anxiety, encouragement, homeschool

Recharge Your Batteries

Let’s face it: homeschool moms expend a lot of energy. We’re not only the chief cooks and bottle washers, but we’re also the main teachers and guidance counselors for our children. And then, our hubbies like for us to reserve a little energy for them, too. Not to mention the fact that many homeschool moms also work-at-home (or even away from home) and volunteer at churches and other organizations. No wonder we often feel as if our batteries are dead! We’re expected to act and last like the Energizer Bunny on a dollar store charge.
So, what do we do about it? When, in our insanely overcrowded schedules and commitments, can we find time to recharge our batteries? Summer is the perfect time for homeschool moms to recoup. Some of us completely shut down our homeschools for the season (except for that field trip disguised as a vacation and the occasional worksheet or required book), while some of us keep going with the core subjects. Whatever schedule we follow, summer still tends to have slower, lighter expectations. Here are some ideas to get us started recharging our batteries:
·         Float in a pool
·         Catch fireflies in a jar with your kids
·         Pack a picnic lunch and relax near a playground while your kids do the monkey bars
·         Spend time at your favorite destination (beach, lake, mountains, state park, etc.)
·         Sleep in late a few times
·         Rent your favorite adult movie (And I don’t mean R-rated! I mean non-Sesame Street.)
·         Read your favorite book again
·         Journal about homeschooling highlights
·         Brainstorm with your hubby or other homeschooling friends how to improve this coming year, even if you had a good year
·         Sign your kids up for the free activities at your local library and spend that time browsing for new books
·         Set aside some girlfriend time and leave the kids home with your hubby or a responsible teenager (your own or a babysitter)
·         Soak up some sun (properly sunblocked and hatted, of course)
·         Soak up some Son—spend extra time reading Scriptures, praying, praising, and listening for God’s encouragement and direction           
I don’t know about you, but I’m solar powered. Sunshine makes me happy and energized! SON time is even more important. Add in a few of the ideas listed above to some quality solar time (both kinds) and your inner Energizer Bunny will be ready for the new school year come September.



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Recharge Your Batteries

Let’s face it: homeschool moms expend a lot of energy. We’re not only the chief cooks and bottle washers, but we’re also the main teachers and guidance counselors for our children. And then, our hubbies like for us to reserve a little energy for them, too. Not to mention the fact that many homeschool moms also work-at-home (or even away from home) and volunteer at churches and other organizations. No wonder we often feel as if our batteries are dead! We’re expected to act and last like the Energizer Bunny on a dollar store charge.
So, what do we do about it? When, in our insanely overcrowded schedules and commitments, can we find time to recharge our batteries? Summer is the perfect time for homeschool moms to recoup. Some of us completely shut down our homeschools for the season (except for that field trip disguised as a vacation and the occasional worksheet or required book), while some of us keep going with the core subjects. Whatever schedule we follow, summer still tends to have slower, lighter expectations. Here are some ideas to get us started recharging our batteries:
·         Float in a pool
·         Catch fireflies in a jar with your kids
·         Pack a picnic lunch and relax near a playground while your kids do the monkey bars
·         Spend time at your favorite destination (beach, lake, mountains, state park, etc.)
·         Sleep in late a few times
·         Rent your favorite adult movie (And I don’t mean R-rated! I mean non-Sesame Street.)
·         Read your favorite book again
·         Journal about homeschooling highlights
·         Brainstorm with your hubby or other homeschooling friends how to improve this coming year, even if you had a good year
·         Sign your kids up for the free activities at your local library and spend that time browsing for new books
·         Set aside some girlfriend time and leave the kids home with your hubby or a responsible teenager (your own or a babysitter)
·         Soak up some sun (properly sunblocked and hatted, of course)
·         Soak up some Son—spend extra time reading Scriptures, praying, praising, and listening for God’s encouragement and direction           
I don’t know about you, but I’m solar powered. Sunshine makes me happy and energized! SON time is even more important. Add in a few of the ideas listed above to some quality solar time (both kinds) and your inner Energizer Bunny will be ready for the new school year come September.

This post is featured over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Go check out some of their other great content!

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Vacation Organization

 

Yes, I even organize my relaxation time! I am that neurotic. Really. Just ask my husband, who’s been trying to get me to relax for years. But, even homeschooling families need a vacation.

Seriously, organization is the pathway to real relaxation. Once the details are in place, then I don’t have to worry about them and I can be at ease. I’m not running around trying to find sun block or hats or beach towels. I’m not stressed about where we’re headed or how to get there; it’s already worked out. Snacks? No problem. Car activities? Right in that bag. (Better yet, get your kids to pack their own small traveling bags with quiet games, books, i-pods, and stuffed animals.)

What’s my secret? Lists. When something pops into my head, I write it on the appropriate list. I usually have several lists running concurrently for different purposes. By spending a little bit of effort ahead of time writing lists, I can avoid the frustration of forgetting important items. The vacation list can be started at any time—the earlier the better. When I’m ready to pack for a trip, out comes my list. I check things off as they are packed. This method also allows me to pack more quickly since I’m not wasting time trying to remember what else needs to be brought. A plethora of websites offer free packing lists for various types of trips and travelers. Here are a few of my favorites:

http://honeymoons.about.com/cs/travelplanner/a/Packing_List.htm
http://www.flylady.net/pages/FLYingLessons_PackingList.asp
http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art29190.asp

Another detail that I like to organize ahead of time is the itinerary. Two to four weeks before our departure date, I go online to map out the roads we’ll be taking. Often, I check several mapping Web sites as well as a regular road atlas to make sure that we’re going the most direct and the most easy route. I print out the directions and map and store them in a desk drawer or with a pile of stuff already slated to go on the trip. I also spend time looking for and planning activities at our chosen destination. I look at the costs, additional travel time required, and educational values. While this may seem restrictive to some people, it’s really not. It gives us choices of many activities that we could possibly do. We don’t do everything I’ve planned and sometimes we do things I didn’t plan, but at least we’ve got a starting point. Since travel time is excellent reading time, I often bring material regarding the places we’ll be visiting. This helps my kids to get an introduction to and historical background on what they’ll be seeing and it’s a great way to get kids excited about unknown places.

One last tip for organizing a vacation: start early. I usually start putting things in a neat pile in the guest room (or my room) a week or two before our planned vacation dates. I do this as I remember things that aren’t on my original list or as I look at my list and see things that could be set aside ahead of time. This photo is of the pile that I’ve accumulated in our guest room for last year’s shore trip.

Of course, there will be quite a few items that can’t be packed until the day or two prior to leaving, but the more that’s done ahead of time, the less stressed I am the day before. Just in case you didn’t catch it, I never wait until the morning of a scheduled departure to drag out the suitcases!

Happy trails!

Bethany

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Summer School & More

My latest articles to be posted at Heart of the Matter Online are in the July/Summer edition of the magazine! And no, I’m not talking about schooling year-round. Our family has chosen to school according to a more traditional school calendar, although we do make it work for us and not the other way around. However, I don’t want my children to forget everything during their summer break.

Summer school includes math drills, reading lists, library programs, crafts, and learning other life skills that we somehow don’t have time for during the school year. Homeschooling isn’t just about workbooks—it’s about a lifestyle of learning.

See, that’s not so bad! I don’t label what we do summer school, but just call it sharpening our skills. You can call it whatever you want, but the purpose is the same: to keep kids in the learning mindset while still enjoying a rejuvenating break from the routine of the school year.

I also wrote an article about working on next year’s schedules now, just a little bit at a time. Go check it out here!

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A How-To Example of Mid-Range Planning

Currently I’m engaging in mid-term planning by working on my youngest daughter’s Bible, history, and reading schedule for this coming year. I start by making a chart in Word with a column for each subject and a row for each of the 36 weeks. This year’s chart has 5 columns: 1) card number (we use the history and Bible cards from Veritas Press), 2) title of each history card, 3) supplementary resources (we’re also using the Explorers History Pockets and Colonial Life from History Through the Ages’ Time Travelers series), 4) reading (living books that go along with each week’s history subject), 5) and title of each Bible card.

The key is to figure out about how many weeks a particular book will take to read and to put each book on the schedule in approximate chronological sequence. I am also looking at the “fun projects” and putting those on the schedule to coordinate with each history topic. I don’t consider all this planning boxing myself in; I consider it detailing all the possibilities so that we have many choices during the school year. If we don’t read every book on the list or complete every project, that’s okay.

While this may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, it makes my planning during the year go much more smoothly. When I do my bi-weekly planning, I simply look at my chart and decide what to do each day. That way when we get to the end of the year I don’t discover a really cool project that we forgot we had or discover a book about an explorer when we’re studying the Civil War.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to choose a subject and start setting up your fall schedule for it.

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Summer Scheduling for a Fabulous Fall

The key to a smooth start of the school year is to begin planning early. Yes, I know it’s only July, but the end of August (or even the beginning of September) comes quickly. In order not to feel overwhelmed the weekend before I plan to start school with the kids, and in order not to feel like I’m completely missing my summer vacation, I do a little bit of planning at a time. Obviously this is an unnecessary step for those of you using a prepackaged curriculum, but for those of you using a combination of curriculums or making up your own, this will save many prep hours during the year.

There are several types of planning that make homeschooling go more smoothly: long-range planning, mid-term planning, and short-term planning. I will plan to cover each of these in more detail in another post, but I will give a summary now. Long-term planning involves choosing curriculum for each child that matches her learning style and will be used for several years in order to have continuity in each subject. It can also involve planning which science classes and which literature periods will be covered during the four years of high school (or grade school). Deciding which method of homeschooling (classical, Charlotte Mason, traditional, eclectic, etc.) suits your family best falls under long-term planning, too. Mid-range planning is the focus of the rest of this blog entry. It focuses on planning several months ahead and/or using the summer months in between grade levels to plan for the coming school year.

Mid-range planning involves breaking the school year down into quarters (or whatever units you use), then months, then weeks. I plan which books will be read when and which projects go with which history and science units. I also look at every textbook, workbook, and living book we’ll be using to see approximately how many pages and chapters need to be done every quarter, month, and week. It saves time when I do my short-term planning during the school year, and it also helps me keep the children on track to finish each book by the end of the school year (but not three months early, unless we want to do it that way).

Short-term planning, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, involves planning specific pages, chapters, lessons, and projects for each day of our school week. I have found that it works best for me to do this once every two weeks. Doing it every week tends to feel cumbersome and never-ending. If I do it only every three or four weeks, we tend to get out of sync too easily by an unexpected field trip or illness. It may take you a few tries to figure out what timing works best for you, but you will be much more relaxed throughout the school year if you take a little bit of time now to do so.

Many tools exist to help you with all this planning. You can go to a teachers’ supply store or a homeschool convention and find many different types of paper planners. If you like to have a physical notebook in your hands, this is the way to go. Take the time to choose the style that will best suit your needs: large family, unit studies, high school, and many others. When I used paper planners, my favorites were these two: The Home Schooler’s Journal, published by Fergnus Services Foundations for Learning, and Homeschool Teacher’s Plan Book, by Grace Publications. If you’re computer savvy and don’t want extra papers cluttering your desk, then check out the wide selection of electronic planners. Some are web-based, meaning that your computer has to be connected to the internet in order to access them. Some are can be downloaded from the internet and some can be purchased on a CD-rom to download onto your computer yourself. TOS has just introduced a brand-new homeschool planner that promised to have everything. I can’t wait to check it out! There are a few freebies online, so if you’re trying to decide whether or not planning on the computer is for you, that’s a good place to start.

Your goal for this week: purchase a homeschool teacher’s planner. Leave me a note on your search for the perfect planner and which one you chose and why you chose it.

Coming next: A How-To Example of Mid-Term Planning

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Summer School

No, I’m not talking about schooling year-round. I realize that some families find schooling year-round to be a viable option for many reasons, but my purpose here is not to discuss the merits of either a traditional school calendar or schooling year-round. Our family has chosen to school according to a more traditional school calendar, although we do make it work for us and not the other way around. However, I don’t want my children to forget everything during their summer break.

A few times a week, I have them work on some of their weaker skills for a short period (say, half an hour or two reading selections). We do math speed drills, typing games, and reading comprehension exercises. Of course, you can choose whatever skills your children need to work on. I let the kids do more of their drilling on the computer and try to incorporate more learning games as well.

Early in the summer, I make summer reading lists. I base the lists on their current reading levels, books that go along with the past or coming year’s history, and recommended books from a variety of sources (my favorite lists this year came from Veritas Press). Every time we make a trip to the library, the kids must choose several books off my list (and read them first) and then they are free to choose several fun books.

Summer school also includes educational field trips, library programs, crafts, and learning other life skills that we somehow don’t have time for during the school year. Homeschooling isn’t just about workbooks—it’s about a lifestyle of learning.

See, that’s not so bad! I don’t label what we do “summer school,” but just call it sharpening our skills. You can call it whatever you want, but the purpose is the same: to keep kids in the learning mindset.

Next time: Summer scheduling for a fabulous fall.