Tips from a formerly disorganized mom to a functionally organized.

Practical help to end the overwhelm

Practical tips when you feel overwhelmedPeople who know me might be laughing right now. I am a go with the flow type mom, and messes are part of the flow. However, without some serious organization, homeschooling and 4 sons meant overwhelm. (Yes, four sons, the cutie in the photo is a granddaughter, a new adventure.)

Since, organization can be a struggle for me, I’ve worked hard to come up with simple solutions. These are boy tested, and worked for us. I found the more elaborate a system, the less likely I was to keep it up.  Okay, let’s get functionally organized.

The classic organization advice is to have a place for everything. Great advice, however, things always seemed to migrate. What’s up with that?  We’ve probably all tried to put everything in it’s place…but often that seems to not be quite the ticket. So a few additions to that excellent advice.

Eliminate the clutter. Recently, we’ve been doing some pretty radical culling out of our belongings and I realize just how overdue we were. I’ve also been reading up on minimalism. I’m working toward a more simplified life, and have found a great deal of wisdom in letting go of so many material things.

If you are constantly having to re-organize your stuff, it might not be that your unorganized, it might just be you have too much stuff! Really, think it through. Being organized is great, but if you are just organizing to fit more and more stuff into your home, it’s time to back up and re-evaluate. Things take up space, financial resources, and time. Make sure the trade off is worth it.

If your children are overwhelmed by the thought of picking up their rooms, they probably have too much stuff in there. Do them a favor and help them sort out their favorites and donate the rest to a charity. A win win for everyone.

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Make This a Summer to Remember

Making the Most of Your Kid's Summer Break

Ideas for keeping your summer stress free yet memorable.

Summer is here!!!! 

Except it’s not.

I was at the library with my 18 month old granddaughter this morning and overheard some conversations between moms and the children’s librarian. They were discussing ‘summer slide.’ That dreaded decline in students abilities over the summer break.

On Pinterest, I was deluged with posts about how to keep your kids reading over the summer, or… here’s a link to math worksheets to keep those skills up. On Facebook, more articles on the same theme. Everywhere I turned it was another reminder that we need to keep our children productive, learning, doing… ALL THE TIME.

What happened to lazing on the grass watching the ants, running in the sprinklers, or eating watermelon on the porch? When do we all get to take a BREAK!

I love books, ideas, and education as much as anyone, but I also love children. They get one childhood, that’s it, just one. And while there might be some ‘summer slide’ going on ( frankly, can’t we mitigate that with something more enjoyable than worksheets..sheesh), there are also huge benefits from just taking a break.

Imagine, stepping away from the planning, unplugging the computer, ditching the phone and spending a few weeks with your kids. Not keeping them productive, not shuttling them from activity to activity, not vegging in front of the TV or computer…but spending time with them. Enjoying them. Listening to them. Creating with them.

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Reduce Stress In Your Homeschool Day

A simple concept that can provide the key to less homeschool stress

Great perspective to approach homeschooling for the long haul.Homeschooling is stressful. There are time constraints, financial burdens, and parent burnout. However, the big source of  stress is fear that we are not doing enough to provide our children with the education they will need

When this fear snuck up on me, I found relief and hope in applying, what I call, the law of the farm.

Farmers have to plan for the long haul.  They plant in the spring, water and tend their crops all summer in hopes that, come fall, there will be a bountiful harvest.  Can you imagine a farmer foolish enough to think he could go out and plant in October and harvest in November?

The law of the farm applies to many areas of life.  Parenting is just one example. As parents we repeat ourselves, endlessly.  Teaching our children to say thank you, to wait their turn, to ‘use their words’ and to share. The pure repetition necessary to instill these lessons takes persistence and fortitude.

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Are parents really qualified to teach their children?

Research shows Homeschooling is a viable option despite parental education, income level, or race.

Yes, and here is the research to support that claim.I understand if you have your doubts. We have been taught to think that we need a special credential to teach our children and that if we teach something in the wrong order our children will be permanently damaged. As you will see in a minute, the research suggests that not only are parents qualified, but that they do an awesome job.

The reasons should be obvious…who is more concerned and tuned in to a child than his parents? Who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses better? Who is more interested in seeing that child succeed? What school can offer the individualized help that a parent can offer? Just the one on one tutoring nature of homeschooling gives it many advantages over a classroom situation.

Added to the fact that parents have far smaller ‘classes’ to teach, curriculum writers have realized that homeschoolers are a big market and have written curriculums with the parent/educator in mind. You don’t need a credential to use these materials, most come with step by step instructions. Understanding that parents will be doing the teaching, curriculum writers have made their products family friendly.

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Hate history?

Ditch the textbooks and make history come alive!

 

Great article on teaching students to LOVE history. No more boring dry textbooksDo you hate History? Did you watch the clock tick off each minute as your teacher droned on? Did you suffer through dry readings, memorize meaningless dates, and answer pointless review questions? Do you dread subjecting your child to the same boring process?

If so, I’m sorry. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way!

While in college I have a vivid memory of sitting in the library studying with some friends  for an upcoming test for World Civilization. We were reviewing English history during the 1500’s.  My friends were struggling with dates, names and seemingly unrelated events.

I wasn’t struggling. The reason… in high school I had read a series of historical novels set in the courts of England. Nothing boring or dry there. There had been romance, court intrigue, religious conflicts, betrayal, heroes and villains. I’d cried for Queen Catherine as she watched her marriage and family crumble because she couldn’t produce a male heir, and was horrified as her daughter, Bloody Mary, turned her reign into one marked by revenge, fanaticism and bloodshed.

I wrestled with the issues that caused England to break from the Catholic church and was fascinated by the complex and fragile allegiances that were formed to consolidate power. The characters I met were complicated individuals who were forced to make decisions that would affect whole countries, individuals often beset with self-doubt and questions. I found myself caught up in their dilemmas wondering what I would do, what they should do…and rarely finding a satisfactory answer.

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Why We Need to Rethink Rewards

Be careful of sabotaging your efforts to instill good habits with rewards.

Great article about being cautious about using rewards with children.Do you have some sort of reward system in place for chores?  Do you reward yourself when you lose a certain amount of weight or work out every day for a week? Do you pay your kids for good grades, or take them for ice cream if they read a certain number of books? When my boys were playing baseball, I knew a parent who paid their kids if they hit a home run. Perhaps you give your child a treat if they finish their veggies, or a reward when they finish their math.

Rewards are an odd thing. We’ve probably all used them at one time or another. You’ve probably read articles about using rewards to help establish new habits or change behavior.  The thing is, offering rewards can actually sabotage your efforts, and they should be used with caution and intention.

I’ve always been leery of rewards and have seen a great deal of negatives when rewards are overused. Let’s examine a few instances to see the danger.

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Busting The Myth Of The Perfect Homeschool

And Embracing The Imperfect Journey That Will Nourish Your Child's Soul.

Great article about embracing the everyday, ordinary moments.This post is dedicated to all those homeschooling moms who fear that they are not doing all that they should to assure their kids get a great education.

I was scrolling through some past newsletters and came upon this paragraph. In the article I was talking about the value of going on field trips, I’ll let you read it before I go on.

“Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.”

A key to successful homeschooling is realizing that not every day is going to be exceptional. Most days, your kids will fight, lose their book, or complain that they hate to read (or write, or do math, or all three). Chances are good that tomorrow your kids won’t suddenly morph into Super Homeschool Child who wants to do extra Saxon lessons, read Plato (in Greek) and act out a Shakespeare play. Most of the time, you’ll just plod along, doing what comes next and hoping to catch up with the laundry.

And that’s okay!!!!!

There will be those amazing moments (not whole days…but moments) when your child makes a key connection, finds a book they can’t put down, or ask a particularly insightful question.Those moments are sprinkled in and keep us going. But if you are expecting those special moments to be the norm, you are going to be disappointed and you are going to be stressed.

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Making the shift to homeschooling, not doing school at home.

How a change in focus can move you forward.

Great article about why homeschooling is uniqueOne of the easiest mistakes to make when beginning the homeschooling journey is to model our homeschool after our local public schools. Each of us has our own reason for choosing to homeschool, most often that reason includes the thought that we want more for our kids than our local school offers, or we want something different than we experienced when we went to school.

Where we run into problems is that when we begin to think about homeschooling we go back to what is familiar. We think about desks, supplies, curricula, and how to set up a classroom in our home. We structure our days to resemble a typical school schedule, and for all practical purposes, we have just moved the location of our child’s schooling, but we haven’t really transformed their education into something new.

None of this is particularly bad, it’s just not what it could be. When we begin to homeschool we have the opportunity to transform our child’s education into something richer and deeper than what can be offered in a large group setting. We can take advantage of the unique opportunities we have to do things differently.

Here are a few thoughts to challenge you. You don’t need to change everything at once, jumping into homeschooling can be challenging enough without leaving everything that is familiar behind. But small changes add up, and as you gain confidence in your ability to nurture your child’s mind, you can continue on the journey to truly transforming your approach to education.

So here are three simple things you can do to make the most of the uniqueness of homeschooling.

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Solving at least one common homeschool frustration

Make a school box and enact a few simple rules to avoid hours of frustration

Great organization tip to save time

On a typical homeschool morning it was a major accomplishment to have all the kids up, dressed, fed, and chores done.  Then we need to start school, which often went something like this. Math first, except child # 2 can’t find his book and child #4 broke his pencil. After 10 minutes of searching everyone has a book and working writing instrument. 5 minutes later child #1 needs colored pencils, which we can’t find. Child #3 thinks they are in his room and runs off.  And so the morning progresses with stops, starts, hunts, and frustration.

Often being a Mom of 4 boys felt like wrangling monkeys in a home filled with black holes.

In order to save my sanity, I hit upon a method that eliminated a few of those black holes. So often the best solutions are the simplest, that is definitely true of this tip.

At the beginning of one school year I got each of the boys a box with a lid large enough to hold all of their school books and supplies. It worked so well I did it every year until they were in High School. (In high school, they were responsible for their own supplies.)

The system was super simple, and only effective if the rules are followed without exception. When the school day started each boy pulled out their own box and everything they needed was right there. At the end of school everything was returned to each box, the lid popped on, and there was no opening it back up until the next school day.

This solved the obvious issue of having to hunt for books, pencils and other miscellaneous items, which was a huge help in keeping frustration to a minimum, but the school box solved a few other things I hadn’t foreseen.

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Reading for your child is often the best tool to teach them to read. Especially if they struggle.

Bear the burden of reading to keep your child's love of books alive.

When reading for your child is the sensible approachIn our last post we discussed the importance of allowing children to read books that are too easy for them. If you missed it, you can check it out here. Today, we are going to explore another mistake we make when it comes to our child’s reading level.

The oldest of my sons was slow to read. He was also highly intelligent, had an expansive vocabulary, and loved learning. When he was in early elementary school I began checking out options for history and science. Mind you, this was before Homeschooling had really taken off, so my options were limited. A friend suggested I check out a popular Christian Textbook publisher. I was VERY disappointed in the material.

The history text was stories about community helpers; firemen, postal workers and police. It was cute and boring, so boring. The reason…the book was written for a 6 year old’s reading ability, and so the content had to be “dumbed down.” I couldn’t see my bright son being even slightly interested in the book.

My solution was to work on his reading everyday for about 20 minutes…and the rest of the time, I read to him. We explored all sorts of interesting people, concepts, places, and art. With me, standing in the gap, he was able to pursue information about anything that interested him. At the time the Ninja Turtles were huge, and so he poured over Art books about Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and DaVinci.

Tim was a sponge. He could sit for long periods with books, even when he couldn’t read them. He would come to me with questions that illustrations had sparked and ask me to read sections.

During these years of struggle with reading, I was determined to keep his love of learning and books alive. While he may have made halting progress with phonics, in every other subject he was leaping ahead. When his reading skills eventually caught up I knew he would have a strong foundation and mastery of words and concepts to build on.

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At the beginning of his 3rd grade year he was still sounding out most words, and reading quite slowly. Then, seemingly overnight (although it had been years of steady work) it clicked. Boy, did it click. By the end of 3rd grade he was reading at a 9th grade level.  When his reading skills synced up with all of the other learning he’d been doing he was capable of reading and understanding just about everything he picked up.

Even if your child is a whiz at reading, more than likely, in the early years, their comprehension will be greater than their reading ability. Don’t limit their science books to only those they can read on their own. Don’t limit their enjoyment of literature to graded readers with limited vocabulary. Read to your children all sorts of books! Their busy minds will love being fed a steady supply of fresh ideas, and their love of learning and books will continue to grow. They will want to become better readers because they will know, through you, the magic that books contain.

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