Before You Start: 7 Tips about Homeschooling

Before You Start: 7 Tips about Homeschooling
First of all, congratulations! As a parent, you are exploring your child’s educational needs, and that deserves to be celebrated.

 It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of information available and have trouble deciding where to start. Don't worry! This blog post will guide you through the essentials of homeschooling, breaking it down into easily manageable steps. Let's embark on this exciting journey together.  If you are like me and love a good printable checklist, I've included one for you here.

find out the homeschooling laws for your state

I've seen it time and time again.  Parents get excited about the idea of homeschooling, they jump into Facebook groups and start asking questions, and mostly well-meaning people sometimes give them bad info.  Before you ever start, you need to read the homeschool laws for your specific state.  Those laws can vary widely, with some states having little to no regulation, while others require documentation and regular assessments.  If you are uncertain where to find the laws for your state, HSLDA has a complete list. 

choose your educational philosophy and curricula

Once you understand the legal aspects, it is time to decide what you want your child's education to look like and which materials suit each child's learning style.  Do you prefer a more traditional, structured approach, or a child-centered, flexible methodology?  The beauty of homeschooling is its adaptability to your child's unique needs and interests. So, choose a curriculum that aligns with your educational philosophy and your child's learning style.  Cathy Duffy's Top 101 Picks is a valuable source for this, and a copy can also usually be found at your local library. 

it's okay to ditch a curriculum that isn’t working

.I hear you - I used to have a hard time accepting this, too, especially if it was an expensive one.  Take it from someone who learned the hard way:  it is NOT worth taking away from your child's love of learning, or even worse, damaging your relationship to finish out a curriculum that clearly isn't working.  The ultimate goal is your child's learning and development, and if a particular curriculum isn't facilitating that, it's okay to let it go. Remember, educational needs can change, and adapting to those changes is part of the homeschooling process.

socialization isn’t a problem

In the beginning, you may get this question quite a bit.  Some of those asking will be friends and family, but pre-2020, I found the most curious people to be those in the grocery store who simply could not comprehend why children would be out of school at 10AM on a Tuesday.  Usually, the only folks concerned about socialization are those who have never spent time around a homeschooler. There is a myriad of opportunities for social interaction, and more importantly, these are usually with various age groups, races, economic backgrounds, etc.  You know, in short, more like real life than a 5th grade classroom. 

Here's the reality:  homeschoolers actually have to turn down social opportunities to fit academics in.  Your child can have meaningful interactions with a wide variety of people through service opportunities, church, sports, music, homeschool co-ops, 4H, Scouting, internships, employment, and more. 

Take field trips without crowds

Okay, this one may sound silly, but it's really simply a reminder to embrace the flexibility that comes along with homeschooling.  Explore museums, parks, and historical sites at your own pace, and make the world your classroom.  There are many places that offer homeschool days and discounts while public school is in session.  Don't see a date that meets your needs?  Ask the business or organization!  You'll be amazed how many are willing to work with you.

make memories while making a mess in the kitchen

Homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity for teaching life skills and turning everyday activities into fun learning experiences. These moments of joy and discovery will create lasting memories and foster a love of learning in your child.  Bonus is that if you teach them to cook, they will have taken over dinner duties before you know it, occasionally giving you the evening off.

accept that priorities will change

This can be a tough one, even if you understand it going in.  You see, there will be people you love who don't "get it."  For me, I knew my usually tidy house was going to take a backseat as home became the classroom, the library, the cafeteria, the theatre, and more.  I was okay with that, and some family members were decidedly not.  Another aspect can be financial challenges, especially if one parent is moving from a full time job to staying at home.  As long as you are aware of these changes before you start, they don't have to be a complication.

Finally, remember that there will be tough days. Homeschooling can be challenging, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed at times. But these moments don't mean you have failed. Instead, they're opportunities to learn, grow, and adapt. 
This educational choice is a rewarding journey of discovery, learning, and growth. It's not always easy, but the beauty of it lies in its adaptability and the opportunity to nurture your child's unique potential. So, take the plunge, embrace the challenges, and celebrate the joys of homeschooling!

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3 Reasons to Ditch that Curriculum

3 Reasons to Ditch that Curriculum

Let’s face it, no one is learning if child and/or teacher are miserable. While it can be hard to toss aside plans, here’s your permission slip to do so.

  1. I get it. You invested good money into those books and materials. But what if I told you that you can recoup most, if not all of that cost? There are plenty of places to resell curricula. Social media has options, as well as homeschool conventions. You may be part of a co-op that allows it. Maybe your church will allow you to start a used book sale once or twice a year? Think outside the box. ALSO, remember that children within the same family learn very differently. If you have physical space and financial room, I would encourage you to hang onto that stuff in case a younger sibling falls in love with it.
  2. What if you no longer had to argue with your child to get them to do their work? What if it actually gave you more freedom during the day? Bringing PEACE and JOY to your home. Wouldn’t that encourage your child to pursue other things they are interested in learning? And you would have more time to recharge/have fun/focus on marriage.
  3. You’ll gain confidence, and your child will learn a valuable lesson - their educational and emotional needs come first. And I don’t mean in a “you get whatever you want kind of way.” It’s that you listened to their concerns. At the end of the day, there are times when they are still going to have to do school work they don’t want because you, as the adult, understand the value in it. But by getting rid of a program that is not valuing that particular child, you are instilling something much more important than book learning. And that is a positive character trait they will carry for their entire lives.

Want some more details of how it worked for my family?  I've got you covered.

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Three Tricks for Dealing with Moms Who Want to Tear You Down (or Why You Should Build a Blanket Fort

Three Tricks for Dealing with Moms Who Want to Tear You Down (or Why You Should Build a Blanket Fort
About a month into the coronavirus lockdowns, several of my friends were actively freaking out online as they struggled to work from home while also making sure their kids were getting an education.  Many schools hadn’t even decided on an online format at that point, and parents were rightfully concerned.  As I kept seeing the social media posts of parents on the verge of a mental breakdown, I put my years of homeschooling experience to use and made this simple suggestion:

Let them build a blanket fort.

If there is anything I’ve learned about my children being taught at home, it is this:  If momma is stressed, children pick up on it and often become stressed themselves, and no one can retain information in that environment.  While we’ve tried different tactics over the years, a tried and true one is to take a few hours (or even a day) off, and an easy distraction that gets them to still use their brain is building a fort. 

Well, several people supported my idea, most didn’t respond, and a couple … well, a couple acted like I had suggested they sacrifice their children to pagan gods.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but they were extremely rude, saying I didn’t know what it was like to work from home (umm, I have my own business as well as leadership roles in several nonprofits) and that I had never had to juggle my job with teaching.  (Been doing that for years, thanks.)  I didn’t respond in kind, though, because I knew these women were reacting from a place of fear. They weren’t really angry with me; they were mad and feeling helpless.   Still, they could have done better. 

And I’m not going to lie – their ugliness hurt.  Especially when about 6 weeks later, IKEA came out with instructions on how to build a fort in your home, and those same women were all over it. One even posted gleeful photos of how great the idea had been for her family.   And that’s when it hit me:  women should be even more supportive of other women now more than ever, but you’ll always run into the naysayers.  So here’s how to deal with it.

1. You don’t have to answer every question.  This was a hard one for me.  If they ask the question on social media, they want an answer, right?  Turns out, most of the time, no.  They are asking to have their own viewpoint validated.   So if you know your well-meaning advice is going to be attacked, save yourself the heartache and scroll on by.

2.  Surround yourself with people who respect you, even if your views are different from theirs.  We are fairly good at doing this in person, but most of us stink at it on social media … and that’s where people love to tear us down.  You don’t need a huge inner circle (in fact, mine is fairly small), but having people you can share anything with, even if you disagree, will keep your emotional and mental health in a good state. 

3.  Let it out. It’s okay to have a cry or get mad over being treated unfairly, as long as you work through that and find a positive solution.  I find it helps to have my husband or a trusted friend as a sounding board.  And getting upset doesn’t mean you are weak; in fact, it shows you truly care versus the person who felt the need to be a keyboard warrior. Those failings are on them, not you. 
If all else fails, I’m here for you. I know that hurt.  I’ll be supportive, but I’ll also be honest with you.   And I can give you some killer ideas for your next blanket fort.
If you want to join a like-minded, supportive community, we would love to have you join us at Old Souls with New Ways. 

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3 Tips for a Successful, Beautiful Butterfly Garden

3 Tips for a Successful, Beautiful Butterfly Garden
Years ago, when we first made the decision to homeschool, one of the first things we did was to plant a butterfly garden.  The kids had so much fun choosing plants and seeds, and I let them plant without any particular plan in mind.  Every year we add a few more plants, but this year we are really upping our game, hopeful for a bustling butterfly location.  Since so many people are becoming aware of the importance in supporting pollinator populations, I thought some simple tips would help you get started.

1.  Know your growing zone.  If you’ve never gardened before, a simple online search will tell you what the zone is for where you live.  Fortunately, many butterfly-friendly plants are hardy across several zones, so you’ll have plenty from which to choose.  It is a suggestion because you don’t want to invest your time and energy into a gorgeous plant that really only likes to grow in Florida if you live in Maine. 

2.  Decide your feelings about native versus non-native plants.  Some people have VERY strong opinions on this subject, so be forewarned before you engage in online conversation on this topic.  There are many wildflowers and local options if you want to stick with those.   My personal thought (which counts for nothing, so feel free to ignore it) is that weather can often cause butterflies to be off course of their usual areas, so I plant a variety of host and nectar plants. 

3.  Choose both host and nectar plants, as well as some resting spots.  What the heck does that mean, you ask?  Host plants provide places for butterflies to lay their eggs, and some also give the caterpillars food to eat as they grow.  Nectar plants provide the nutrition to the butterflies once they undergo metamorphosis.  Resting spots, such as rocks or a small birdbath, provide downtime from flapping those beautiful wings.

Need help deciding?  There are so many plants from which to choose, so here are a few of my favorites.   I love mixing in herbs with flowers!

Host plants:  parsley, dill, fennel, Baptisia
Nectar plants:  butterfly bush, purple coneflower, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, sedum, zinnias, yarrow, verbena, lantana, salvia, cleome, common sage
Both:  butterfly weed, aster, Angelica, perennial snapdragons, daisies

If you want a more organized butterfly garden, you can find lots of free plans online.  For a free printable garden journal, you can find a great one here.

Happy planting!  Please send me photos of your wonderful creations! 

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A Perfectionist Finds Laughter ... With Lemons

A Perfectionist Finds Laughter ... With Lemons
I had a reason to have a good laugh at myself yesterday, and it really felt wonderful. 

For years, I was that person who needed to be in control.  In fact, I would often let that keep me from even trying things if I believed I couldn’t get it perfect.  Not a fun way to live, right? 

That started to change when we added Child #3 to the mix.  Her sparkly personality meant I needed to find a way to be more “Fun Mama” than a perfect one.  And, no, that doesn’t mean throwing all rules and expectations out the window.  I didn’t want to raise tyrants, but I did want to make sure I was soaking up joy with them whenever I could; after all, how many mothers of older kids have told you not to blink, they aren’t little forever?! 

Another factor that helped me loosen up was our decision to homeschool.  The irony was it was my extensive research that showed me I was going to have to prioritize what I wanted our learning experience to look like.   I made a conscious decision (and verified my hubby was on board) that with the focus being on the kids’ education, the house wasn’t going to perfectly clean.  This gave us so much freedom to focus on what we loved rather than feeling constantly guilty about the kitchen floor not being mopped regularly. (Not all family members agreed with our decision, but that’s a subject for another day.)

Enter the disaster I made in my kitchen and the laughter that ensued.  You see, I had promised my friends that I would make a video of our family’s favorite lemonade recipe.  Well, I only had enough ingredients for one take, so when something went wrong, I had to roll with the show.  Take and look and see the hilarity that followed. 
I didn’t realize how much I needed to laugh at myself under all the current craziness we are experiencing.   I hope it at least brought a small to your face.  And I have a new favorite saying:  What big mess did you make today? 

Luscious Lemonade
  • Juice from 6 lemons and 1 lime (feel free to add more if you want a stronger citrus taste!)
  • ½ cup local raw honey (make sure you use local if you want help with your sneezes)
  • 1-2 drops Lavender Vitality
  • 8-10 cups ice water, or different amount to taste

Combine lemon and lime juice, honey, and Lavender Vitality in large glass pitcher.  Stir well.  (If your honey is particularly thick, you may want to heat in a gentle warm water bath before adding to juice.) Add water, stirring again.  Taste and enjoy! 

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