Home Education

How to Make Your Homeschooling Journey Just as Unique as Your Family

It’s no question that homeschooling is on the rise. More and more families are choosing to home educate their children for whatever reasons; however, there is also another epidemic on the rise.

As families make the transition to homeschool or decide to skip traditional schooling all together, they are hitting some bumps in the road. Many of these bumps stem from the attempts to make their homeschool look like the school system so many are familiar with.

Other parents get caught up in the comparison game of trying to measure up to the family who makes homeschooling look like a piece of cake. And even then, some parents are simply overwhelmed with the amount of information out there and try to model their homeschool by all they see.

Understanding Uniqueness

In the most recent years, I’ve become an advocate and promoter of “homeschooling your way,” but that doesn’t always make the most sense to people. What I’m saying is that your homeschooling journey should be just as unique as your family.

Yes, you may use the same curriculum as another family. You may be involved in the same COOP group. You may even choose the same kind of schedule as someone else. With all those similarities, there is still a level of uniqueness that every homeschooling family should embrace.

Uniqueness doesn’t mean that you’re doing things completely different than someone else. It means that you are homeschooling according to your family’s unique dynamic. The question now becomes – How do I do that without falling into the latest systematized epidemic?

Focus on What Matters

At some point in your homeschooling journey you’ll hear these words. Focus on what matters. What matters can sometimes be clouded by the many trends that run through the homeschooling community. From the “best” curriculum to use to what “method” you’re using can seem like the most important things. However, I beg to differ.

I believe the things that will keep a homeschooling family grounded are embracing your unique family dynamic. A homeschooling family of seven will look very much different than a homeschooling family of two. These are things that should be used as fuel along the journey.

Know Your Why

This is one of the single most important ways that makes your journey unique and your own. It’s all about the why. Again, families decide to homeschool for similar reasons, but embedded in those reasons are personal experiences, values, morals, and beliefs that come alive when voiced in your why.

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend writing down why you homeschool and keep it somewhere you (and your family) can see it. Update it as often as needed and allow it to keep you encouraged.

Find Your Rhythm

I love using this analogy because I love music, and I see our homeschool journey as a big song. There are times when we’re dancing or singing off beat, and there are other times when we have to change the song completely. Either way, my husband and I are always making an effort to keep our family in rhythm and in tune.

There are lots of aspects that go into finding your rhythm, but a few important ones are:

  • loving and trusting yourself
  • being content in the season you’re in
  • understanding your child/children’s learning style
  • breaking free from any hindering systems (like homeschooling from a school-system mentality)

Explore Curriculum Options

This is another area that I could go on a full blown tangent about. The curriculum marketplace for the homeschooling community is on the rise and much of it looks a lot like the very system that we want to keep our children from. This is where finding out how your children learn best comes in.

With knowing that, if becomes much easier to incorporate whatever learning tools and resources necessary. For example, if your child cringes at the thought of doing textbook work or a stack of worksheets, then perhaps that kind of curriculum is not the best option (at the time). If your child is a hands-on learner, then it certainly makes sense to give the opportunities to use their hands… and there are resources for that.

When it comes to curriculum, I see so many mamas get bogged down by spending bookoos of money only for it to not work. The trick is to not worry so much on what to use to teach your child versus using your child as the guide in knowing what to use.

Organize & Plan Your Way

This is another area that allows your uniqueness to shine. I love seeing the various ways that homeschooling families organize and plan. Some use binders while others use folders. I’ve seen some families plan four weeks at a time while another can plan an entire semester at a time.

I also advise mamas to use their strengths in this area. If you’re OCD, use that! If you are a minimalist, use that! You may not see planning and organizing as your strong suit in general, but I know you have some strengths within you that can make up for what you’d consider a weakness. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid of the “h” word!

Don’t Be Afraid of the “H” Word

The “h” word I am referring to is H-E-L-P! As a six-year homeschooling mama, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have made it this far without some kind of help. Whether the help came from my husband, a COOP group, online support, or having mentors – it was totally necessary, and still is.

I even dedicated an entire chapter in my book, Just for Today’s Homeschooling Mom, to this topic because asking for help seems to do something to our thought process. For some reason, when we need help we have to go through the merry-go-round of negative and incompetent thoughts.

The fact of the matter is we all need a great support system. There are no benefits to staying quiet and dealing with any stress, intense moments, and/or anxieties that may arise. But here are benefits to seeking out help and using it – especially if you’re new to homeschooling!

Speaking of which, I have an amazing masterclass for homeschooling moms who are looking for help with getting (and staying) on a path to homeschooling successfully. Jumpstart Your Homeschool Journey is self-paced, packed with seven videos (plus one audio), and comes with lots of complimentary resources for you to use years on end! There is also a live group mentor program offered three times per year that goes with this masterclass (February, July, December).

Take advantage of this resource, or anything else I have to offer! Can’t wait to connect with you!! Cheering you on!

Home Education

A Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling to Consider for 2020

You don’t have to be homeschooling long before you start hearing terms like approach, style, and/or method. Truth of the matter is getting caught up in trying to strictly homeschool according to one of those can be a little stressful and quickly lead to burnout.

Over the past six years of my homeschooling journey, it’s safe to say that I’ve dabbled with a bit of everything out there. Shucks, I even wrote a book that has an entire chapter dedicated to homeschooling methods and styles.

Choosing an approach, style, and method in and of itself isn’t a bad thing IF you know how to properly incorporate it into your own homeschool style. Too often, though, what ends up happening is that moms try to fit (and shape) their family into a style instead of the other way around (tweaking a method to their unique family dynamic).

I want to chat with you for a moment about a stress-free approach to homeschool to consider for the upcoming year. This approach can fit with any other style and method that you choose. The point in me sharing this particular approach is to help you think of your home education journey outside the box.

The Holistic Approach

The term holistic gets tossed around and slapped on everything, but it is certainly a good way to look at your child’s home education. In and of itself, the term holistic simply means thinking about the big picture. 

In terms of homeschooling holistically, it means to consider more than just the academics. A child’s education becomes one that is filled with the development of emotional skills, social behaviors, spiritual beliefs, and community connection.

If you’re like most spiritual-based home educators, then you’ve probably already figured out a way to incorporate Biblical studies and beliefs into your schedule. However, often times, the others listed are not seen as viable ways of learning unless you’ve already tapped into some philosophies such as Charlotte Mason, Montessori, or Waldorf.

How to Start Homeschooling with a Holistic Approach

When choosing to homeschool from a holistic perspective, I believe it is important to rid your mind of what typical learning and education should look like. In other words, there could possibly be some deschooling for the homeschooling parent that needs to take place. Most of us who have had any kind of traditional (public/private) schooling have been conditioned to see “school” from a certain perspective,

This perspective typically says that a, b, and c have to take place in order to reach x, y, and z. It leaves out individuality, room for natural growth and development, as well as learning outside the box. Of course there are states, providences, and countries that have placed strict rules and laws on homeschooling families, but even those can be abided by using this approach.

Once a homeschooling parent can begin to see their own style, understand the learning styles of their children, and have established their own sense of what education for their family will look like, the holistic approach becomes a walk in the park!

What Does the Holistic Approach Have to Offer?

Keep in mind that this approach is one that focuses on the whole child and not just the academics. When it comes to fostering the different areas of your child’s growth and development, the holistic approach can cover that and some.

Exploration

As with the Charlotte Mason method, exploration plays a huge role in a child’s learning experiences. They are able to take learning outside the home while tracking what they learn in notebooks and lapbooks. Exploration also helps children pay attention to the details around them.

Play & Expression

This is speaking the Waldorf method’s language, but its true. Play and expression are often seen through the lens of not learning; however, if you watch and listen closely, your children will disclose quite a bit of what they know during these times. Believe it or not, play and expression actually works on critical thinking skills!

Interest-led Learning

Many parents have told me that they aren’t sure how to handle allowing their children have control over what they want to learn. Another common concern is understanding how to plan for such a journey. Both are good concerns rightfully so, but the idea is to come from a position of pointing them in the right direction while embracing what they want to learn.

Customized Curriculum

That “c” word is becoming a stress-filled word the more that comes available for homeschoolers. It can be overwhelming sure enough when you have hundreds of curricula to choose from. From the major companies down to educational resource creating bloggers (like myself), there is almost too much to choose from.

My suggestion is to start with free resources by searching Google, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers. Keep in mind that worksheets and textbooks doesn’t always constitute a good education, and having more isn’t necessarily a good thing either. When you’re ready to spend money on some resources, spend SMART by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does this purchase make sense?
  • Is it actually manageable and/or (low) maintenance?
  • Will it cause me to take action (as in will I actually use it)?
  • Will the purchase help me reach the educational goals set for my child?
  • Is this resource a waste of time (or not)?

With these questions and an idea of what your children would like to learn in mind, you’re now ready to begin piecing together a schedule, learning experiences, and opportunities to help foster their learning!

Confidence Boost

Homeschooling with a holistic approach can help boost your child’s confidence in so many ways. They are able to see that what they want to learn matters. Not to mention, their interest is already peaked so being able to go where their mind is leading is a plus.

Confidence is also increased when children are not pressured to finish a certain task or learning objective in a particular amount of time. Homeschooling allows us to take our time and go where our children’s needs lead.

The holistic approach adds to that by saying, “We don’t have to focus so much on math this week. Let’s do more art!” And boom – a child’s confidence is increased!

What Does a Holistic Approach Actually Look Like?

Of course I can’t leave you hanging with wondering how this actually plays out in the life of a real homeschooling family. Let’s use a real-life example from one of my children who is set and stoked about all things vehicle engineering. In other words, he wants to get involved in all steps from design to making the actual vehicle.

Here’s what my vehicle engineering lesson plan looks like:

  • Reading literature-based and/or living books about cars, their design, different makes, models, etc.
  • A field trip to local car dealerships and mechanic shops.
  • Learning about the different sizes and shapes of vehicles (math).
  • Studying the build of vehicles (science) and drawing some out (art).
  • Volunteering at a local dealership (connecting with community).
  • Notebooking/lapbooking the history of vehicles (history).

More could be added to this list, and usually as time progresses I usually do end up adding more. A trip to a car museum (the Corvette museum isn’t far from us), watching YouTube videos on how to build car parts and learning how they work are just a few more things that could fit here.

This same layout is used with my son who loves trains and my daughter who is into volcanoes! Yes, they may be a time for worksheets and textbooks, but they certainly aren’t the main focus of our holistic homeschool!

CHIME IN: Do you have a holistic homeschool? If so, what’s yours look like? If not, does this sound like an approach you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Family: Marriage & Parenting, Home Education

5 Ways to Deschool for the Homeschooling Parent

Take one look at the word deschooling and you may think about the process of re-calibrating your child/children who have attended public (or private) school. However, what if I told you that deschooling goes beyond the re-wiring of your children’s brain all the way to your perception of how you see school, education, and learning?

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this post then you’ve most likely had some form of public or private school education. (If not, kuddos to you!) This means that along your childhood educational journey you were taught what to learn and how to learn it. Sound familiar?

For the homeschooling parent this could pose a few issues that are mostly hidden and not dealt with (until now).  What issues?? – you ask. A trend that I started seeing within myself (and other homeschooling moms) was the operation of our homeschools from a subconscious “school system” mindset.

I know that sounds like a mouth full, but allow me to explain my reasoning and five ways to deschool for the homeschooling parent.

I decided to test my hypothesis with some field study and found results that weren’t too shocking, and much of what I anticipated. Some of my results showed that:

  • 52.5% of public schooled parents rated their childhood education experience as mediocre to not good
  • 57.3% said the relevance of their childhood education was somewhat to not very relevant
  • 57.4% admitted they believe they have a “school system” mindset due to having attended public school
  • 50.8% believe their “school system” mindset possibly governs how they homeschool their children today

That last statistic is why I believe it is important for parents to deschool just as much as their children. Even if your children have never attended traditional schooling, they could get a dose of it if you run your homeschool according to a school system.

So, what should homeschooling parents do?

Understand the School System Mindset

This particular mindset definitely did not come out of nowhere, and it’s roots don’t go back as far as you think. The biggest think to understand about the school system mindset is what it was created to do.

Think about it for a moment. In order for there to be complete control over a group (especially of a large size), there needs to be a system in place. For the school system this meant establishing what would be taught, how it would be taught, and when. It even started with the separation of church and state right off that bat!

It is this type of system that was in place and then molded over time to resume control as more children joined the public schooling scene. Think about what schooling was like for you. Did you have classrooms, desks, set times of learning, certain things you were taught at certain times?

It is this mindset that also governs how we view school, education, and learning. It is also this mindset that most homeschooling parents home education their children from.

Be Empowered by the Roots of Homeschooling

This took quite a bit of research because I wanted to know about homeschooling before it was even called homeschooling. Without giving much thought, I knew that its roots branched from ancient times. Education is something that has always taken place. The difference is how.

For most of our ancestors beyond the mid 1800s, homeschool was the thing to do. There were not any other choices unless families were meeting together in each other’s homes. There were not huge curriculum resource companies supplying an over abundance of textbooks. And they were not worried about subjects that didn’t matter much in real life.

Homeschooling in the past was what we call life schooling. Children learned from their parents, neighbors, local folk, and so on. Their learning consisted of working the farm, helping add onto the home, and even from visit with the local barber. They had apprenticeships and hands-on learning that went the natural flow of life.

This is empowering to say the least!

Learn What Deschooling Really Is

Deschooling can often be confused with unschooling, however they have their differences. Deschooling in a nutshell involves a complete re-programming of the mind that helps one understand a new way thinking about school, education, and learning. Deschooling is the process of re-wiring ones thoughts about success in those three areas.

This is a process that looks different for every family because every family is unique. There are determining factors that are at play when deciding how long to deschool and what transitions are necessary.

This is why I believe it’s important that parents also take the time to deschool with their children, if not before.

Deschool Into Your Own Homeschool System

This is a biggie. Once the deschooling process has happened, the former mindset needs to be replaced with something. But what will that be? Another system that doesn’t work? A formula that doesn’t quite plug in naturally to your family?

No. No. And no.

None of the above will ever work. Why? Because your family is unique. Your family has it’s own special dynamic. And your family needs a system that accommodates those special things. This is where seeing your system from the perspective of your family comes into play. It’s important to formulate a system that flows naturally with your family, your morals, values, and beliefs.

This can be easier said than done. But don’t worry, I’m here to help!

Utilize Other Resources

One thing I’ve learned about this homeschooling journey is there are never a lack of resources. There’s always a book, an article, even a Facebook group to support whatever it is that you need.

The trick is to navigate what you don’t need so you don’t get side-tracked. When searching for deschooling resources and support, make sure what you’re finding and reading supports that. If you’re anything like me you’ll start with searching for deschooling and end up looking at homeschool styles, COOP class ideas, and some other off-subject topic.

In my Deschooling for the Homeschooling Parent series, I provide a list of reliable and quick go-to resources.

Help is Here

If you’ve read this post and thought, “Oh my goodness! I think I am homeschooling from a school system mindset and I want to stop! Heelllppp!” Then you, my friend, are in good company and I have just the thing the help you through your own deschooling process!

Starting December 2 – 6 I am hosting a Deschooling for the Homeschooling Parent series. This series will walk you through the four steps I listed above but in much more detail. You’ll also get printables that go with each part of the series that will help you plan what your new deschooling journey will look like.

Take advantage of this series while it’s free in the Outta’ Box Homeschooling Community Facebook group

CHIME IN: Do you believe you homeschool from a school system mindset? Are you ready to unlock your own unique homeschooling system? If you answer YES, let me know your biggest fear AND your biggest goal in the comments below!

 

Home Education

Learning vs. School

Our world has become more and more focused on school. If you have a toddler, chances are that people are already asking when she will start school. Even the homeschool community has begun to embrace curriculum for toddlers. In fact, I get questions all the time about what type of homeschool curriculum I recommend for a two year old.

Here is my sort answer: I don’t! I don’t recommend curriculum for two year olds or even three year olds. That may make it seem like I don’t really care about educating my littles. The truth is I care very much about education all of my children, all of the time. We have just forgotten the difference between learning and school. So, if you have a young child and are agonizing over when and how to start school, keep reading.

What is Learning?

Here’s the scoop, learning doesn’t have to happen in school. As a homeschooler, I am sure you know that. However, it bears repeating. Children are learning from before they are born. It doesn’t take a curriculum for them to learn. Just navigating the world and being part of a family is a huge learning experience for little ones.

You can easily provide learning opportunities for young children without having to adhere to a curriculum plan or follow detailed lesson plans. And please, do not worry about assessing your child. Sure, you can ask questions or have him demonstrate what he learned. However, he is too young for testing and “making the grade.” 

Keep learning fun. Let you child explore. Provide the platform for her to experiment and grow. Learning is a process, not a set of worksheets. It comes in many shapes and sizes, from stories and books to coloring and building buildings. Everything a young child does is learning.

A VIDEO YOU MAY ENJOY: SCHOOLING VS. EDUCATING

When Should Children Begin School?

I admit, I was tempted to answer this question as never. School is a system. Even though we “home school” that doesn’t mean school at home. Our homeschools should support our family values, celebrate our child’s gifts, and lend support to her struggles. Our family should be our school and education should be the culture of our home.

Holding children “back” (I really don’t like that term) benefits them in many ways. They have a chance to mature, to be confident in their abilities, and most importantly to just have fun being a kid. So, my real answer is once you have to. Most states do not require any schooling before six or even seven years old. There are countries, like Norway, where school is delayed as late as eight or nine years old. Does that mean these children are learning nothing for all that time. Certainly not, in fact, children who start school later, quickly surpass their peers who start early.

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What Should I Be Doing with My Child?

You may be wondering what your preschooler or toddler should be doing then. And how about your six year old? If you aren’t doing school, what are you doing? Children still need educational opportunities, experiences where they learn. One of the best things you can do for your child is provide open ended toys and games. Make them use their imagination, and some engineering skills. You also should be reading books, many, many books. If you can’t read books often, provide quality audiobooks. Listening is an art. It is also the first step in learning. Children will remember what they hear. The literature will feed their brains. 

Here’s a list of some activities and toys that inspire learning:

  • Blocks
  • Baby dolls
  • Action figures
  • Swings and slides
  • Play dough
  • Crayons and paper
  • Toy cars and trains
  • Audiobooks
  • Nursery Rhymes
  • Puzzles
  • Balance bike or scooter
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Dress up clothes
  • Child sized tools
  • Play kitchen
  • Picture books

CHIME IN: How has your child been learning?


Jennifer Elia, homeschool consultant, blogger, and Amazon best selling author, is Founder of Sound Foundations Homeschool which is dedicated to giving homeschool moms the tools they need to thrive in their home education career. Jennifer is leading the Sound Foundations Homeschool movement, equipping moms to provide an education that celebrates her child’s unique and special gifts without burning out. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children whom she has been educating at home for the past 10 years. When Jennifer isn’t busy researching the best curriculum solutions, she enjoys gardening, crafting, and writing. You can find Jennifer on Facebook and Pinterest.

Home Education

Back to School for Year-Round Homeschoolers

Back to School for Year-Round Homeschoolers is part of the Back to Homeschool: Mind Over Matter blog series. This post has been provided by Rebekah from Mason a la Maison.

It’s that time of year again when most families are getting ready to go back to school. The summer vacation is over. School supplies are bought and labeled. Homeschool families have received the new curriculum. And everyone is gearing up for more rigorous schedules.

The whole world seems to be caught up in the back-to-school rush. But how does this affect the year-round homeschooler? If you have decided to continue lessons throughout the year, do you get caught up in the back-to-school fever? Or do you continue on with life as usual?

As a year-round homeschooling family that has decided to officially start our “new” school year in January, it can seem odd to get caught up in this season with all the other families who follow the more traditional route. But we have learned to take advantage of the fever to inject some new life into our routine just when we seem to be flagging.

We are entering into our final term just when everyone else is beginning their first one. And though it may seem weird to outsiders, it works for our family. And isn’t that one of the reasons you’ve decided to homeschool? The freedom to make a plan that works best for your individual family’s needs is one of its greatest draws.

But just because our routine is different doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the same excitement of a new year. So, we have created some of our own traditions that both line up with the traditional back-to-school schedule and our own continued school year.

Whether it is adjusting our routine to fit new activities or just updating old supplies, we take advantage of this season to its fullest. There are so many different ways you can shake things up using the excitement of everyone around you. Not to mention saving money on sales.

To learn some more tips and ideas, continue reading Back to School for Year-Round Homeschoolers.

Before you go, don’t forget to enter the back to homeschool bundle giveaway and comment below with any concerns you may have with homeschooling. We are here to support you!

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Rebekah Morel is a Christian homeschooling mama to 4 wonderful children. An American who is married to a Frenchman, she began and continues her homeschooling journey in France. Her website, Mason à la Maison, offers homeschooling information, Christian encouragement, reading tips, and resources to add some French to your daily life.