Start Your Homeschool Year Off on the Right Foot

It’s that time of year again when many people start a new school year.

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After 20 years of homeschooling, I have some tips and pointers that may help you start this year off right and feel confident that you can do it!

Here are 10 steps to setting the right tone in your home to homeschool successfully.

  1. First of all, it helps to start with the right mindset. We are homeschooling, not doing school at home. I call it “Family Schooling”. We are learning how to do life well. The most important thing we as Christians should do is pray about our agenda and plans. Ask the Lord what He would have us do. He knows our children better than anybody. He knows what they need. Take some time to ask Him and some more time to listen to what He might say about what your children need to learn today.
  2. If you are brand new and your child is doing preschool, let them play! If your child is only 3 or 4, you probably don’t need a curriculum. Read some good picture books to him/her. Let the child lead you in what he wants to do. If he doesn’t have something in mind, offer some choices, such as coloring, playing with play dough, playing with magnetic letters, singing the ABC song, counting teddy bears or something colorful, watching something educational. If your child is a boy, he may not want to write anything. Girls are more likely to want to try to draw something or write letters or numbers. If she wants to write, start teaching her to write her name and names of family members. Keep it informal and light with no pressure or expectations of perfection. At this age, just let him have fun trying new things and exploring the media, such as colored pencils, crayons, markers, paint, clay, etc. Don’t expect professional looking pictures or products. Show appreciation for anything they make. Realize that all of these skills are difficult and unfamiliar for your little one. If you have a hard time remembering what it’s like to learn something new, try this little exercise. Write a sentence with the opposite hand from what you’re used to using. If you’re right-handed, use your left hand or vice versa. Then you will be able to relate to the effort your child is putting into learning new skills that you are trying to teach them. Lots of things that they play are using their fine motor skills, like pushing a small car around, building with blocks, coloring or drawing, putting a puzzle together, etc. And cleaning up can also use fine motor skills, such as putting crayons or colored pencils back in a box or putting any toys in a container, etc. Cutting and gluing is fun for them and helps with developing fine motor skills, too.
  3. Remember that boys are different from girls. All children are different from each other, but we can make some generalizations that can help us to not expect things that make learning time a chore and drudgery instead of enjoying the process of discovery and experimentation. Don’t expect boys to want to color or draw or do craft projects. You can try some and see how he reacts. If he likes  them go ahead and do more. But if he wants to get down on the floor and play with cars and build with blocks, encourage creativity and storytelling as  he plays with them. Let him have lots of time for free play. But you might want to ask him what he is building or what he is playing with his cars or action figures.
  4. For many boys, handwriting is extremely difficult and even painful. They sometimes squeeze the pencil too hard. Boys may have a difficult time making the figures go where they want them to go on the page. They may struggle to make a letter look the way they want it to. So don’t push. If you micromanage the early days of handwriting, you may set your son up to hate handwriting. Then the skill and practice is even more distasteful and unpleasant for both of you. Wait until he is ready and his fine motor skills are more developed. This may be months or even years. Start out doing small bits of writing such as teaching  him how to write his name and names of family members and familiar small words.
  5. Don’t hover, push or micromanage the work your child is doing. Make sure he understands what he is supposed to do, and then step away and let him do it on his own. Stay nearby in case he needs help, but let him make the learning and practicing the new skill his own.
  6. Do take advantage of teachable moments. If your child asks a question, explore it with her and see if there is an extension of that subject that would be of interest to her and add to her pool of knowledge. If you don’t know the answer to the question, sit down with your child and do research on the internet to find the answer.
  7. Don’t think that you are behind. Don’t compare what your child is doing with what another child is doing. It’s okay to get ideas of things to try, but don’t be dismayed if your child is not ready for that skill or subject yet. The only people you have to please or be accountable to are yourself and God.
  8. Remember what is important in this process. The big picture is that we are teaching our children to be loving, kind people of good character. When issues like disobedience, anger, rebellion, impatience or even perfectionism arise, we need to deal with these issues before we move onto actually accomplishing the book work or project that he is working on. We need to be careful of our own attitude while dealing with these attitudes in our child. Remember to be patient and kind and in control of your own emotions. Don’t take it personally if he doesn’t want to do the work or he doesn’t like the subject or he finds it difficult. Sometimes you may need to put the school work on hold while you talk to your child or just hold and hug and snuggle him. Always pray for wisdom, understanding and discernment to know what is going on in the heart and mind of your child.
  9. Keep the main thing the main thing. Your relationship with your child is more important than finishing school work or learning a new skill. If she has a difficult time with the assigned work or cannot seem to grasp a new concept, she may not be ready for it yet. Put it aside until later. Then come back to it later on and try it again. Keep the heart of your child. Or if you have lost connection with your child, use this time with her to show your love and affection toward your child to get her heart back.
  10. As your children interact with siblings and other children, watch the way they relate to others. Children tend to be immature and selfish. Help them learn to be less selfish and gradually more mature. This can be a very long process and take many times of intervention and correction and teaching and discussion. You may even need to role play how they should deal with situations that come up during play times. This requires lots of patience on your part and the willingness to step away from things you would rather do. It is not the most pleasant part of parenting, but it needs to be done and is one of the most important parts of homeschooling.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I hope these tips help you get off on the right foot or help you have the best  year yet. The most important thing is that we let the Spirit lead us. Then we know that we are doing the best we can for each child the Lord has blessed us with. I pray that God blesses each of your homeschools and families this year.

 

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Happy Family Schooling

From our family to yours!

Valentine’s Day Ideas

Here are a bunch of Valentine freebies from Currclick that can help you with notebooking pages, a mini helper that contains lots of different valentines (some specifically addressed to family members, like brother and sister), matching and sorting cards for words that start with V, even a Valentine’s Day class party (Live Class) for the older kids.

Free Valentines Day resources from Currclick

Here is another Valentine freebie from Currclick!

And a Freebie for Copywork!

Valerie at The Crafty Classroom shows us how to make a cute Valentine that includes a hidden cross in the middle of it. It makes a very pretty craft that you could use as a card. She also has Valentine’s Day Bible Verse Coloring Pages at her blog The Crafty Classroom.

Apples 4 the Teacher has lots of ideas here.

Here are some online games with a Valentines Day theme.

I got a waffle iron that made heart-shaped waffles and served those for breakfast on Valentine’s Day. The kids loved those!

Fiona put hers together to create a butterfly!

If you want your kids to make some beautiful hearts during the days leading up to Valentines’ Day, I have pinned lots of beautiful, colorful hearts that are easy to draw and make on Pinterest. You can find them here on my Pinterest board.

I made this one myself after looking through lots of hearts on Pinterest.

My warm heart on cool background

Of course, you will want to cover the history of Valentine’s Day, too. It is very interesting and spiritually encouraging. St. Valentine was a real bishop who lived around 270 A.D. in Rome. The Roman emperor had banned marriage because he wanted men to be soldiers who were only focused on fighting for the empire, not concerned about family. But Bishop Valentine knew this was wrong and unfair to couples that were in love and wanted to be married. So he performed marriage ceremonies for them in secret. But he was found out and imprisoned. His jailer heard that he could work miracles, so he brought his blind daughter to Valentine. He taught her about God and prayed for her, and she was healed. Her family loved the bishop and wanted his life to be saved, but the emperor had him put to death for his beliefs. This may not sound that encouraging to some. But to me, it illustrates again that God does do miracles, and he uses them to draw people to Himself. People are looking in all the wrong places for a supernatural experience, and I want to tell as many people as I can that we serve a living God who cares about our needs, and He will suspend natural laws for His children to answer their prayers and heal their sicknesses and diseases and do other miracles for them.

You can read more about the history here at this webpage, The Holiday Spot.

Many people celebrate romantic love and friendship on this day. I prefer to make it about love for our family. We make valentines for each other, and I do nice things for my children to let them know I love them. I encourage them to look for ways to show extra love to each other, too. My husband usually gets me something, and we go out if we can. But throughout the day, I like to do special things for the kids and am even more intentional in letting them see how much I love them and how much God loves us.

If You’re Not Sick of Snow Yet

I know a lot of the country has had lots of snow recently. But you still might want to do a unit study about snow.

We haven’t had any here in Houston, Texas. But we had snow in our living room throughout the Christmas season!

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I made most of those snowflakes! Fiona made a few of them. She had made some last year, so we used some of them, too, in our snowflake display.

I wrote a post two years ago about making snowflakes. It was the first time I had ever made intricate, lacy snowflakes, and I was so proud of myself. That post is right here. It includes lots of helpful tips for making beautiful snowflakes, including video tutorials. It also provides titles of many books for further study about snowflakes.

Now I hope you’re not sick of snowflakes or snow, because I have some other neat ideas to share with you that involve snow.

On a blog called Blog Me Mom, I have gotten some great ideas for sensory bins and fantasy worlds.

She has a Fantasy Winter World that I think looks like a lot of fun. It involves fake snow, which I haven’t been able to get yet. I might order it soon and make this fantasy world for my little girls. They already have several of the My Little Ponies, so we should be able to make it pretty easily. The children of the blogger made pine trees out of party hats. It looks like the children will have fun with this fantasy world.

This post is about making a cute magnetic snowman.

Here’s another cute snowman activity that we actually did. It was Emma’s first effort with pastels. She had to wait until she turned 7 years old to use pastels, so on her birthday she got to use pastels. And this is the project she did. A snowman painting a snowman!

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You can find the post with the tutorial right here at Hodge Podge Mom.

And don’t forget to study snowflakes with Snowflake Bentley! I have checked out the book about Snowflake Bentley from the library and will read it in the next few days.

If you want to buy it, you can get it at Amazon.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to talk about how there are no two snowflakes that are just alike, and God has made each of us unique in the same way. It really is a wonderful thing to think about how special each of us is, and how much care and thought God puts into us as He creates us.

There are lots of winter lapbooks and resources here at Homeschool Share.

Carisa at 1+1+1=1 has lots of great winter activities here and here.

Enchanted Learning has some great study tools and crafts for learning more about snow here.

I hope you enjoy this winter unit study. Do what you want from it, or do everything! Especially if you live here in the South and haven’t had any real snow, your children can experience a little bit of the winter fun that the rest of the children in the country have had plenty of this year. At least in their imaginary play. Without getting all the hats, gloves and boots out and having all of the snow tracked in the house.

Can I tell you a little secret? I don’t miss the snow at all! I’m very happy to live here where it doesn’t get so frigid. But I still like the snowflakes and snowmen. They’re some of my favorite decorations for Christmas!

I do miss ice skating on our frozen pond in Ohio. Now that was fun!

Easy Valentine Craft

Here’s a Valentine craft idea that has been extremely popular on my Pinterest account.

It has been pinned 420 times! None of my other pins have been pinned nearly that many times.

So I thought I would share it here, so that any of my homeschooling friends or friends who like to do crafts with their kids can see it and maybe be inspired to make simple but cute valentines with their little ones.

I got this from Blog Me Mom.

Preschool Today

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Sisters, sisters,
There were never such devoted sisters.

All kinds of weather
We stick together
The same in the rain or sun
Two different faces
But in tight places
We think and act as one.

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Little Girls
By Edgar A. Guest

God made the little boys for fun, for rough and tumble times of play;
He made their little legs to run and race and scamper through the day.
He made them strong for climbing trees, he suited them for horns and drums,
And filled them full of revelries so they could be their father’s chums.
But then He saw that gentle ways must also travel from above.
And so, through all our troubled days He sent us little girls to love.

He knew that earth would never do, unless a bit of Heaven it had.
Men needed eyes divinely blue to toil by day and still be glad.
A world where only men and boys made merry would in time grow stale,
And so He shared His Heavenly joys that faith in Him should never fail.
He sent us down a thousand charms, He decked our ways with golden curls
And laughing eyes and dimpled arms. He let us have His little girls.

They are the tenderest of His flowers, the little angels of His flock,
And we may keep and call them ours, until God’s messenger shall knock.
They bring to us the gentleness and beauty that we sorely need;
They soothe us with each fond caress and strengthen us for every deed.
And happy should that mortal be whom God has trusted, through the years,
To guard a little girl and see that she is kept from pain and tears.

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We are also very grateful for our little boy – Garrett – and our big boys!

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And our little girl who is rapidly becoming a big girl – Fiona!

Garrett and Fiona, our Favor, Favor, always remind us that no matter how bad things look, we are surrounded by God’s Favor. They are our Power Twins! We also call them Faith and Patience – The Power Twins that inherit the promises.