Six Steps for Starting Your Homeschool Year Right, Putting On the Armor of God

Six Steps for Starting Your Homeschool Year Right, Putting On the Armor of God

new yearA new homeschool year is upon us. No doubt, you have spent countless moments prepping for this time. Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations have been recipients of your many searches as you’ve done your diligent homework for the school year ahead. Budgets have been stretched and your shiny new (or used) curriculum is set up in the book shelves. The kids are signed up for all the church, co-op, and community activities. Meal planning has been done and school rooms have been re-organized. Each child has picked out new crayons, pencils, notebooks, and folders.

Good job mama!

Setting up our homes to educate our children is a serious task that takes wisdom, foresight, organization, and planning. However, if you are anything like us…shortly after beginning a new year of schooling and plans, you hit a snag. Maybe the kids aren’t quite as enthusiastic as mom about the new schedule. Math keeps getting harder and harder to explain. Attitudes are rough, voices raise, wills clash, tears are shed; before you know it, your best laid plans have crumbled around you. The kids sigh with relief as you usher them out to play, and you slump over in a chair asking yourself, “Why do I do this?”

Homeschool mama, please hear my heart…for all the lovely aspects we experience in the calling to homeschool, the reality is…this life we’ve chosen is HARD. There is no scheduling we can do, no curriculum we can choose, no organizational system that will shield us from this reality.

Thankfully, we can plan for all the challenges we WILL face as our new school year unfolds.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is the first thing we need to do as we prepare for the school year: recognize that our struggle is not against our CHILDREN…but against an unseen force. The enemy or our souls doesn’t want us to homeschool! And he certainly opposes our efforts to disciple our children in this setting. STAND AGAINST HIS SCHEMES.

What schemes have you faced in your homeschool struggle? Whatever they are, you can know that you have everything you need to face them. So how do you then, stand firm and put on the armor of God in your homeschool?

1. Keep the belt of truth buckled around your waist:

Resist being tossed around by all the philosophies of the world and keep our minds set on truth. Be in God’s word! I know this sounds like another thing to “check off” your list. But it doesn’t need to be a burden! Be creative. You don’t need to do it like everyone else. Here are some ideas:
Have a daily quiet time and read the Bible on our own.
Read the Bible before/during/after breakfast or lunch with your children.
Join a Bible study.
Purchase a devotional book.
It doesn’t matter HOW you do this, what time of day, or how quiet it is around you…just DO it. Read God’s word!

2. Keep the breastplate of righteousness in place:

Recognize that YOUR righteousness will never be enough to please God. Realize that if you are God’s child, it is HIS righteousness that cleanses you from all sin. Submit to the cross..and know that your purity comes from Jesus’ blood. When God convicts you of sin, turn from it, acknowledge your need for God and obey Him. He will change your heart. (Hint…you will mess up in your parenting as you homeschool. A lot. Be quick to see your need for the gospel and confess your sin, not only to Jesus, but to your children.)

3. Make sure your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

When you mess up in your home and confess and apologize, turn away from self condemnation. Ask for a Do-Over. But even better, use your mess ups, your kid’s mess ups, and life’s heart aches to continually point your kids to the cross and the gospel. When my kids sin, when I sin, when we butt heads, or argue, I have the opportunity to talk about our need for Jesus, and how He is enough for us. There are opportunities to be ready with the gospel of peace EVERY DAY in our homeschools. Keep going back to the cross, over and over again.

4. Take up the shield of faith: Faith is a gift from God.

If your faith is small or weak, ask God to increase your measure. When lies come into your head that cause you to doubt your calling, you need to replace those attacks with truth from God’s word.  Remember what He has called you to and why. Recognize the lies that seep in (i.e., Can I really do this? Will my kids be OK? Did I pick the right curriculum? Is it worth it to homeschool and live on one income? It feels like we are missing out! Fill in your most common lie), and ask God to help you to resist believing the lies, and believe He will be faithful.

5. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit:

Our kids put on helmets when they ride their bikes to protect their brains. We need our brains protected by continually renewing our mind. We need to hear the story of salvation often. Let’s renew our minds with the truth of what it means to be in Christ. Remember it is HIS goodness that keeps us and changes us, not our own. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by quoting scripture. Scripture is our greatest tool in facing everything we face as moms educating our kids at home. I’ve said it a few times in this post already…but Ephesians 6 seems to make it a recurring theme, so I will too; read it, quote it to combat lies, memorize it, sing it, just let it be your guide. 

6. Pray!

Pray for your children, your homeschool, your home life, yourself as teacher, your husband. Pray, pray, pray as you shower, exercise, make meals, and clean toilets. Pray when you are fighting with your kids (even better, pray together!). Bring ALL your prayers and requests to God. Be alert and pray for your homeschool friends. Pray WITH your homeschool friends. Start a prayer co-op. Two school years ago, my kids and I invited three families to pray with us, two times a month. The boys prayed together (my oldest son lead), the girls prayed together (my oldest daughter led), and the moms prayed together (I lead).

I can not promise you a year filled with ease by following these steps. You can count on various trials as you face your days: sick kids, messy houses, bad moods, confusing studies, bad diagnoses, family problems. I CAN promise you that when you put on the armor of God you will be guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. You will come to a fuller, more mature faith; growing in Christ. Your Savior will face each challenge with you, keeping you strong, helping you stand firm, until you see Him face to face.

Here’s some extra credit for you:

One of my kids and I have had regular face offs for awhile now. Both of us have had some less than exemplary behavior. Tonight, we went together and hung out, just the two of us. We talked about some things God is teaching us, we played cards, we ate junk food. Right before we left to go home I said something really simple. “I’m REALLY excited for this school year with you. I love you so much. We’ve had some hard times. We will probably have more hard times this year. But, I’m committed to you. And I want to work on communicating better and showing you love and patience.” I wish you could have seen the smile on my kiddo’s face. If you need to do this with any of your kids, do it! You will both be so glad you did.

Homeschool on! These days are precious and fleeting! Enjoy…and put on your armor!

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Instead of tulips popping up this April, we had a massive snow storm. Shut in due to weather, I decided to re-organize our school room and prepare it for the next year. I thought I would share our space with a picture tour. Enjoy!

school room

These are the big four’s desks.

school room

Looking from the other side of the homeschool room.

school room My desk. The white storage cart at the end is where they turn in finished work. I correct it, slap some Michael’s stickers on it (stickers are in the white bin hanging off the homework hand in cart) and hand it back.

school room

The top shelf of the Expedit shelf holds school supplies and things I might need at my desk but don’t want sitting out in the open.

 

school room

The 3-ring binder row. The box on the left holds our discipleship folders we use in a class we call, “What’s Up?” The next box over holds our “Picture Smart” Bible pages. The third box has my kid’s color coded binders. I put all of the finished work I want to keep in those binders. It’s really nice to have them accessible. I put in their papers, paintings and drawings, and anything cute the smaller kids create during their days.

school room

These are my leveled reader shelves. Most of the kids are finished or nearly finished with these shelves, but the concept worked really well, so I’m going to keep them there for Cupcake when Catty finishes up. I altered the organization just a wee bit from my original post.

school room  This is Mommy’s shelf. I placed my favorite parenting/homeschool books here, just to feel like I have some adult friends with me, holding me accountable during the day.

school room

Sticky notes, head phones for computer use, and smelly markers. A bit eclectic, but we needed a spot for these much used items.

school room

The clear bins hold puzzles, special “school time” learning toys and activities for Cupcake. The canvas bins on the bottom shelves hold our Heart of Dakota curriculum years which are not in use at the moment.

https://www.heartofdakota.com/

The book shelf on the left of this photo holds our Shutterfly year books and most beloved book sets. Cupcake’s desk is full of notebooks and coloring books and sticker projects and whatever she wants to keep there.

https://www.shutterfly.com/

Moving on to the cupboards! The top to shelves hold glue/gluesticks, extra crayons and markers, mod podge, gel pens, duct tape, trays and smocks for painting, etc. The bottom shelf holds all of my pre school materials: Before Five in a Row, Pre-AAR, and several beginning readers.

https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

I didn’t do anything to this messy cupboard. It holds batteries, a laminator, more gel pens, old crayons, notecards, and a label maker. It’s a small out of the way cupboard and I fill it with things we need only occasionally.

school room

Here we have Bible and devotional books, art books, poetry and sensory supplies. If I need an activity for a bored kid, this is my go-to spot.

school room

This shelf holds Ancient History, a little bit of Geography, Early American History (currently in use), and several science texts and books. The bottom shelf has a smattering of modern history and an open spot for my big plans to continue adding Sassafras Science to our work load.

school room

This cupboard holds our Math and early reading and spelling curriculum. We use CLE math for grades K and 1, and switch to Teaching Textbooks as soon as we pass into level 3. I’m not using All About Reading or Spelling at the moment, but hanging onto it, just in case I need to use it for Cupcake. My guess is we will use the readers, but I don’t know if I will be needing that rigorous of a program for her. The bottom shelf holds my oldest son’s work he needs to finish for grade 6.

school room

The last hanging cabinet is reserved for English and Spanish. It holds a few more spelling pieces, Rod and Staff grammar, Analytical Grammar for future use (of which I am a BIG fan…but that’s another post), Logic of English (which I probably won’t use anymore, does anyone want it?), and Spanish text books and plans. The bottom shelf holds most of the 9th grade work my oldest will be starting soon, along with a couple of books she will be finishing up in the next week or so.

school room

Just thought I’d share my daughter’s master piece “cheat sheet” for sentence diagramming. Seriously, I BARELY understand this stuff. She’s a whiz.

school room

We don’t have much in this room that isn’t directly related to schooling choices. But we do have a cupboard full of some favorite games.

school room school room

These last two pictures are “bonus pics” :). The top one is a shelf in my kitchen I use for our “morning time” together. It also houses the group work I do with the middle kids. It’s just too noisy to do much group work in the actual schooling area. We reserve the “school room” for a quiet study space and one on one instruction with mom. Group work is done at the kitchen table, in the play room, or on a couch somewhere. The bottom picture is our music area. That Hobby Lobby locker stores their music books, and I think it is just the cutest.

I hope you enjoyed my picture tour! It was fun sharing it with you. It really helps to have a “home” for all of the supplies we use in our homeschool. Of course, you don’t NEED this kind of space, but I find it a huge blessing. One of my favorite things is to look at pictures and videos of other homeschoolers schooling spaces. If you have a space you’d like to share, link it up in the comments. I’d love to join your tour!

 

 

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

After planning the Big Picture of your homeschool year, it’s time to begin focusing on specific plans.

I’m using The Simple Plan, by Mardel for my planner. But any planner will have daily pages that should work for your homeschool.

Steps to a Detailed Plan:

On Sunday evening, I sit down and look at my family weekly view calendar and I fill in appointments and anything that may compete with “at home” time for our school days.

detailed plan

Every afternoon, when the kids finish their school work, I correct their work and assign the next day’s assignment. I section my planner by subjects and each kid gets a line on that subject (in birth order).

detailed plans

I go through Jule’s work first, checking off what she has done and writing down the next day’s tasks in her planner. This pattern continues for each kid until I’m done; correct assignments, check off that they are complete in my planner, add next day’s assignment. All turned in assignments are returned to the kid’s desk and I start with the next kid.
Jules and Peebs have The Simple Plan student planners, by Mardel. I make sections for each subject and give more detailed assignments than what I actually record in my own planner. It guides them through the day. I tell them what they need to do on their own and what they need to do with me.
The beauty of giving daily assignments is I can adjust what we do from day to day to keep us flexible. This way the kids don’t ever feel “behind” or “ahead” and frankly it is giving them much less stress than when they used to have an entire guide in their hands. I simply need to look at my “year-at-a-glance plan” for each subject to make sure we are making good progress through each subject area.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

Odes and Catty didn’t get fancy planners. It really wasn’t necessary as most of their work is done directly with me. I write down their plans in a plain notebook: I love adding little love notes and words of encouragement in their books. This may look slightly overwhelming, but it honestly only takes a few minutes each afternoon.

detailed plansdetailed plans

As the kids go through their school day and complete their work, they turn in completed assignments in this dish-drying rack (placed inside of an Ikea Raskog). If the book doesn’t fit the drying-rack, they place it on the next shelf down. When their day’s work is complete, they add their planners to the completed work bin and I begin my work of correcting and assigning:

detailed plans

I pull out each finished piece of work and put on a sticker or write a note. I keep stickers in the front of the dish-drying rack. If appropriate, I write directly in the book. If I don’t want my handwriting to be permanent, I add it to a sticky note. The kids LOVE getting these notes from me. It makes them feel their work is important. I’ve noticed they do their work more carefully as a result. I also take this time to look at any errors or things that need attention. Words that are consistently mis-spelled are placed on a sticky note outside the notebook they turn in. We work on those errors throughout the week.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

The method of handing in assignments for me to look at during the day has cut down on a lot of interruptions. Before implementing this method, kids were nearly constantly bombarding me with questions while I was doing lessons with siblings. That has almost completely come to a stop.

Each kid has color-coded folders where they turn in assignments done on loose leaf paper. Finished work is placed on the right side of the folder. I send it back with a note and sticker on the left side of the folder for them to see. The next time the folder comes back to me, I either throw away the paper on the left, or put it in a color-coded three ring “better binder.” Guess what this means? No crazy paper work at the end of the year! And a portfolio of work is at my finger tips to store away for posterity (or a burning party when they graduate, if so desired). detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

So right now, you are likely thinking one of two things: “That girl is CRAZY!” Or “Get me to Staples for better binders, now!” Either way, I’d love to hear if any of these ideas are a help for you. What do you do to plan the details of your days?

 

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

I recently shared our homeschool year plan for 2017-2018, and promised I would share some of my planning process. Planning a season of homeschool can seem daunting. It does take some time and thought. I’m going to break this down into different posts and show how I’ve done this step by step in my home. I hope it is helpful.

Steps for Big Picture Planning:

1. Pray:Big Picture Planning

Take time to pray alone, with your kids, with your spouse. Ask God to give you wisdom on what will be the best fit for your particular life season. Trust Him to lead you.

2. Evaluate:

What is going on in the life of your family? Are you pregnant? Will you be giving birth soon? Do you have a newborn or toddler who will require significant attention this school year? Is there a move in your future? Are you, your children, or loved ones struggling with on-going or significant illness? Will you be traveling? Do your children have any learning disabilities or challenges that need to be addressed? Be realistic about all you can accomplish within different life seasons.

3. Think about your kids:

What are their interests right now? What do you like doing together? Ask your kids for input. Is there an area of growth you would like to explore? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is there a character quality or spiritual discipline that are important to your children’s development? What books have you been wanting to read? How old are your kids and what is reasonable to expect from them? How do you want your days to look? What is your educational philosophy? Do you want your home to look like school-at-home? Are you taking a relaxed approach? Will you use textbooks and workbooks? Do you enjoy reading aloud and lap books?

4. Research:

Ask your friends and more experienced moms things that have and haven’t worked for them. Look at various box curriculum to see suggestions for areas of study for different age groups. (I get ideas for history and book lists based on suggestions from box curriculum such as Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, etc. Go to a homeschool conference and look at material. Contact different publishers to discuss what might be best for your situation. Go to a seminar. In our area, there is a homeschool bookstore that services homeschoolers and offers feedback to fit your situation.

Big Picture Planning Carol Joy Seid offers seminars all over the country or you can buy her DVDs. Diana Waring gives incredible suggestions. Books such as, “Teaching from Rest,” by Sarah MacKenzie, “Educating the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson, “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling,” by Karen Allen Campbell, offer encouragement and ideas (there are LOTS of good, encouraging homeschool books). Visit co-ops and see if that is a fit for your family.

 

(Note: It’s OK not to do a Co-op, but could be a great thing for your family.)

Consider how you can get a full education from the library. Will you combine all or some of your children on some subjects? Which subjects will need to be one-on-one? What can they do independently? (Note: Most children are not ready for independence until around age 10, though even then, it’s not automatic. Realize that if you are going to do heavy school work with young children, you are responsible to sit with them and give instruction.)

As I go through the research step, I make notes in an empty Word document for each child. I keep websites I want to re-visit in those notes. As I go along, I delete items and ideas that aren’t a fit and by the end I have a good working list of what I’ll be using.

5. Research a planner:

This could keep you busy for several long nights of youtubing. I can’t give any advice about online planners. My expertise lies in pen-to-paper planners. I will link a few here, starting with the one I’m using this year:

Big Picture Planning

A Simple Plan (the planner I used last school year and am using again. I like it because it is dated, gives space for long term planning, monthly goals, a place to record purchases, two pockets (where I keep receipts) and individual planning spaces for up to six kids. The guts are all gray and white, which I don’t care for, but I can fix with a little bit of washi. I’m in love with colorful fun planners. However, keeping this design simpler does cut down the cost.)

Well Planned Day

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Erin Condren Teacher Planner: (this is not a homeschool planner, but I’ve adapted it to use it as such in the past. It is over-the-top expensive…but, Oh.So.Beautiful.)

Limelife Homeschool Planner: (this is also spendy, beautiful, and it is a homeschool planner to boot!)

Happy Planner Teacher Planner: (Not specific to homeschool, but…Happy Planner! I LOVE this line. They are SO adorbs! You can adapt them beautifully to your needs. Plus, Michael’s regularly has 50 and even 60% off coupons!)
If you don’t like any of these suggestions there are billions of planners on Etsy. Start with Plum Paper and after that you will get plenty of suggestions.

*You will spend a good amount of your days/years as a homeschool mom researching. You will make changes and often. Try not to get stuck in the research mode for too long. At some point you will have to make decisions.

6. Decide:

I advise discussing your decisions with your spouse. Once you have decided the route you want to take, entrust those decisions to Jesus and move forward. If you need to make some purchases, now is the time. This is fun! It’s mom’s Christmas when those packages get dropped off:

7. Sort and plan an overview of your year:

I divide my kid’s books onto their own personal shelves. I have a mom shelf where I keep all of the teacher manuals I will use during the year.
Next, I open my planner and plan the Big Picture: I look at each subject and divide it into a year’s worth of general lessons. Then I plot out an ideal “routine” day for each day of the week. This took me about six hours to pull together. It’s a lot of time up-front, however having the big picture mapped out, makes weekly and daily lesson planning extremely easy. It’s worth the up-front effort.

Here are some picture examples of Big Picture planning I did for one of my older kids:

Big Picture Planning
This is NOT a schedule, but a rough idea of how we can structure our days to fit things in. I don’t give this plan to my kids. It’s simply an idea of flow and routine for my own planning.

I left space at the end of the year as I’m not sure how we will space out these subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of plans for my preschooler. (I didn’t make plans for the rest of the kids when they were three years old. It certainly isn’t necessary! I simply recorded ideas so little Cupcake will not feel cast aside when everyone else hits the books. If I keep her engaged, we will ALL have better days.)

Big Picture Planning

Big Picture Planning

Stay tuned for Part 2 and how I turn the Big Picture into a daily plan!

 

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

leveled readers

My first born reads books as if her life depended on it. Introverted in nature, she happily retreats to her room with anything from Shakespeare to Family Circus. The idea of leveled readers was not on my radar as she was going through her elementary school years.

My middle kids are great readers. They are also however, energetic and highly extroverted. They like to read, but it’s not something they choose without encouragement.

Making sure my kids were reading books that were challenging and progressing them became a priority.

Finding the books was an easy task. Some of my kids do Heart of Dakota as the core of their homeschool curriculum. Part of HOD includes a program called Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. We don’t follow DITHOR as a curriculum, but the book lists are priceless. I have purchased the various levels of books and put them on shelves by level.

level readersThe first level of books are beginning readers and not a part of DITHOR. I use these books when the kids are learning to read. They read them to themselves several times. Each book must be read aloud to me as well. Once they are ready to move on to more independence, I let them move up to the next shelf. (Beginning readers for us are USBorne books, the readers from Sing, Spell, Read and Write, and various beginning readers I’ve picked up along the way.

The next shelf up contains the readers from All About Reading. After those are completed, the kids begin reading the first level of DITHOR books. 

We have a “homeschool library” check out system. Each shelf has a clipboard with the title of each book. When they “check out” a book, they write their names on the blank. It may take a few days to read a book, so they keep their checked out books in their desks. After finishing the book, they return it to the shelf and check off the box indicating they’ve read it. leveled readers

Each level has been assigned a washi tape. The shelf it sits on, is lined with the tape. The spines of the books have the washi tape, as well as the clipboard. It’s very easy to return a book to the correct spot.

leveled readersAs they move up each shelf, they have different assignments upon finishing their books. In the early levels, I simply ask for an oral narration of the book they have read. Or, I may ask them to read a section of the book to me as well. As they progress, I ask them to write a one paragraph summary. And finally, by the middle of the second to last shelf they are writing full book reports on each book. Occasionally I assign an illustration as well.

Leveled readers for homeschool has been so helpful for both student and teacher. I don’t need to chase down my kids to make sure they are reading. They have no question as to what it is they are asked to do and books are easily found and put away. I have peace of mind that they are progressing in their reading. Let me know if you have any questions! leveled readers