Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homeschooling Through Busy Times

One of the great things about homeschooling is that we have lots of freedom and flexibility with our schedules!




But even knowing this, sometimes homeschooling through busy times can still seem overwhelming.

We recently went through a 10-day busy period while my family and I were very actively involved in a Share-a-thon (sort of a fun mix between an old-fashioned revival campmeeting and a fundraising event) at a Christian outreach ministry in our community. While this is something our whole family really enjoys and looks forward to working in twice a year, there were lots of quickly grabbed suppers, very late nights, really rough mornings, and a pretty distracted homeschool teacher and student!

Here are some things that helped us manage to keep our homeschool afloat during this very busy time:

Know Your Priorities

Knowing which school subjects or activities are the most important to your family can help you better determine the things that really need to get accomplished. If you really need to do a math lesson each day to stay on target, then you will want to focus on at least getting that done. Or if Bible time or reading are most important to you, then focus your school time energy during those busy times on getting those done.

During our busy time, I knew if we could at least get Bible, math, and spelling accomplished for the week, we were doing fine. Those were our top priorities at the time. We actually managed to get in much more, but those were the most important. Having that in my mind kept me from feeling overwhelmed or worrying that we were getting behind.

Life is School

Do not underestimate the importance of simple life lessons that can take place in the midst of all the busyness.

Chores and housework are worthwhile activities both for us and our children. Whether you call it "Home Economics" or simply "Life Skills," these are very important, character-building learning experiences; and it is perfectly OK to focus on those sometimes!

What is the nature of your "busyness?" If you think about it, I am sure you can find something worthwhile and educational in what you are doing for your homeschooler(s).

Participating in the Share-a-thon included some fun learning activities for Big Brother! Just as a few examples, he was able to talk on live radio (science/technology/public speaking), help figure up fundraising totals (math), recite Scriptures (Bible/public speaking), as well as listen to and sing along with some great Gospel music and hymns (music)! So even though we were supper busy and were not on our "normal" homeschool schedule, learning was still taking place. And it was meaningful!

Fill in the Gaps in Fun Ways

We put our history textbook work on hold for those 10 days. We were up to the beginning of the War for Independence, so Big Brother enjoyed listening to some dramatized history stories about that time period on tape. While this was not our "normal" history curriculum, it was very enriching. This was something he could do on his own while I was busy preparing a simple, quick meal! And once our busy season was over, he was able to really get excited about reading about that time period in his History book.

If there are subjects like this that have to be put on hold through a busy season, try finding a fun and/or simpler alternative to fill in that gap until things calm down at your house.

And It Came to Pass

I have heard it jokingly said that some of the sweetest words in the entire Bible is the phrase "And it came to pass." Busyness and being "off" your routine does not last forever. Soon life will calm back down and things will be back to "normal." Just realizing that adjustments needed only to be made for a season helped relieve much of the stress for me and I was able to actually enjoy this time much more.

Not every busy season our families face involves something as nice as a Share-a-thon event or revival meeting. Maybe you are going through a time of sickness, a move, the loss of a loved one, or some other kind of busy season. We all hit those times. Hopefully the ideas I have shared here can also apply in those situations.

Remember, homeschooling is real life schooling. Our students are learning in everything we do together, not just by studying their textbooks while sitting at a desk from 8 to 3 every weekday! Don't let seasons of busyness or stress get you in a bind. Stick to your priorities and embrace the many learning experiences God sends your way!

How do you handle busy times as a homeschooler?

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How We Start Our Homeschool Day



I like to think of homeschooling as more than just an educational choice. It is a way of life! And just like in life, there are good days and...not so good days. How our day begins many times determines what the rest of the day will be like, so getting the day off to a good start is pretty important for us!

I am always tweaking and playing around with our schedule. If something is working out great, we keep it in our routine. If not, we try something else.

There are a few things that have been working for us lately to set the tone for a good homeschool day. All of these things happen in the morning before Big Brother ever sits down at his desk to work.

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A good morning starts the night before!

As much preparation as I can do the night before the better. If I already have Big Brother's assignments and the materials he needs for completing them loaded into his workboxes the night before, that saves us a ton of time and chaos! I also like to get the dry erase board ready for the next day's Board Work (see below).

Also, I have found having the kitchen and living room cleaned up before bed makes for a better morning. It doesn't take so long to get a good breakfast ready when I don't have dishes to wash or messes to clean up beforehand. Big Brother's workboxes and desk are in the living room, so being able to get to those areas in the morning without having to step over piles of toys is a blessing, too!

Getting a good nights rest instead of staying up late reading, watching videos, or surfing the web also helps to make everybody happier in the morning! If for some reason we are late getting to bed, I love having the freedom to allow a little extra sleep time in the morning.

Music!

Lately I have been turning on a Bluegrass Gospel hymns CD in the morning as we are going about our morning chores and breakfast. I don't know of anything that will wake you up and get you going quite like banjo music! :) The boys love it, and the hymns are a real blessing by turning our hearts and thoughts toward the Lord. And there's just something so sweet to me as a mother watching Big Brother load the washing machine while singing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." :)

Bible Time & Prayer

I have determined that even if we are not able to accomplish anything else during our day, if we have had Bible and prayer time then we have done the most important thing. My biggest goal as a homeschool mom is to help my boys take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16), so I want to make faith-building a #1 priority.

Big Brother and I spend some quiet time reading our Bibles. He is currently working through Gotta Have God 2, a devotional book for boys ages 6-9. I enjoy reading a chapter along with my online Good Morning Girls. Big Brother also spends a few minutes quoting his memory work. Little Brother dearly loves joining in and doing the motions that go with the verses we are memorizing using the Scripture Talk DVD!

I am so thankful as a homeschooling mom to also have the freedom and the time to kneel down and pray aloud with my boys every morning! We all look forward to praying together. Both boys are quick to remember when it is prayer time, and they take it seriously. How wonderful it is to join with them in thanking God for His many blessings and asking for His grace for the day ahead. And Little Brother's little "Amen!" at the end is just so precious!!! :)

Board Work

After Bible and prayer time, we usually do some work at the dry erase board on the wall. I usually use this time to introduce any new concepts Big Brother might be encountering in his work that day. I write a few quick math problems up there just for some practice. I might also write a new English rule on the board for us to go over, or some new science or history vocabulary. We don't spend a whole lot of time on this (maybe 10 minutes or so), but it goes a long way toward helping him be ready for the day's school assignments.

Games!

We like to spend at least 30 minutes in the morning playing our homemade review games. We have 4 different sets of cards right now including: Math, English, History, and Science. I add new cards to our sets each week as he is learning new things. This has been a super fun way for him to review old facts as well as for me to gently introduce new material. Sometimes we play a memory match style game, and sometimes we play Go Fish! Big Brother has retained information he is learning in school so much better since we have started our daily game time!! Little Brother usually sits at the table with us and either colors or eats snacks during game time.

By this time, Big Brother is ready to get started on his homeschool assignments for the day. Starting the day out right with good preparation, uplifting music, God's Word, prayer, and FUN really helps to set the stage for a great homeschool day at our house!

What do mornings look like at your house? How do you get your homeschool day off to a good start? I would love to hear your ideas! Please feel free to share a comment!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

5 Simple Chores for an 18 Month Old!

I have already shared 32 Chore Ideas for a 7 Year Old.

Now, I want to share with you 5 Simple Chores for an 18 Month Old!



Little Brother will be 18 months old soon. He is definitely a handful, and making messes is his specialty! But he is our sweet little blessing, and he loves to be helpful!

So we have found a few simple "chores" that he is able to do around our home. While Little Brother doesn't have any interest in earning screen time like Big Brother does with his chores just yet, high fives and lots of praise go a long way with him right now. :)

Here are 5 simple chore ideas for an 18 month old:

1. Throwing away his diaper
We started teaching him to do this one a few weeks ago, and now he eagerly does it on his own after each diaper change. At first I would just carry him with me to the trash can and say, "Now we have to throw your diaper away!" as I dropped it in. Pretty soon he got the gist and started asking to do it himself. He is being helpful, and I figure this is a great way to start leading up to potty training at some point.

2. Picking up toys & books
He is the king of tearing out books and toys all over the living room, but most of the time he is also just as happy to help clean the mess back up! We have a few baskets that his toys and books go in, and when I ask him to clean up (and do the ASL sign), he is usually pretty eager to start grabbing things out of the floor and dropping them in the baskets. (But then of course it is also fun to dump everything back out and pick it all up again...and again...) ;)

3. Cleaning up his own little messes
Spills and dribbles are bound to happen with little people! When Little Brother spills something, often we will hand him a rag or towel and help him clean it up. Daddy has even let him "help" sweep up some cracker crumbs from under his chair. Again, Little Brother thinks this is all great fun!

4. Dusting
This one is a really big hit with my toddler! I do not particularly enjoy dusting...at all! But having Little Brother as an eager helper makes it fun. :) We have a big, old upright piano in our living room. I love it, but the shelves really collect alot of dust. Little Brother loves the "nano" just as much as I do (maybe more!) So dusting the "nano" is now his job. :) I put socks on his little hands and help him wipe all over that great big thing. Since it is so tall, I let him stand on the bench (with me standing there holding on) and wipe the upper shelves. For the very top I have to lift him up high and let him wipe. Could I do this job faster and easier by myself? Sure I could...but it would not be nearly as much fun! ;)

5. Gathering up dirty laundry
We sort out laundry into hampers that stay in the laundry closet. Many mornings there may be dirty clothes lying in the bathroom or bedrooms, so Little Brother can come with me and help gather them up and put them in the right hampers. This way everything is ready for Big Brother to get the day's laundry washed. Super simple, but also super helpful!

I could do any of these little chores myself and probably do them faster. BUT I feel this is as good a time as any, while he is still eager to please and full of energy, to start teaching my toddler how to take a little bit of age appropriate responsibility and to make a contribution to our home and family.

I hope you found this post helpful! What kinds of chores do the littlest helpers do in your family? Leave your ideas in the comments!!

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

32 Chore Ideas for a 7 Year Old

We are implementing a new chore system for Big Brother. Giving my 7 year old son chores to do is a win-win situation for everyone. He is learning important life skills and responsibility while I get some much appreciated help around our home.

Big Brother has responded extremely well to the motivational system I came up with for his school work. By doing all his homeschool assignments in a timely manner and completing his regular laundry job, he can earn an hour of screen time for any school day. Getting to watch DVDs is a big deal for him, so he is willing to work to earn that time.

However, he has been a little unhappy some days because he really wanted to be able to finish watching a show or movie that lasted longer than one hour. And he also had no way of earning his screentime on the weekends. So I decided I was more than willing to let him earn some more screen time! Introducing: our new chore system! ;)

On our refrigerator is a list of 32 chores that he can choose from to do in addition to his regular laundry job. Completing any one of these chores earns him 5 minutes of screen time.

Note that these are all things he is capable of doing either on his own or with a little instruction from me or Daddy. He does not actually have to do any of these chores. These are just extras he can do to help out and earn more screen time. He is free to choose to do as many or as few of these chores as he wishes in a day.



So here is the chore list he can choose from:

1. Sweep the kitchen
2. Clean the kitchen floor
3. Wipe off the table
4. Clean the countertops
5. Wash dishes
6. Put away dishes
7. Clean cabinet doors
8. Clean windows
9. Pick up the living room
10. Dust the living room
11. Vacuum the living room
12. Make his bed
13. Pick up in his bedroom
14. Vacuum his bedroom
15. Clean all doors
16. Clean all light switches
17. Clean all door knobs
18. Sweep the bathroom
19. Clean the bathroom floor
20. Clean the bathroom sink
21. Clean the bathroom mirror
22. Clean the toilet
23. Spray the tub
24. Pick up dirty laundry around the house and sort it out into baskets
25. Fold a load of clean laundry
26. Clean the baseboards
27. Throw away old food and leftovers in the fridge
28. Clean trash out of the van
29. Clean trash out of the car
30. Sweep the entryway
31. Vacuum the hallway
32. Vacuum Mom & Dad's room


Today was the first day of trying this new system. It is a Saturday. He willingly and eagerly completed 18 of these chores and earned 90 minutes of screen time for this evening!! Happy boy & happy Mom!!!!

What kind of system do you use for chores in your family? Do your children earn money or special priveleges by helping out around the house? What kind of chores do you have them do? Leave me a comment!!

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