvious monkey-wrench days (days that are destined to fail before they begin). I make adjustments whenever necessary.

While every homeschool family has different goals and ambitions, talents and abilities, we all sacrifice something to homeschool.
My husband and I personally sacrifice time. Lots of time.
It is not easy homeschooling a troop of boys of various ages, grades, interests and learning styles. After 15 years I have learned that the key to success is being prepared before the day begins.

Which Math Curriculum Should I use?

Math for the Lifelong Learner

(25 Minute Video Filled with Ideas)

I only taught in a small school for 3 years, but I was blessed to work with 5th and 6th graders. The Lord then called me home to homeschool my then 5th grader (my oldest son). I was shocked that most of my classroom kids did not know their facts. It made teaching scale measurements, conversions, and algebra a nightmare to teach. Simple lessons that should take about 20-30 minutes were murder for them to complete.

The bigger shock was when I sat with my own son and realized he too lacked these math facts...

After eating a big piece of humble pie we had to double time it. I had to teach him his math facts and teach him his math concepts. It was horrible. He's 20 now and a sophomore in college and both he and I agree those first two years of homeschooling were awful!

Fast forward to today. I have 4 more sons ages 15, 11, 9, and 7. My 15 year old did twice as well as my oldest with his facts, but he still had holes until 6th grade.(I honestly found a small math class for him to attend because he is a different kind of learner than I am and we could not sync in the area of math.)

Here's the benefit if having two guinea pigs kids... My 3 musketeers.
Although I still use curriculum, I spend much more time with almost a drill and kill mentality with their facts. I learned that important truth a few years ago...

Truth Royalty Free Stock PhotosYou can teach a 13 year old in a day almost anything that they are ready to absorb.  
That translates to other subjects as well ( like reading). So many of us try to teach first grade, third grade etc, rather than teaching the child, don't you think?

So how do you teach math facts? 
You need to look at your child (if you have more than one, you need to study them separately. They'll likely be very unique).
How old are they? Do they learn by seeing, hearing, or doing? I've linked to a great site on the different ways kids learn here.

There are a bazillion ways to learn and practice the facts. They really need to be memorized. Sorry. Now way around this one. The only was to practice is to do over, and over, and over again.

Examine your Own Math Mentality
  • Do you hate math? Do you voice that to your children? Does math confuse you? Do you say things like, "I never could do math well," rather than, "Hmmm, I do not remember how to do this right now, I guess my brain gets to exercise!"Many homeschoolers do not feel qualified to teach math, that's OK. Instead learn it together!

Purpose to Speak Positively about Math
  • "Math is everywhere!"
  • "I'm glad I know how to add because that means I know _____."
  • "I like the challenge of math!"
  • You get the idea.

Get Help if you really Do Not Understand
  • When you hit a math wall and simply cannot solve it in order to explain it to your child, seek help. Tell your student you need to have someone explain it to you. Affirm that there is always someone who is willing to help if you are humble enough to ask. Our kids need to see us ask for help! Here is a great online help for you and your kids.

Practical Ideas (Here are some of my favorite math things:)

Flash Cards

Writing fact families:

(addition/subtraction and multiplication/division)
Be creative with where and how they write their facts:
  • dry eraser markers on windows and mirrors
  • sidewalk chalk
  • pudding:)
  • writing on sandpaper
  • using magnetic numbers on fridge

 Drill games
 We do drill games kind of like "mother may I". Call out math questions, if they get it right then they take a step forward.If they get it wrong, take a step back. If they start counting to the answer they stand still.

Use anything from blocks and pattern tiles, Cheerios, M&M's, and play games. You grab 5 and I'll give you 12 more, how many?
If I make 4 groups of 3, how many will there be all together?
Here are handfuls of snacks... divide them into 6 separate zip-lock baggies evenly.
Note: Give kids time to explore manipulatives without giving them  guidelines. I always let my kids "play" with new manipulatives a week or two before I use them in a lesson.

The frustration in teaching math comes from a few things:
Our own attitude.

Curriculum causes so many issues. We feel our kids need to "get it" and be able to move forward from concept to concept. Page 27 means nothing. It's like expecting a child to read a book but they only know 11 letters and sounds of the alphabet. Remember curriculum is a tool, not the goal.
*Establish a clear math goal (or set of goals) for your student and use the curriculum to help you get there. That may mean you skip pages, even chapters of the book!

What about how well my kiddo is doing compared to yours? Shouldn't my child be a grade level? I feel like a failure because I barely can complete the fourth grade math book without an answer key!
Guilt binds us. We need to release it. Curriculum doesn't teach our kids. We teach our kids and we sometimes use curriculum to teach them;).

More ideas:
Count everything.
Work on facts daily.
Print a bunch of math fact drill sheets and do timed drills (if they at least tolerate them I have one child that drills devastate. for some reason a timed drill shuts his brain down.)

Measure things with rulers, measuring tapes, straws, bananas
Go to the store and pretend (or really buy) as many things as possible with $100.

Lastly, it is important to remember that not all of our kids are destined to be mathematicians. That's OK. But everyone needs their facts down:).
Focus on the basics and build your math program around fundamentals. Don't rush your young children. If they master their facts they will be well ahead of their peers in the end!

Was this helpful? Do you have any questions or concerns? Ideas? Suggestions? I love hearing from you!

Emotional Boys? What is a Mom To Do?

Dear mom,
You son is blessed to have you. You are hand picked by the Creator of the universe to guide and direct this future man of God. Ask the Lord for wisdom, because I can assure you that the Lord's plans for your emotional son Is the same as yours. 

What works for my five boys when they hit emotional spurts (and they all do):

  • Don't coddle through the over emotion. Hug and love lots, but not through anything that resembles a meltdown.

  • I turn off the TV and electronics. I continue to be amazed at how quickly technology sucks the boys of their ability to cope, be kind, or simple listen. Yes, they watch and play but it is limited and is the first thing to go when they are a teary mess.

  • I get them around their daddy. Quickly. (Or another godly man). Strong men like my hubby simply do not put up with whiners. I have found that I can raise boys, but my husband mentors men.

  • Put them to work. "Many hands make light work". Boys need to work hard and feel needed. They also can tell when they really contribute to the group or are being pacified. We have given our boys chores from the time they could dump a bun of toys! (If you can dump it, you can be coached how to put it back:)

  • Pray. This is so key. We are not men. We are emotional beings and love to dig in to the why behind emotional outbursts because that is what God wired us to do. The Lord has always spoken clarity to what each son has needed during his emotional state.

**identify the heart issue.
So far, my older boys have hit their biggest emotional state at around 12. Lord help me, I have another son almost 12.
Confusion has been the catalyst for almost all emotional outbursts with my oldest three.
They get confused about something, that pricks their pride because they should know they answer right. Then they lash out emotionally.
Teaching boys to say something like, "hm, I don't understand... Can you explain it again, or a different way?" Has been life changing!

That's my 2 cents.

Dear Jesus,
Help us moms of boys seek You for counsel, wisdom, and direction with each and every one of our boys. They are so unique and wonderful, in,y You know exactly what they need. May we seek wisdom from each other, but only allow what is from You to stick and stay in our minds... Amen!

You may also enjoy:
"Your 12 Year Old Son is becoming a man.
See the Captain America within him!"

Bug of the Day

Don't let your boys find out you are scared of bugs, spiders, snakes, or other creepy crawly things.

I have masked my fear behind curiousity. 

When the boys discover something that they think might frighten me, I take a picture and then we go research about that creature. I find this keeps me sane and they never gain the ability to use my kryptonite against me.

This delightful little creature was discovered on my most recent walk with my 11 year old.

Isn't he NOT cute?

My research indicates that this guy is a Stink Bug and is a "watch out" species. Because of our milder winter and warmer weather this invading species may be a big problem. Apparently they love the same berries that we are enjoying!

How about you? What do you pretend to careless about to shield yourself from your boys? (Get it? Shield yourself?)

What about the Tooth Fairy

Forget the Tooth Fairy...
I am the Ninja Fairy

Who said kids should have all the fun?

I have developed the persona of the Ninja Fairy in my home.

I sneak into my boys' room at night while they are sleeping to switch their lost teeth for cash, or decorate their rooms to celebrate their birthdays.

 It is so much fun that I am declaring war.

I am surrounded by testosterone, so I have to pick my battles carefully. 

"If you catch me in the act of secretly blessing you, I will double the blessing!"

For those of you who want some tooth fairy resources, here is a cute site.

Here are some free Ninja Fairy Notes to help you bless your kids!
Tooth Fairy: For Parents and Really Cool Teachers

Teaching Kids to Set Goals

I highly recommend you begin teaching your kids to set goals from the time they can understand what a goal is all about.

By the time kids graduate from high school they should be independent, self-governing, and disciplined. Don't panic. Mine are not there yet either.

Step One Setting Daily Goals.
We have all of our boys write out a goal list each day. It is great.
The idea is that they learn the art of thinking through their day and living their life purposefully.

Here is an example of our 17 year old's list from this morning. Notice the last item...

Heyo Dad-ee-o and Mom-ee-o!

    -- Morning Devotion: Two Psalms and Proverb of the Day
    -- Make List of the Day
    -- Chores: Clean room, Clean Dining Room, Kitchen Dinner Team, Wipe        
       Master Bathroom, vacuum
    -- Physical Conditioning: Work out in Shop

    -- Write more things for my story
    -- Research offered careers for Communication Majors. 
    -- Figure out ways and times I could go visit  old friends this year. 
    -- Look up tutorials for how to play "I See Fire" on the guitar
    -- Continue to look up snake skins for my hammock and try to order them, 
       with permission, in the next couple of days. 
    -- Continue to look at different set ups that are out there for hanging 
       hammocks and find one I am really interested in trying. 

Free Time:
    -- Work on Goals
    -- Watch more tutorials and videos for Concept Art
    -- Play chess
    -- Possibly build a new Lego creation
    -- Stuff Little brother into the body of a dead Tauntaun to protect him from further 
       disease and sickness. 

I love you guys! :)

I have to admit, this son of ours snuck some pretty hilarious to do's into his list for days and days before we noticed. I am now making a collection of his Daily Funnies

Daily Funnies: Actual Item's From Our Sons Daily To Do List

I created a tab at the top so you can find these daily funnies easier!

For Your Enjoyment.
Our boys create to do lists daily. 
These items were taken directly from their lists without their consent or knowledge! Because: Parents Rule.
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Come back often. It will be worth your while.

To Do: Physical Conditioning: Slay a Dragon to warm up and then Work out in 

Ho mine Father and Mother! How fair thee?
A deep recollection hath cometh forth from mine own mind to record yet another daily list.

To Do:
Stuff little brother into the dead body of a tauntaun to protect him from further disease and sickness. (His brother has been sick with a stomach bug for three days.)

To Do:
Claim dominion over a clan of shoe-making elves.

To Do:
Hunt down Sasquatch and claim his pelt in the name of the Abominable     


Help your kids organize their school day!
Calendar! Time Management: Student Planner and Weekly Calendar

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