Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tips from the Trenches: 7 Simple Steps to Getting Started in Homeschooling, Part 3

This is the final post in our series on Getting Started in Homeschooling.  So far, I've shared what I know about seeking God's will in your homeschooling decision and educating yourself on the laws of your state.  I have also talked about creating your support system.  Today, I will close out with thoughts on arming yourself with knowledge and choosing curriculum. 

Arm yourself with knowledge!
Taking your child’s education into your own hands is an amazing adventure, but you need to educate yourself in order to educate your child.  Spend time researching, both online and at your local bookstore or library, about homeschooling philosophies, learning styles, organization, and techniques.  Once you’ve completed this important step, you will be better equipped to develop your own philosophy on home educating your uniquely gifted children.

Choose a curriculum
So far, you have learned about state requirements, found some mentors through online and local support groups, and you’ve read everything you can about homeschooling.  Now, it’s time to take that knowledge and apply it to choosing curriculum.  Whether homemade, online, or published, the most important thing is to make sure that it fits the needs of your child.  If, as you get into the school year, you realize that your curriculum choice is not a good fit, it is perfectly acceptable to tweak it or even toss it out and start over.  I know we've done this!  Just remember, education is about teaching a child, not a curriculum.

Ease into it
The best thing a parent can do when homeschooling is to ease into the curriculum.  Choose one or two subjects to start and work on those, adding new subjects each week until all subjects have been added.  What can you do in the meantime?  Introduce and practice new routines.  Read, play, and laugh together.  Explore nature.   Get to know your child as a student and make the necessary adjustments.  The tendency is to want to jump right in, but please trust the process.  Taking this time will make all the difference in the world in setting your family’s homeschool up for success. 

This is just a beginning.  There is so much more to learn and discover on this homeschooling journey.  May the Lord go before you and prepare the way as you seek to home educate your children.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Life Change Challenge: Creating a Well-worn Path

When I started this Life Change Challenge, my goal was to implement one change a week until all of the necessary changes I need to make in my life were in place.  In the past, I have tried baby steps, but quickly grown bored with the pace.  I have also tried drastically overhauling my life and making a boatload of changes all at once.  I'm sure you know how that went.

This time, I really wanted the changes to stick.  So, I thought one change a week was a great compromise.  And, it has been.  I've been able to get my boys back on schedule, dedicate and show up for a great block of time of devotion with the Lord first thing in the morning, and focus on this blog.  These changes have added great value to my life.

However, what I am finding is some changes take a little bit longer and require greater focus to really stick. And, that's okay.  I'm in this for the long haul. Paths are created by the continuous tread in the same location.  I'll walk this path until it's well-worn and smooth, because I like where this path is leading me. 

So, I will continue to work on that 10 o' clock bed time.  So far, I have been impressed with the results.  I think a huge difference came when I started cutting off the electronic gadgets at 9 o' clock.  I'm not going to pretend to know the science of it all, but I do believe there is something to allowing the brain to calm down after the hard work of processing bright lights, flashing screens, and the information overload that plagues our generation. 

Currently, this is what my bed time routine looks like:
Head to my room to get away from the television and computer screens.  Unfortunately, this means not hanging out with my hubby if he is watching TV.  However, it is a necessary sacrifice for something that I think will reap far greater rewards overall for myself, my marriage, and my family. 

Dress for bed, pray, and climb in to my fluffy bed with a good book.  I usually prefer fiction at bed time because it does not demand anything of me.

10:00 (or no later than 10:30)
Lights out and the party's over.  Mama's headed to Dream Land and she will see you in the morning. 

I'm going to park here for another week as I work out the rough edges.  I have a hard time staying asleep.  I think it's because I'm so used to getting up with little ones and not allowing myself to get enough sleep.  I think my body is adjusting. We will see. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tips from the Trenches: 7 Simple Steps to Getting Started in Homeschooling, Part 2

Yesterday, we started this short series on getting started in homeschooling.  Today, I'm going to talk about creating a support system.  

Join an online support group
I can't say enough about the importance of creating a support system.  Raise your hand if you haven't had a hard time finding people amongst your family and friends who support your homeschooling decision.  Oh, not too many hands, huh? Well, your support is out there, but you have to be willing to go get it.

The easiest way is to join an online homeschool support group, email ring, or message board.  These are treasure troves of first-hand accounts and words of wisdom from veteran homeschoolers.  Members also share personal reviews on homeschooling and educational products and services.  Most importantly, when you can’t leave your home, it is a great way to take a break and get some much needed moral support.  Then, jump right back into your routine.

I personally belong to several groups on Yahoo! Groups and Facebook.  Each serve their own purpose and I benefit from and contribute to all of them.  

Join a local support group
While not a necessity, joining a local support group allows you to meet other like-minded people and make life-long friendships for both yourself and your children.  Local support groups have so much to offer in the way of park days, field trips, academic, enrichment, and social activities, parent support, and shoulders to cry on! All jokes aside, the homeschooling load is so much easier when you surround yourself with others who are on a similar path.

My homeschool peeps, as we affectionately refer to each other, rejoice together, encourage each other, share resources, speak hard truths in love, and have each others back on the homeschooling journey. I hope you allow yourself to find the same. 

If you can't find what you are looking for, please be brave and create it!  I'm sure there are other like-minded people who are just waiting for an opportunity to connect. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tips from the Trenches: 7 Simple Steps to Getting Started in Homeschooling

So, you’re thinking about homeschooling, but you’re not quite sure where to start.  Well, lucky you!  As a veteran with four years under my belt (yes, that was meant to be funny), I do have a little bit of knowledge to share.

Even though the school year has already started, there are parents who are preparing to take their children out of school and begin homeschooling them for various reasons.  There are also new and more experienced homeschoolers who need either a crash course or reminder of the what and why's of homeschooling.  There are even those who are thinking about it, but are not quite sure.  This blog post is for all of you.

I've created a list of steps that will answer some of your questions and ensure a smooth transition into home learning.  Today, I will share the first two.  Please note that this is not a legal document and you should seek professional legal advice for any legal questions you may have in regards to homeschooling.  With that said, let’s begin!

Seek the Lord's will for your family.  Where does He want you to go with this?  Ask Him to reveal anything that He wants you to focus on as you teach and raise your children to His glory.  Most of all, ask for wisdom and patience.  Please know that asking for both means you will have plenty of opportunity to flex and grow those patience and wisdom muscles!  Yet, that's what parenting does.  It helps shape and mold us more into the image of Christ.

Seeking the Lord's counsel also helps you have a foundation for those times when you are ready to throw up your hands (oh, they will come).  Then, you can remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing what you are doing. 

Know the state requirements
Thankfully, as of this writing, homeschooling is legal in every state in the Union.  God bless the USA! It is a great idea to start with your state's department of education website.  In my state, you can find the legal information right there on the site.  Here in Texas, homeschools are considered private schools and must be conducted in a bona fide manner.  Basically, the state trusts you to be honest and honorable when you say you are homeschooling.  No shams allowed! Also, your written curriculum of choice needs to cover the basics in reading, spelling, grammar, math, and good citizenship.  For more information, please visit the Texas Homeschool Coalition’s website.

Readers in other states can find reliable information on the HSLDA website.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life Change Challenge: Sometimes, You Have to Rewind

For the most part, I have been very committed to this Life Change Challenge.  However, I often have to remind myself that this is a sprint; not a marathon.  All things come together in due season. 

Let's start off with the good news.  Dedicating the second 30 minutes of my day to this blog was a very wise decision.  I usually try to work this blog around my life, but then I never get to it.  As a wife and mom, there is always an emergency or higher priority if I allow it.  I'll come up with ideas and write down notes but then the expiration date on the vibrancy of the memory expires and I can't recapture it when I finally find time to write.  So, this devoted 30 minutes is giving me the chance to flesh out ideas when they are freshest in my memory.  I am also able to handle the marketing and networking tasks that I have been delaying due to a lack of time and content.

Okay.  Now, it's time for full disclosure.  I fell off the Early to Bed, Early to Rise wagon some time around week 5.  I have so much on my mind with the residual effects of my husband's unemployment season.  God has proven himself to be Jehovah Jireh, providing for our needs time and time again. For the past three weeks, my husband has been working as a contract accountant which is nothing but a God thing.  Maybe I'll share that story sometime.

Yet, I still find myself laying awake at night when the house is still, waiting to hear that first silent crack of the foundation of our security opening beneath us to suck us down to a point of no return.  God whispers, "I will take care of you," but I often try to drown Him out with the constant clatter of my thoughts and worries rattling around in my head.   I guess I've been working under the false assumption (read as from the enemy) that I can somehow control my circumstances if I just stay up late enough and keep watch.  Silly rabbit....

This healthy sleep pattern thing is a very steep mountain for me, but I am determined to keep climbing.  I am no good to anyone in this house if I don't get enough sleep.  I can't finish or even think properly about this life season's God-given assignments if my brain is not getting sufficient rest.  Maybe that's the point; to distract me from pressing toward the mark.

Challenge Renewed:
This week, I have been focusing on acquiring new habits to help me sleep peacefully.  This means no more caffeine or candy.  I'm thinking this will help my waistline, too.  My goal is to get outside in the morning for at least 30 minutes, with or without the kiddos, to help reset my body clock.  I'm reminded of what the baby books tell new moms about opening curtains during the day to help their newborns develop proper sleep habits. And of course, getting out the door every day for some exercise whether it's gardening, walking, or biking with my kiddos.   Every night (okay, I started last night), I turn off my electronic gadgets: TV, computer, and cell phone.  By 9:30, I start preparing for bed so that I can climb in by 10.

I'm also establishing boundaries.  Last night, ten minutes before my bed time, my sweet husband wanted to talk about finances.  He wanted to discuss some numbers that were running through his head.  Now, here is the problem.. If you read my comments above, you know that this is not a good time to talk to me.  He will go to sleep, content to have gotten it out, and I will stay awake trying to solve our problems.  He loves me, and doesn't realize the potential effect.  So, it was up to me to protect my need to have peaceful rest.  As a result, I took responsibility for the the sanctity of my sleep routine and told him we would have to discuss this at another time much earlier in the day so that I could actually think about what he is saying and remember it.  But, right now, sweetie, I want to protect my bedtime.  He pressed on, and I repeated my request.  Well, the light bulb clicked and he lovingly respected my new boundary.  I love a good man.  Don't you?

Finally, and most importantly,  I have been emptying my mind by presenting my fears and concerns before the Lord and giving them to Him.  I also have a time of confession every evening, reviewing my day and pouring out any areas that need forgiveness or any areas where I need to extend forgiveness.  I end that prayer as my head hits the pillow by asking Him to give me the peaceful sleep He promises in His word.  And, so He does.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shopping with Boys takes Guts

There is a reason why moms should not shop with their sons.  Sons are brutally honest, calling it like they see it with no hint of malice or guile.   Let me set the scene for you. 

Not So Young Suburban Mom (NSYSM) is strolling down the aisle in Target with her Oldest Son on a sunny midweek afternoon.  She attentively listens to him as he gives a detailed description of the toy he hopes to purchase before leaving the store.  

Wait.  What's this?  Out of the corner of her eye, NSYSM sees it.  A bold color blocked maxi dress in vivid shades of fuschia and tangerine.  It is sleek and chic.  Perfect for a day at the park with the boys or a night on the town with the Mister.  

As the store's sights and sounds fade away, NSYSM glides over to this great vision, pulls it off the rack, and asks Oldest Son, "Sweetie, don't you think this dress would like nice on Mom?" 

And then it happens.  

With a very serious scrunched up expression on his little caramel brown face, Oldest Son says, " Yes. But, don't you think it's a little too small?"

Did you hear the sound of my jaw hitting the floor?

I would like to be mad.  Yet, the truth is my son was really trying to be helpful.  He presented the facts.  Facts that I am in control of.  

It is true.  I have not done a good job of taking care of myself.  This is not the first time this moment has happened in my life.  Sometimes, this moment happens when I am alone in a store.  This scenario has actually played itself out in some type of way for the past 12 years.

I'm laughing, but I am very serious about what I am about to say. 

It is time for me to get my life back on track.  God can not get the glory out of my decision to live in a perpetual state of self-sabotage.

You can only make so many excuses.  You can only read so many books, watch so many podcasts, and subscribe to so many self-help blogs, before you finally have to decide that enough is enough and it is time to help yourself! 

So, you can find me over here in the Help Yourself Camp.  I have waved the white flag of surrender and told the Lord that I surrender all of this to Him.  I cannot do this by myself because I have tried.  There are some definite changes that need to occur in my life.  Some idols that need to be cast down.  Some stumbling blocks that need to be removed.  Unfortunately, even some relationships that may need to be restructured.

It has been awkward to put myself first when I have poured the past twelve years of my life into putting myself on the back burner. There have been growing pains for us all as I have worked on weaving these Life Change Challenges into the fabric of my life.  Yet, it is worth it, and through God's grace, I am growing, changing, stretching, and reproducing new life into dead spaces.  I feel like I have gone from being nonliving to living.  Where have I been all of my life? 

 So,  I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:21-25

Monday, September 10, 2012

Life Change Challenge: Committed to Blogging

First, I want to thank all you who have joined me in this Life Change Challenge. It has truly been a blessing.  Sharing our triumphs and challenges as we push each other on has increased my personal commitment to this challenge.  I'm glad to have you on this journey.   I want to stop going around the same mountain and just get to the other side already! Don't you? 

Challenge Update:
Last week, I committed to waking up by 6:00 every morning for prayer and devotion.  My goal was to give myself enough time to have unhurried, uninterrupted time with the Father. In the past, my time of devotion was very one sided and plagued with a bad case of the "give me's" and the "fix it's."  Yet, I felt the Lord pulling on my heart strings, inviting me to desire more of Him. 

Last week's challenge exceeded my expectations.  But, isn't that just like God?  I rolled out of bed, walked into my guest bedroom, and sat quietly before the Lord. In prayer, I asked Him to lead me into worship and guide me through this committed time of devotion.  Oh, did He ever! 

Who knew that carving thirty minutes out of my day would lead to so much fulfillment and joy? Who knew that prayers would be answered, answers to problems would be given, and guidance would be so evident that I could see the ordered steps before me?  Who knew that in the midst of raised hands, uplifted face, rivers of tears, and songs of sweet praise, the Holy Spirit could make His presence known in that little guest bedroom on the corner of my house and minister to my spirit?

There is no place like the love of God. 

So, I am sold.  This change is here to stay.  My life has new meaning and purpose and it all derives from just that small sliver of time in my busy day. 

New Life Change Challenge: 
This week, I am committing to spending the second 30 minutes of my day on blogging.  Whether it's writing, marketing, media relations, networking, or developing my craft, it is time for my to get serious about this blogging ministry.

So, how did your personal Life Change Challenge work for you last week?  What are you working on this week?  Please share in the comments or join me on my facebook page.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Frogs on the Brain

My favorite resources for homeschooling my children are the free programs and services offered through our local precinct.  Whether it's guided nature studies, free science and nature classes, or library story time, I know my boys are going to learn something new about this wonderful world we live in.  

Well, I was not disappointed this morning when I took the little ones, ages 2 and 4, to preschool story time at our local library.  Even the 9 year old dropped his Mr. Cool facade and really enjoyed today's frog theme.  As I was sitting there listening to the stories, my homeschooling mommy brain started turning over ideas for a short study on frogs using many of the resources I already have at home and on the internet. I also got on Facebook and asked my homeschooling and classroom teacher friends to join me in coming up with some ideas.  

The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility.  We can take a break from our normal studies and pursue areas of interests because we have the time to do so.  Then, we just get back on track and keep going until the next idea sparks an interest in deeper study. 

I decided to share the final list of ideas below.  My thought is to just go down the list of ideas until we reach the end, or not.  It all depends on the boys' interest level.  I'm also open to any suggestions my boys come up with as we go along. 

Read Aloud:  In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

  • Create a concept web on pond animals.  Have the boys draw the pictures.
  • Dig up pond water from our neighborhood pond and take a gander at what's swimming around in there.
  • Get up early in the morning and observe the pond.  Come back at noon and in the evening to observe what types of animals we see at the pond.  Bring sketch pads so the boys can draw pictures of what they see. Or, maybe just snap pictures and create a Pond Photo Journal.  I'm flexible.
  • Nature journal narration for the 9 year old.
Read Aloud: Tadpoles and Frogs by Anna Milbourne

  • Create a model of the frog life cycle. 
  • Narration and labeled diagram of a frog in nature journal for the 9 year old.

Types of frogs and where they live:

  • Read a library book and then locate them on a map. 

Read Aloud: Frog and Toad Series by Arnold Lobel  

  • Read aloud to little ones and assign as independent reading for the 9 year old. 
  • Verbal narration for the 9 year old. 
  • Internet search for the difference between a frog and a toad and record similarities and differences on a compare and contrast chart

Read Aloud: The Frog Prince by Brothers Grimm

  • Introduce the elements of the fairy tale genre to the 9 year old.
  • Narrations and act it out for all. 
  • Watch The Frog Prince and discuss the similarities and differences between the play and the story.
  • Watch The Princess and the Frog and discuss the similarities and differences between the movie and the story. 

 I've already recruited my husband for this! I love my boys, but I think this calls for some father/sons bonding time. 


  • Read The Adventures of Grandfather Frog by Burgess and give narrations.
  • Complete some of the activities from Homeschool Share.
  • Lily pad learning activities for all.  I'm thinking of creating language games for the little ones and maybe some math activities for the 9 year old. 
  • Art projects
  • I'm considering frying frog legs, but I don't know if I'm ready for that yet! 

I usually follow a Charlotte Mason approach and allow the children to make their own connections.  However, I think it's okay to deviate and give them alternative learning opportunities.  This will be our first official multi-age thematic unit and I'm really excited about it.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Life Change Challenge: More Time for God

For the past week, my Life Change Challenge was to go to bed by 10 and wake up no later than 6:30.  I would love to say that I was successful at going to bed every night by 10 and waking up every morning by 6:30, but that would not be the truth.  While I did not succeed in accomplishing my goal with consistency, I have learned some very valuable lessons that I think will benefit both myself and my family as I progress with this challenge.

Lesson 1:  Life Happens
On the first night, I was in bed by 10, but the two oldest boys were revolting against the system.  So, I didn't actually get to fall asleep until around 11:00.  Well, the youngest boy fell out of the bed at 11:30 and needed consoling in order to go back to sleep.  Sometime around 5:00 in the morning, the middle child woke up for a potty break and decided I should join him on this grand adventure.  Did I share my conspiracy theory with you?

By sunrise, I was ready to throw up my hands and stop this challenge.  Instead, I reminded myself that life happens.  The important thing is to continue to show up day after day at the same time until the dragon is finally slain.

Lesson 2: Give Myself Permission to become a Priority
So many things came up this week, and I found myself putting others first, leaving very little room for myself.  Two hour meetings went over by hours.  My husband came home and wanted the family to go with him to the store so he could spend time with us while running his errands.  I mentioned my children and their protest against bed time tyranny above. 

Every day, I raced against time and found myself stumbling into bed.  My brain couldn't calm down because I had not given myself time to relax and ease into my evening.  Other people's delays or priorities became my own, and in the end, I was not able to focus on my own goal.

I remembered thinking, "We teach people how to treat us."  As I go forward, I will make myself a priority.  It's okay to leave the meeting or to even mention what time I need to leave before it starts.  My husband will not feel deprived if I choose to stay home and continue with the evening preparations.  There will be other outings.  If I don't get enough sleep, I don't have anything to give to the people I love.

Lesson 3:  Speak Clearly and Carry a Big Stick
I have to ask for what I need  in clear, concise language, preferably with bullets.  No, we are not talking about ammo.  I'm talking about making eye contact with my man and saying, "I need your help." That always gets his attention.  After that, I have to say, "This is what I need from you. Bullet one. Bullet two.  Bullet three."  Now, my husband is a very intelligent and well-read man.  He can handle more than a bulleted list.  However, the problem is mine, not his.  So, he doesn't have to hear my long drawn out sob story.  Just the facts, and then he is ready to act.  And he did.   When he partnered with me on getting the boys to go to sleep and reminded me to make my sleep schedule a priority, this challenge became so much easier. Our families love us.  They just need to know that we need them.

It's not always easy, but I have to say what I mean, and mean what I say.  Period.  I used to wait for them to fall asleep and then I would go to bed.  Because I did this, my husband just assumed that I enjoyed living off of three hours of sleep, so he would go on to sleep.  Even though I had established a bed time, I was just giving lip service and the boys knew it. Well, I finally got it! In order for this to work, my children had to see that I really am going to bed by 10.  Now, whether they are asleep or not, all lights in the house are turned off and all bedrooms doors are closed.  They get the message loud and clear and they no longer expect me to stay up with them. 

Week Four's Life Change Challenge:
I will continue to work out the kinks in my system for the bed time challenge, but I am moving on to Week Four.  This week, I am working on really listening to God during my morning devotion.  Because I have not been going to bed consistently, I usually rush through my morning devotion.  Honestly, it's more about me than it is about Jesus with my current system, and that needs to change.  So, this week, I will wake up by 6:00, go into the guest bedroom, and sit with God for 30 minutes.  However He chooses to lead that uninterrupted time with Him is how it will be done.  I'm really looking forward to implementing this Life Change.

Now, let's talk about you.  First, I am so excited to see that so many of you have joined me in this challenge.  How did your week go?  What have you learned about yourself during this challenge?  What change are you implementing this week?  Please share in the comments below or on my facebook page