Second-guessing: Did I make the right decision to homeschool?

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Second-guessing: Did I make the right decision to homeschool?
Big Brother Caleb loves to read to his little sister Abi.
"My books are in bad shape because they are so well used, but my kids' minds couldn't be more stimulated, educated, and happy—reading another beloved Sonlight book! Thank you for playing a huge part in making my children LOVE TO LEARN ™ !" Lynn K. of Tifton, GA

Maybe you've hit some bumps since your first day of school...

You're two months in. Maybe your son is throwing a fit, your daughter is crying over a math problem, the dishes are piling up, and you feel in over your head.

At times like this, you wonder: Did I make the right decision to homeschool?

As you second-guess yourself, do you sometimes feel like a homeschool failure?

Not a Failure... A Learner

Let me encourage you: I know you can do this.

I challenge you to think of yourself not as a failure, but as a learner. That's how you want your kids to think when they face a challenge, right? You don't expect them to get everything right the first time.

When things don't go well in your homeschool, it's not that you've failed. The struggles just give you and your children an opportunity to grow. You can step back and say, "Well that didn't go very well. What could we do differently in the future?"

If you have that conversation with yourself or the children ten times in one day, that's still not failure. That's modeling to them how to grow. It's modeling that we can evaluate what we're doing and figure out how to do it better.

I encourage you do drill down and identify what's making you feel like a failure and making you wonder if you made a mistake to homeschool at all.

Second-guessing Your Own Angry Outbursts

Is it that you lose your temper with your children sometimes? I hear that from guilt-ridden moms often. So what can you do to move in the right direction in that regard?

  • Maybe you need to learn to apologize to your children when that happens.
  • Maybe you need to start the morning with a calming praise song.
  • Maybe you need more protein for breakfast.
  • Maybe you need to make a plan of what to do when you notice yourself getting riled up.

Second-guessing the Kids' Attitudes

Do you feel second-guess your choice to homeschool because your kids don't beg for school every day? Maybe you need to give them some grace, too. I've heard that kids new to homeschooling need at least one week of homeschooling for every year they were in regular school to adjust. It's a big change for you and them.

Not every day will be homeschool bliss. But if your kids are consistently struggling, perhaps they need more protein and less sugar for breakfast. Maybe they need more sleep. Maybe they need more time to play outside, or a short cuddle with you before school. Maybe you need to switch up your daily schedule. Maybe school will just be hard for them and they will develop perseverance as you kindly but firmly help them learn age-appropriate disciplines.

There's Help for Homeschooling

Whatever the issue that's causing you to second-guess your decision to homeschool, know that you have options. Don't give up! Instead, you could:

  • Be really honest with your spouse about how you're feeling, and brainstorm solutions to the problems you see.
  • Call a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor (at no charge) and chat with an experienced homeschooler about ideas you could try.
  • Talk to fellow homeschoolers and see what's worked for them.
  • Just try something different and see how it goes.
  • Pray, pray, pray. If God has called you to this, he will help you on the path.

Homeschooling won't always be smooth sailing. But take those rough seas as learning opportunities. As Thomas Edison supposedly said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."Fortunately, you don't have to pioneer homeschooling the way Edison pioneered the light bulb. You have Instructor's Guides, a supportive community, Homeschool Advisors, and a complete curriculum to help you out.


Refuel Your Homeschool

With great rewards, come great sacrifice... and homeschooling is no different. Boy, some days are tough and make you second-guess your decision to homeschool. Download this free guide to help you remember WHY you chose to homeschool in the first place.


A Better You Because of Homeschooling

Homeschooling gives you the chance to learn from your mistakes every day. Think of how much you will have grown in patience, creativity and academic skills years from now if you stick with this amazing calling!

I've always said that anything worth doing will encounter resistance. And I believe homeschooling to be a high and worthy calling. Struggles probably don't mean that you're wrong to homeschool. They just come with the territory when you set out to do something great.

Please know that you are in my prayers. I count it an honor to pray daily for all Sonlight moms and dads who are working hard to do right by their families. We are in this together!


Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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Keys to Foreign Language Proficiency for the Homeschool Family

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Keys to Foreign Language Proficiency for the Homeschool Family
"Our yearly family mission trips in Mexico has been enriched by Sonlight in multiple ways. The friendships we have developed over the years are a great incentive to learn Spanish, and through Sonlight we purchased the Rosetta Stone Latin American version. We have been inspired by the mission-minded and culturally sensitive literature, beginning in the preschool curriculum through high school. The 1,800 mile round-trip in a church van always includes Sonlight books. The content of the program prepares us for seeing God's love even in the challenges and suffering from broken families that we encounter while serving the needy children of Mexico." Amanda F. of North Newton, KS
Katy, age 11 (in the yellow and orange fiesta clothing) poses with her friends at Children's Haven International in Reynosa, Mexico.

Adding a foreign language to your homeschool day may be as simple as picking out a curriculum and penciling it into the schedule. Successfully achieving conversational confidence or long-lasting fluency in a foreign language, on the other hand, requires a completely different level of commitment.

We all know people who claim to have taken 2-4 years of high-school classes in French, German, or Spanish, but in adulthood, no longer remember how to say anything other than wastepaper basket and Where is the bank? in the language that they spent so many years studying.

How can we ensure that our homeschool students’ language studies will not meet the same sad fate? Proficiency in a second language can be a daunting task. The reason why so many former language students completely lose the languages they once studied can often be traced back to a lack of internal motivation and connection to the language, combined with a lack of opportunity to use what they have learned. Take these steps as you design a foreign language program for your homeschool, especially if your goal is for your child to truly master a second language.

"We live in China. Our local friends began bringing their children over a few times a week to learn how we homeschool, using Sonlight. We love all the interactive learning Sonlight has, like learning body parts in Science using the song Them Bones. Our friends participated in a Language Arts assignment to make an obstacle course. We practiced all the different verbs in both Chinese and English. The Chinese children have learned to read using Sonlight's K program and can read all the Fun Tales series. It has helped my Chinese friends learn more about how they themselves can teach their children and has helped give my children more confidence in speaking and using the Chinese language!" —Katie R. of Chattanooga, TN

1. Choose the Language with Care

Sure, a random natural interest in a language might be enough reason to choose that language. If your child has always dreamed of studying German, that may be reason enough to choose a German program.

However, language acquisition will be most successful when you choose a language that, because of your own family’s circumstances, strongly inspires internal motivation to learn and offers the most external opportunities to be used in everyday life. 

When considering which language to study, consider your geographic location and family background:

  • What minority languages are most commonly spoken in your community?
  • What languages might your family be called upon to use in future careers or volunteer roles?
  • Consider your family’s heritage: Where does your family originally come from? Do you have relatives who speak a language other than English?

What This Decision Was Like for My Family

We were in a slightly conflicted situation. My husband is a native Spanish speaker and for his extended family, Spanish is the primary language of conversation. However, we live in a country where Spanish is not spoken at all and where educational resources or entertainment in Spanish are non-existent. The wider language of communication where we live is English, but different local communities speak Asian languages—of which, I can speak Mandarin Chinese, but my husband does not. I have a reasonably strong grasp of Spanish, but don’t consider myself fluent in the language.

"After we read The Year of the Baby, we were telling our friends about the book. They came over and taught us some Chinese words and how to make bao zi. It was a fun cultural exchange. Because of Sonlight, we make cultural connections which bring the stories to life!"
—Sarah Z. of Clarkston, GA

In the end, for us, the familial connection trumped the linguistic circumstances of our location, and we opted to prioritize Spanish as our family language alongside English. I am remaining open to adding Mandarin Chinese into our classes when we are further into the formal school years. But for now, the right choice for our family is focusing on the languages of our son’s heritage: English and Spanish.

2. Don’t Limit Language Learning to School Hours

You may have seen some programs which tout that you can learn a language in 15 minutes a day. In my own experience of language learning, results are always correlated to the time invested. Choose a language curriculum that works for your family, but don’t stop your language learning once you’ve checked that box in each day’s schedule.

To maximize learning, you’ll need to be proactive in finding ways to increase exposure to and use of the language:

  • You might opt to volunteer as a family in a community where the language is spoken.
  • You can find audio and visual entertainment options that exist in your target language, whether they are movies, television shows, songs, audio books, or podcasts, and incorporate those into your family’s entertainment time.

Strive to use the target language together as a family outside of school hours.

What This Looks Like for My Family

We tend to naturally speak in Spanish at various times of day. We’ve chosen that most of our children’s picture book collection be composed of Spanish books, which helps me, the non-native speaker, because reading to my son in Spanish is very easy for me. My husband plays his favorite Spanish-speaking musical artists daily, and my son listens in on Spanish language conversations between his dad and his abuelos on a regular basis.

"Living in China, we have tried several ways for our children to learn the language. Rosetta Stone has proven to help them with pronunciation, sentence structure, and grammar at an easy, kid-friendly pace, giving them confidence when speaking and playing with Chinese neighbors." — Katie R. of Chattanooga, TN

3. Expect to Invest Time and Money

Proficiency in a second language typically requires a significant investment of both time and money. I would not recommend trying to learn a language solely through free resources. While it may be possible if you are learning a popular language and are very dedicated to seeking out free resources—do not underestimate the value of high-quality, thorough curriculum and experienced teachers.

Free apps are fun and useful, but the reason that I am a confident speaker of Mandarin Chinese is because I took four years of college classes in the language and then spent five years living in Asia and speaking the language regularly. It’s not because of playing Duolingo for free and listening to free podcasts (though I’ve done both).

Is the investment worth it? I would say it is absolutely worthwhile.

There is almost no better way to show love and value and respect for another person than by learning to speak the language of their heart. There is also almost no better way to learn humility than to attempt to begin conversing with a native speaker in a second language.

What This Investment is Like for My Family

Because my family doesn’t have access to public libraries with books in Spanish, we have invested money in building our own collection. We invest time each day into actively speaking Spanish as a family. In the future, as our son reaches school age, we plan to invest in Spanish grammar curriculum to use alongside our English language arts curriculum so that he can learn the rules for both. Because we chose a language that both parents understand, we don’t foresee needing to hire a native language teacher, but such a cost will be a worthwhile investment for many families.

Deciding that you want your homeschooled student to become multilingual is not an easy step, and not one that’s likely to be accomplished either for free or without significant planning and life changes on the part of homeschool parents. But proficiency in a foreign language will benefit them throughout their lives. Moreover, it is one more way they can serve, love, and respect others the way Christ has called us to do. Sonlight offers Rosetta Stone language curriculum as an amazing first step into the deep and thrilling waters of language acquisition.

At Sonlight, we  strongly recommend that students learn a foreign language beginning by sixth grade at least. Choose from Rosetta Stone in 24 different languages!

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How to Create a Family Anthology of Your Child’s Creative Writing

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How to Create a Family Anthology of Your Child’s Creations • The Family Treasury shown in a stack with other favorite volumes.

I’ve been looking for a way to make the most of the stories, poems, jokes, and plays that my children write as part of their Sonlight Language Arts curriculum. We’ve always added them to homeschooling portfolios and stored them in the basement where they patiently await rediscovery years from now.

It’s sad, I know, but I didn’t know what else to do. 

Until now.

I have finally discovered a way to keep those precious works alive, appreciated, and a part of our family culture! I’m thrilled about it and can’t wait to share the idea with you.

How to Create a Family Anthology of Your Child’s Creations • A story illustrated by photos of a doll in the snow

Why Keep a Family Treasury?

The goal of this family treasury project is to keep my children’s creative writing accessible so that we can read and reread it over the years.

  • I want my pre-reader to see his dictated story in the mix of our family compositions.
  • I want my second grader to see that the time and care he invested in his illustrated story has a life of its own.
  • I want grandparents, siblings, and friends to read the works, too. 
  • I want my fifth grader to hear the family chuckling over the jokes she illustrated.
  • And I want all of my children reading, enjoying, and learning from each other’s work over the years. 

It has taken me ten years, but I have finally discovered a way of keeping those stories, poems, illustrations, jokes, and plays together in one place and easily accessible for reading.

Treasuring Creative Writing with a Family Anthology

We have started a family anthology titled, The Family Treasury. It’s a three-ring binder with pocket-folder dividers for storing the stapled booklets or other works that can’t be hole-punched. It’s not fancy, but it does the job!

How to Create a Family Anthology of Your Child’s Creations • Story about a mouse named Chappy.

We’ll keep adding the original creative works that my children and I would like to include from their Sonlight Language Arts lessons. Simple, right? Needless to say, I am thrilled with this discovery. 

Here are a few ideas to build your own family anthology of creative writing from your homeschool language arts lessons.

1. Write the Title with Your Child

Take a look at the titles of anthologies and story collections that you enjoy together.  This will give you some ideas for how to title your family anthology!

2. Photocopy Originals 

If your child wants to keep the original piece in his or her personal annual portfolio, simply print a second copy or photocopy the piece for the anthology.

3. Use Page Protectors and Pocket Dividers 

When my children are young, they tend to create stories in booklet form. I’ll tuck these in folder dividers, which are useful for keeping the three-hole-punched stories separated, too. Page protectors are helpful for one-sided illustrations or poems. 

How to Create a Family Anthology of Your Child’s Creations • Audrey has a kitty cat story

4. Make It Sustainable

Don’t make this too complicated for yourself. Create something that you can update easily and that can be pulled off the shelf and enjoyed regularly.

I knew if I made a book with funky binding or requiring time and energy every time I wanted to add something, I wouldn’t keep up with it. So a simple three-ring binder works for me. I’ll keep this on a shelf in our living room so that we can read it often. I encourage you to find a system that will work over time. Remember the goal is to read and enjoy your family’s creativity often over the years!

Anticipating a Treasure-in-the-Making

We’ll add to our family anthology over time. If we out-grow our current three-ring binder, I will probably create a second or third volume instead of upgrading to an unwieldy, thicker three-ring binder.  Some day, when my children are grown, I hope to copy and bind the family anthology as a keepsake for each person in our family. Won’t that be a treasure?

Get a head-start on your family anthology with Sonlight's Memory Book.

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7 Solutions When a Rocky Start Threatens Your Homeschool Year

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7 Solutions When a Rocky Start Threatens Your Homeschool Year

Starting a new homeschool year is so exciting! Just the thought of sharpened pencils that still have their erasers, fresh notebooks, and newly cracked books set my heart racing.

Yes, I’m totally that mom.

I’m also the mom who knows from experience that no matter how new my curriculum is or how sparkly my markers are, there is bound to be some struggle a few weeks into the school year.

The transition from summer to fall is tough even for those of us who homeschool year round. As the days get cooler and we spend more and more time inside together during the fall, a few hiccups and occasional train-wrecks are nigh unavoidable.  

So how can you save the homeschool year when your first quarter has a rocky start?

Well, it’s not easy, friend, but it’s doable. Here are seven tips to help you stay on course when your homeschool year has a rocky start. 

1. Make Peace with Imperfection

As much as we might like to have a group of cooperative, eager-to-learn kids every single morning, the reality is often different. Starting a new routine or grade level may exacerbate this reality.

Total truth? Some mornings, Mom isn’t all that shiny and happy to be at the morning table either. We can’t always control how we feel, but we can acknowledge it, accept it, and move forward anyway. 

2. Encourage Positive Habits

When we are rested, fed, and safe, we are more apt to enjoy learning. We can help our kids adjust to a new schedule by ensuring every day has room for

We can also adjust our expectations for days that are plagued by sickness or that follow an emotionally intense or busy day.

3. Allow an Adjustment Period

Before throwing the new curriculum in the trash or putting your child back on the bus after an intense argument, give yourself and your kids a chance to adjust. Anything new—good or bad—takes practice and exposure before it’s comfortable.

True confession? We almost didn’t do Sonlight Science after a ping pong ball in the toilet incident. How can I trust kids with clay and citric acid if they are having trouble controlling themselves around a ping pong ball? Well, we start with the ping pong ball and other safe materials as we all adjust to the organized chaos that is experiments with four young kids.

Giving up after a couple of rough days would have been a mistake. I’m so grateful we didn’t miss out on Sonlight Science which is now one of our favorite subjects!

4. Be Open

If you’re having a rough time getting started and things aren’t clicking, it’s okay to admit that things aren’t going as well as you hoped. When your kids are struggling you might even say to them, “We just haven't found our groove yet.”

Yet is huge! It lets them know you aren’t giving up and that it will happen eventually. 

5. Expect Bad Days

Bad days are as given as gravity. Remind yourself and your kids that bad days are going to happen—even when everything is planned ahead, the curriculum is the best on the market, and everyone is wearing new clothes. Especially when everyone is wearing new clothes. I joke, but you get the point.

No matter how much we prepare and perfectly arrange our homeschool, life has twists and turns we can't anticipate. Facing setbacks with perseverance, grit, and faith goes a long way to defining and strengthening us as a homeschool family.

6. Remain Humble

Homeschool is challenging. When things go right, mind your manners and send a prayer of thanks, because when they go wrong we are quickly reminded how much we need Him in our lives.

Even in the roughest patches there is always something for which to be grateful. Hold onto it, treasure it, and thank God for it! None of us have all of the answers all of the time. If you are in a rough season it’s okay to ask for help from family, friends, church, or other support groups. 

7. Homeschooling Doesn't Define You

Remember that a rough spot at the start of your homeschool year does not need to define your entire year, nor does it define you or your kids. You are so much more than just a homeschool mom! You are an amazing person who has chosen to give so much of themselves for the betterment of your family.

Sure, homeschooling is part of your life, but it’s not your whole life. Be sure to keep this slice of time in perspective and not let it overwhelm. 

  • Take a breath.
  • Read a book.
  • Go for a walk. 
  • Engage in your hobby.
  • Talk about something (anything) else with your husband. 
  • Send up prayers and gratitude. 
  • Hug your kids. 
  • Call a friend. 

Make sure to count all those little successes that will add up over time and just keep homeschooling! You can do this! 

Choosing the right curriculum makes all the difference for your school year. If your homeschool needs a makeover, consider switching to Sonlight.

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6 Ways to Give Your Homeschool a Progress Report

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6 Ways to Give Your Homeschool a Progress Report

“Okay, let’s do the AAR,” my husband said after a church event our family had organized. We gathered in the living room and one by one gave our two cents, down to our youngest child. “I really liked when we sang the songs, and I liked sitting by my leader, but the bounce houses were way too crazy! We need more grown-ups watching the bounce houses.” she stated. 

This type of family meeting has become common practice in our home. The term AAR comes from my husband’s time in the military, and it stands for After Action Review.

The After Action Review

In the military, after every mission, the soldiers come together and critique how it went. They debrief with questions like

  • What went well?
  • What needs to improve? 

It was clear to us that the practice of constantly reviewing our work is a beneficial practice for multiple areas of life from work to home, even to our ministry at church. We have found it to be particularly useful in homeschooling.

While most public schools are sending out progress reports for the students, I find myself asking my kids for a progress report on their homeschool experience. Here are a few ways that we give our homeschool an AAR.

Give Your Homeschool a Progress Report

Are you wondering if your child is bored, or maybe too challenged? Join us for this Facebook Live to get ideas on how you can check in on your homeschool and make sure your child is nestled nicely in a sweet spot for learning.

Posted by Sonlight Curriculum on Thursday, October 17, 2019
Enjoy this conversation between Deana, the author of this article, and Stephanie from Sonlight. They talk about giving your homeschool a progress report and making sure your child's school work is in that sweet spot of not too hard and not too easy.

1. One Word Association Game

Every few weeks, we will play the one word association game. I’m sure that you’ve heard of this. I spill out a trail of words fairly quickly, and my kids tell me the very first thing that comes to mind. It may go something like this…

You say…. Your child says….

  • Cats... Fuzzy
  • Popsicles... Cold
  • Reading... Fun
  • Swimming... Summer
  • Math... Confusing

This simple evaluation technique gives you a lot of information in a short amount of time, and the best part is that your child thinks you are playing a game! Most of the time, the first word that comes to their mind is usually their deepest, truest feeling about each word, so I have found this evaluation method to be pretty accurate.

I usually make a few mental notes about the words my kids choose, and then we circle back around to discuss it later. 

2. Feelings Chart Word Association

This is a more formal variation of the one word association game. In this variation, you’ll need to hand them a feelings chart and briefly go over it, explaining any emotion words that they may not know. My favorite emotion charts have faces that help the child to understand the feeling even if they aren’t a reader or don’t know the emotion word yet. 

In this exercise, you simply go through a typical day and have your child choose an emotion word for each school subject or schedule block. 

3. Listen In…

My girls had the sweetest conversation yesterday in the car. It went something like this:

“I read Hill of Fire today and it was so good! I loved the part about the volcano.” said my youngest.

“I remember Hill of Fire! It was one of my favorites too! Just wait until you get to A Question of Yams! It’s a really good book too. I also really liked The Big Balloon Race. You have a lot of really good books coming up!” exclaimed my oldest.

“I know! I can’t wait to read the one about hot air balloons! I’ve never ridden in one before and I’ve always thought they were really cool!”

“You will love it then!”

That conversation is all I need to know that our reading program is on point.

When your children are actively engaging with the books they read to the point of discussing them with others, you are on the right track! That’s the best evaluation you can get.

So listen in occasionally and see what is making your child tick or causing them to wilt. These organic conversations are one of the best ways to evaluate your child’s schooling, as they are usually very honest with siblings and friends.

4. High/Low

This is a pretty simple evaluation that you can use either on a daily basis or every few weeks. Dinnertime makes the best backdrop for these conversations.

You simply go around the table and have everyone state the highest part of their day and the lowest part of their day. This is a good way to identify struggle areas. If you notice that your child says that science was the lowest part of their day more than once, that's a red flag that maybe you should look into what they dislike about science time. 

5. Parent-Child Conference

A spin on the more common parent-teacher conference, the parent-child conference is every bit as important. In a parent-child conference, the parent interviews the child to find trouble spots. Questions may include:

  • Out of a perfect score of 5 stars, how many stars would you give our homeschool?
  • What is your favorite thing that we do together during school each day?
  • What is your favorite subject in school?
  • What is your least favorite subject in school?
  • Name one thing that you wish were different about our school.
  • How can I be a better teacher for you?
  • What is the hardest part of our school day?
  • What is your all-time best memory of our homeschool? Worst?
  • Would you recommend homeschooling to a friend? Why or why not?

6. A Simple Rubric for Academics

If you’ve been homeschooling for very long, you’ll probably agree that there is a point in every subject where your child is not bored, but they are also not too challenged. I call this the sweet spot.

A child who is not being challenged will sometimes act out or perform poorly simply out of boredom. A child who is being too challenged will act out or give up because they feel the task is impossible.

As homeschooling parents, we want to find the sweet spot...the place right in the middle of too hard and too easy. To do this, you can use this simple rubric for each subject in your homeschool day.

Subject: _________Too ChallengingJust RightNot Challenging Enough
EmotionsChild complains about this part of the day, seems to dawdle rather than begin, may seem to feel defeated before trying

Child begins work promptly and finishes in an appropriate amount of time, seems to feel accomplishment after completing assignmentChild finishes work within a few minutes, seems bored, may dawdle or push back on the assignment or have a bad attitude
Level of IndependenceChild struggles to begin, asks lots of questions, will not work alone even after practicing with Mom or DadChild works independently for the most part, with a few questionsChild completes work with no help at all, all answers are correct
Sense of AccomplishmentChild seems to feel defeated even after finishing work, no sense of accomplishment, may feel exhaustion after taskChild feels a sense of accomplishment after completing task and still has energy to do something elseChild feels no sense of accomplishment, seems to feel indifferent even though their work is perfect, may even have a bad attitude

GET A PRINTABLE COPY OF THIS RUBRIC


Many times, our children are really trying to communicate with us when they complain or act out. And most children do not really mean, “I hate math.” What they really mean is, “I don’t think I’m good at math and therefore, I think that I hate it.”

I firmly believe that when kids are in the sweet spot of learning, feeling that little push of challenge followed by a sense of accomplishment, they are truly enjoying their education. I would even go so far to say that a student who feels that every subject falls in the just right category is a student who doesn’t hate any subject.

Learning is such a natural thing for a child. It is built into their very make-up, so hating any subject could be an indicator that something is not quite right. If you do find that your child is consistently not in the sweet spot, it may be time to switch curriculum.

A Word of Caution

Please remember that you are asking for honest answers, and these honest answers will not always feel good to your heart. Please don’t take these answers personally. Your child needs the ability to be open and honest with you, so please let them know that in these times, when you are asking them about school, any feeling is valid.

It’s also okay to hear their honest answers and not change anything at all. Remember, you are the decision maker, and ultimately, you know what’s best. However, simply giving your child a safe space to share his feelings has value in itself. 

Asking for and valuing our children’s opinion of their school experience not only helps us make informed decisions about curriculum and schedules, but it helps them to know that they have a voice in their own education. There is power in knowing that your thoughts can help change the way things are. It is my prayer that this simple practice of AAR will translate to even bigger opportunities for their voices to be heard in the future.

Homeschool Placement Tests

Use our free homeschool placement tests to find the perfect fit in Sonlight curriculum.

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Treasuring Sibling Conflict: The DNA of Vital Homeschool Lessons

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Treasuring Sibling Conflict: The DNA of Vital Homeschool Lessons

It is not that an amount of social interaction should be permitted up until the point that it distracts from academic work. It is more that academic work should be permitted up until the point that it distracts from social interaction.  

How often did you hear, “You have not come here to socialise!” at school? Other people were considered a hindrance to proper school-work. Peers certainly were, let alone younger children. We cannot, however, ask a child to ignore his friends for the sake of abstracted knowledge, not just because abstracted knowledge is unduly arduous but because knowledge, abstracted from other people, is actually bad.  

Knowledge Puffs Up; Love Builds Up 

Knowledge puffs up, you could say, if it is not in service of others. Even in preparation for future service, lonely knowledge is prideful and inert. In fact, relationship is your curriculum’s most costly resource. 

My six-year-old daughter broke a pencil, shading the forests of South America for Science B, and despairingly threw the broken pencil at her four-year-old brother. 

“You do it,”she barked. He paused to look at the abandoned pencil. I waited with a sinking heart. 

“Okay,” he said, and took up the pencil. She was surprised and disarmed by his response. He had absorbed the fiery advance and made peace. He scribbled with the broken pencil, and she was drawn in once more to gently (but imperiously) improve his grip.

Once the map was completed, they threw it to their two-year-old brother who ripped it to shreds delightedly, to their applause.  

I was angry about the whole ordeal. They missed the point of the lesson, only to get caught up in a childish clash. Or maybe there is more to it than that. The six-year-old wrote a quote from Sticks Across the Chimney (from History / Bible / Literature C) in her Discovery Journal that afternoon. 

"Good begets good.” 

Good Begets Good

Whether it was a reflection on her brother’s unwillingness to reciprocate her angry outburst, or on her failure to forestall a vicious cycle, or whether it was connected at all, I don’t know. But it made me rethink the result of the lesson, and what the lesson was.  

Her four-year-old brother surely saw how frustrated she was with the broken pencil, but took it as an opportunity to help her. He finished the task that her temper had rendered too difficult. He was able to show a glimmer of Joseph’s grace-powered announcement that, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Together, they were able to make a straight line with a crooked pencil.  

If the lesson I was interested in having was, in the final analysis, the geography lesson, I had failed, and so had the students. If the lesson, on the final analysis, is moral and spiritual, then I can release control.

The DNA of a Homeschool Lesson

Not only should the geography lesson be preparation for future loving service of God, but it must be in the very DNA of the lesson. They will forget the majority of the geography lesson, but it is that DNA which will form the basis of tenfold future lessons. That DNA, of relinquishment of self and seeking after God, is the lesson that lasts.  

Next time you mark it as a failure when your six-year-old throws a broken pencil or your twelve-year-old storms out of the classroom, consider the DNA of your lesson.

Is the DNA the teacher and her information, or is it God and His work in your children? If so, then your failures are not failures. God never fails. In His upside down kingdom, it is

  • the exasperated child who is wise
  • the disabled sibling who is strong
  • the whining two-year-old who teaches
  • the angry ten-year-old who makes peace
  • the distracted four-year-old who breaks through
  • the tired parent who creates

That is the DNA of a godly lesson in a homeschool family. That is the death of the self. 

Permit academic work up until it hinders social interaction. That doesn’t mean limiting the number of geography lessons, but it does mean limiting a sense of control. I can control a lesson plan, but I can’t control a child’s heart. If love is greater than knowledge, then the DNA of your geography lesson is other people. It is learning to be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

If our children fill their heads with geography, trampling and ignoring others as they do so, this may become irreparable DNA damage, making geography, I believe, harder and harder to retain.  

I treasure sibling conflict for the same reason I treasure whines and distraction and exhaustion: Weak people need a strong God. It is when we are at our most unlovely that Christ is supremely treasured. Let Him be the DNA of your lesson.  

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5 Ways to a Simplified Homeschool Environment

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5 Ways to a Simplified Homeschool Environment
  • Do you find yourself frustrated with all the homeschool stuff cluttering your home?
  • Do you feel like you are constantly rearranging and organizing?
  • Do you wish you could downsize and rid yourself of the overabundant, ever-growing stockpile of school supplies and materials?

Me, too! But there is hope!

For many years I drooled over the school supply catalog and bought every dollar-spot deal I came across. My schoolroom overflowed with all-the-things I just had to have.

Honestly, it became an overwhelming task to keep things organized and manageable. Eventually I grew weary. I had to do something to change our homeschool environment.

Our recent cross-country move presented the perfect opportunity for me to simplify our homeschool and live with less. If you are at the point where you feel like you need to simplify your homeschool life, I want to offer you five ideas that helped me make this change.

1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

The number one thing I have found to be true is that when we compare ourselves to other people we are more likely to add to our homeschool resource collection.

When you look at gorgeous Instagram flatlays or breathtaking schoolroom setups on Pinterest, you are more likely to be bitten by the “I-gotta-have-that” bug. You know the one I’m talking about—the one that won’t leave you alone until you give in and chase after what you drooled over.

I’ve been there. It’s real. But that itchy bug can be stopped when we refuse to compare ourselves with others and instead choose to be content with what we have.

2. Set a Homeschool Budget

Having a budget is elementary but critical. With a budget to rein in our spending, we are more likely to succeed at keeping our homeschool simple. If we spend money on extras every time we see something we love, our goodies will pile up and create more chaos within our home.

If you're married, work together with your spouse so you have accountability to stick with whatever dollar amount you set. Setting a budget will also help us to stick with our choices and not curriculum hop when what we're using is working well but we have an itch for something new.

3. Pass On or Sell Unneeded Material

I always end up with unneeded items at the end of the school year.

  • I may have bought something I thought would work for our kids, but it was a flop.
  • There are other things we loved but have outgrown.

Each year before the new school year starts, I identify the curriculum and resources that we don’t need, want, or use anymore. Then I either sell them or donate them to a family who can use them. I achieve a simplified homeschool environment and get to bless another family in the process!   

4. Store and Organize Material

When we buy new Sonlight curriculum for our oldest child, we buy it with all of our children in mind. Because I know I am going to use each level with my three younger children, I never part with my Sonlight programs. I keep each set, grouped together and organized for use at any time.

If you don't have the room to store your Sonlight curriculum on bookshelves, I recommend storing them out of the way in plastic tubs until you need them. This methods helps you simplify your space and save money at the same time.

5. Schedule Regular Purging Days

When you take the time to forge a simplified homeschool environment, make sure your hard work is not in vain. Schedule a time twice a year (or at least once a year) to purge and declutter your homeschool-related resources and evaluate whether it’s something you really need.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I used this item on a regular basis?
  • Have my kids outgrown this item?
  • Do I have room for this item?
  • Do I know someone who could benefit from this item more than my family?
  • Has this item made a difference in our homeschool?

If you walk through these questions and you feel like the item needs to go, let it go quickly before you change your mind. Wink, wink!

Simplifying your homeschool environment may take time and effort, but once you’ve done it, the reward is so worth it. I want to encourage you to simplify your homeschool environment so you can experience the joy of less.

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