Homeschoolers Giving Back

Homeschoolers Giving Back

A Season of Giving

Wondering how we homeschoolers can give back to our communities? Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked those on her timeline for ideas on what homeschoolers could do to give back. She got the usual answers—shelters, Salvation Army, nursing homes, etc. My response? Help a homeschooling teacher!

Homeschooling mom and son spending time outdoorsThree Ways You Can Help Fellow Home Educators:

  • Be there: families are joining the ranks of homeschooling by leaps and bounds and many have no clue how to get started. Simply having access to someone to talk to can help so much!
  • Konmari your classroom: people may be looking for curricula that you have sitting in a box or closet. Instead of collecting dust and spider webs it could be helping a homeschool family. It may not be the latest edition, but I guarantee you that it will help SOMEBODY!
  • Create a “kick-off” box: people use the same supplies as you – that extra stuff can be turned into supply boxes for new homeschool families. The kids will love helping with this!

Let’s talk about that last one for a moment. Have you ever given thought to making a homeschool kick-off box for a new homeschooling family? Think about that new homeschool parent who is going through all of those things you went through when you first started homeschooling. Often a search for help can lead to information overload- and you could be there to enable them to get a good start instead!

Stuff You Already Have

Think about what you have on hand that might be an encouragement to that new homeschool family. A tote bag or cute box of basic school supplies, coffee or tea and a cute mug for Mom, age/grade appropriate activity packets, books, and things of that sort go a LOOOOOOOOOONG way! Pay attention to those “If you could have anything for your homeschool, what would it be” posts—you might have that stuff right in your house and it could be used to inspire, encourage, uplift, and equip another family to resist the urge to put their kids back on the bus that they JUST pulled them off of…SIGH!

Make a Target Run

If your closet search doesn’t yield enough items for your homeschool kick-off box, a quick trip to your local Target dollar section or the dollar store can round out your list with cute erasers and inexpensive office supplies.

Other Ways to Give Back

Our kids need a reality check at times, so take them to those soup kitchens, shelters, orphanages, and even hospitals. That reminds me of something…

Homeschoolers give back by volunteer work at a hospitalLast year, our youngest daughter was admitted to the hospital days after her birthday. Because she was in medical isolation, she couldn’t leave the room to engage in any of the amenities the hospital had to offer. As I opened the door briefly to see what was going on around the floor, I saw a family with a cart of dinner plates for the parents of children in the hospital. It was obvious that their youngest child did NOT want to be there at ALL! When they got to our daughter’s room, he noticed that they were the same age and had the same birthday. His mood INSTANTLY changed. He was up, walking around, serving others, and ran across a little girl just like him.

A local homeschool co-op came around the hospital with Christmas stockings and a cart full of toys. It was so hard for me to choose because our daughter likes pretty much anything! When I mentioned that she’d just had her birthday, they told me to take whatever I wanted! The cool thing was that one of the things she wanted MOST for her birthday was on that cart – how this small act blessed us!

A church group brought a full taco bar out for parents and children who could eat it. They prayed for each parent that came down to make a plate for themselves or their children. Little things like that make a big difference.

Many times, our children think that nothing will ever befall them and they need to see that it can and that there are people out there who genuinely need that smile or helping hand! They may be the only person that day who shows that person any kindness at all…I’ve seen it happen too many times.

Another thing you can do is write to a soldier who may not have a family or simply needs a pick me up from someone they have sworn their lives to protect. The loneliness they feel may not be something your child experiences, but it will teach them to appreciate others!

Four Quick Ways to Pay it Forward

  • Volunteer at those shelters, soup kitchens, and orphanages
  • Visit hospital patients during the holidays
  • Write to a soldier
  • Smile and look for little ways to lend a hand every day

Whatever you choose to do…give back!

Tammie Polk is a Mompreneur on a Mission! She is a married, homeschooling mother of three girls ages 15, 10, and 5 from Memphis, Tennessee. When she’s not pouring into her girls, you can find her writing, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games! Her major claim to fame is being the author of over 30 books on life, faith, family, and business- all of which were written in the last three years. Tammie is also a business coach, homeschool consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker, and international radio show host!

 

 

Less is More for the Holidays

Less is More for the Holidays

Navigating Holiday Challenges

Less is more during the holidays- especially for children with learning difficulties, social difficulties, and/or emotional difficulties. Holidays are a wonderful, exciting time of year, filled with fun activities, family and friends. However, it can also be a challenging time for these children and their families. With some creativity and patience, these holiday times can be navigated with less frustration and more joy, when families say “less is more.”

Keep The Academics

Every year homeschooling parents question how long their holiday breaks should be and how much they should focus on academics. I say…why not continue academics (and clocking time for those that need a specified number of hours and/or days), BUT find creative ways to keep the learning going – while still enjoying the holiday. “Less is more…” can apply to academics during the Christmas break!Small children decorate a simple tree with quote that states less is more for the holidays.

Here are some “tried-and-true” tips and tools that will keep your homeschooler focused and interested during the busy (and distracting) Christmas season!

Key Subjects – a Little Goes A Long Way

One big concern during the holiday break is that your child might lose skills they just learned – especially math skills. November and December are great times to review. Use short, focused activities. Print out some free worksheets, or use those extras that you didn’t complete yet, and keep their skills going. Even just doing 3-4 questions a day can help them maintain those newly learned skills. Pick the key subjects that your child needs the most practice in, and focus on those. You could also do shortened versions of their regular assignments on the days you have holiday activities.

Unit Studies

Unit studies on holiday topics are a great way to incorporate the skills your child needs to keep up with while having some holiday fun! Learn about traditions and Christmas around the world. Study animals from around the world. Keep the fun going with a field trip to the zoo (weather permitting). Incorporate those holiday activities and family traditions: Christmas card writing, holiday crafts, and baking cookies are all activities that can be integrated into your homeschool day. Have fun and be creative- the sky is the limit on what can be included as school work!

Holiday Books

Around Thanksgiving, I always pull my mountain of holiday books out and put them in the living room for my boys to enjoy. This is a great time to visit your local library where you will find tons of cute picture books along with classics like A Christmas Carol. After you read the book, watch a version of the movie too. We love The Muppet Christmas Carol at our house!

Games

Games can be a great family activity – and they reinforce skills. RightStart Math has a games pack that reinforces skills from identifying numbers through fractions and decimals. Board games can teach other skills such as cooperation. Have your kids add up the scores and reinforce their math skills. Scrabble (or Scrabble Jr.) can reinforce spelling and vocabulary.

Documentaries, Educational Shows and Apps

From animal documentaries to the history of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus), there are documentaries that can interest and reinforce any topic you want to study. Pop some corn or enjoy those snacks you have been cooking up in the kitchen – so much can be learned from educational videos! Educational apps are another way to reinforce skills. Apps are perfect for travel – use them as you roadschool on the way to visit relatives and friends.

Baking

Baking gives hands-on opportunities to practice and learn new skills in reading, math, cooperation, following directions, science, and much more! It is also a fun way to build memories and start traditions.

Family Newsletter

Looking to incorporate more writing for the holidays? Start a family newsletter. Have everyone submit articles about their favorite memory or what they are doing for the year, and share the news with close friends and family. The holiday letter has become a tradition for many families to send out each year. This year, everyone gets to voice their part!

Crafts and Handmade Gifts

Make some handmade crafts and gifts to give to friends and family. Many skills are learned and worked on by making hand-made treasures. As an additional bonus, you save money on gifts!  When you have a curriculum or schedule that must be maintained, change it up and make it fun using holiday paper to create your checklists. Make a bingo card for them to check off the work they have completed for the day or the week. When your child gets “Bingo!” take a break or have a treat!

Special Needs and Social Opportunities

Don’t forget that “less is more…” can apply to events during the holiday break! The holidays are filled with opportunities to see friends, family and acquaintances (and sometimes strangers) that we don’t see very often. Often this happens at large gatherings. For some people, these opportunities are cherished and loved. However, some of our children have a difficult time and become overwhelmed. Here are some ways to plan that will make it easier.

Give a Purpose

One difficulty can be that our children don’t know what they are supposed to do or say at these large gatherings. Give them a job, or help them know what to say (“I want you to ask three people about ________” or “Give three people compliments about _________”). Being “in charge” of a task (such as handing out gifts as guests are coming in) can help alleviate some of the anxiety and stress of being in a large group of people.

Look For Smaller Opportunities

Sometimes we are offered opportunities for smaller gatherings. Sometimes I make my own smaller gatherings for us to enjoy rather than attending the large gatherings others are planning. These are more meaningful to my boys, and tend to go over better.

Activities Over Food

Many times, food can become difficult to navigate, especially when allergies are involved. Look for opportunities that stress activities over food to avoid difficulties with food when this is a challenge.

Playdates

Along the lines of looking for smaller opportunities, sometimes a simple playdate can take the place of larger activities. Families sometimes have more time off during the holidays, so plan ahead and schedule some simple playdates to enjoy!

Consider Weather

Anyone else having an especially cold fall? I know we almost had snow, and that only usually happens once every thirty years…and generally in January or February. Extreme weather causes activities to be canceled or postponed so take this into consideration when planning each year to avoid big disappointments. Winter weather can be a major factor to consider when planning out your holiday schedule and activities.

Opportunities to Volunteer And Give Back

The holidays are filled with teachable moments. Scheduling time to volunteer and give back to our communities teaches kindness and love. Take goodies to the fire station or to other community workers. Donate clothes and toys – or even donate your old towels to the animal shelter. Look for opportunities to show kids how to help and care for others. Older children can read to their siblings or show kindness by taking a Christmas card to a therapist or friend. It doesn’t have to be something big to be meaningful.

Kindness Calendar

I saw the Kindness Calendar idea recently and thought it was a marvelous idea. Even if you don’t follow the idea exactly, creating your own kindness calendar of things your children can do each day to show love and kindness to others can be a great way to show holiday spirit.

Emotional Health

Holidays are busy, loud, bright, and filled with friends, family, and even strangers wishing us well! This can be a blessing to many people who love the hustle and bustle of the holidays. However, some of our kids aren’t ready for such happenings. When your child is one that does not enjoy this busy time of year, it’s ok to downsize your holiday traditions, and consider smaller, more meaningful traditions (at least in the short term).

Beware The Temptation to Over Plan – It’s OK to Say NO

When our children get easily overwhelmed, it’s ok to say “no” to family or friends when they invite us to do activities that our children will not enjoy or will be easily overwhelmed doing. It’s ok to not have outside activities every day, and it’s important that we don’t forget it is ok to reschedule or just say “no” when that is what our family needs!

Pick Your Favorite Activities

“Less is more…” may mean fewer activities for your family. Pick your favorite ones. Plan time before and after for your child to have “downtime” or time doing activities that are calming to them. This will help them be better prepared for the activities you do choose to participate in. Sometimes we try to schedule too much because we feel we have to see everyone during the short period of time we have, but we don’t have to see everyone during the holiday season – choose intentionally to spend time with those you may not see at other times during the year and plan times to visit other either before or after Christmas.

Escape Options

Plan an escape clause (pun intended) for a child who may become easily overwhelmed.  Help them get away for a little while, or allow them to let you know when they are ready to leave an event. It could be a secret phrase or word they say. Or provide a quiet activity they can go do in a corner such as headphones and a movie, or anything else that helps them to get away and find the peace they need. You may need to explain this need to family and friends ahead of time so they are not offended when your child leaves the group in the middle of an activity to calm down.

Spread Things Out

Plan activities with plenty of downtime in between. We all need time to be at home with quieter activities and a closer to “normal” schedule. Arrange one big activity a week rather than five different activities in three days, with no breaks. Give yourself and/or your child permission to say “No.” It is ok to decline invitations (even from Grandma), or schedule a time that will be less busy to be with that person. It is also all right for you to make a final decision on the day of the event if your child is not having a good day. Give yourself permission to cancel, reschedule or otherwise change plans – that is the key to having a relaxed and positive holiday season.

Find Acceptable Alternatives

Whenever possible, find alternatives to those activities or foods our child wants to participate in but has difficulty with. Talk about this with your child. Saying “no” or canceling can be disappointing, but a plan “B” can really come in handy.

Be Sensitive to Food Sensitivities

Food allergies and sensitivities are challenging when so many things are geared around food for the holidays! Be prepared with food options that are allergy-friendly, and sensory-friendly. Volunteer to bring a snack you know your child loves or pack them an alternative snack and bring it with you.

Memories and Traditions

There are many ways to build memories and traditions with your kids. Holidays are about family, friends, and fun. Whatever activities you decide to do, build positive memories and treasure them. Take pictures. Create a scrapbook that gets the kids involved in writing, decorating and gluing – maybe include samples of their holiday schoolwork. Let them create your holiday décor. Remember that “less is more..” when it comes to all the holiday hustle and bustle. Establish new traditions and appreciate these years as your children grow. I hope these ideas and tools help you relish the time you spend with your children during the holiday!

About the author: Amy Vickrey holds a Masters of Science in Education, specializing in curriculum and instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. She spent two years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy. Amy loves the discovery approach to learning and believes that teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

 

The Gift of Education

The Gift of Education

The Horse Barn

My daughter cleans stables on the weekends, and since her brother has gone off to college, I have been going along with her. It’s peaceful work. The stables are beautiful, the horses are award-winning and the work straightforward. We clean stalls, sweep the barn, and feed the creatures. The tack room smells of warm leather, the stables of fresh alfalfa, of horse and life.

I look at the barrows full of manure, raked from freshly cleaned stalls, re-supplied with fresh alfalfa, and think, this is life. Cleaning, feeding, sweeping up the debris from the living. We talk to whatever horses are still stalled, and some time to each other, but generally we work.

My daughter, the gardener that she is, gathers tubs of manure to take home to feed her compost beds. Content in the hard work she’s done and the money well earned, we both get in the car, sweaty and tired, smelling of horse and work and life. Her work ethic has been hard-earned, both in her education and life.

My grandparents had a fourth-grade education, yet they valued the gift of education.

Out of my four grandparents, none of them went past fourth grade in any formal type of school. They were, however, always learning. They were hungry for learning.  My Gram died a few years ago, 1-month shy of her one-hundredth birthday, still living in her own home near Medway Airport in Chicago. She died in a home that she’d literally lined with books and music and animals and life. She had magnifying glasses at all her sitting places so she could see to read: books, magazines, and papers. She taught my Momma-less, illiterate Mom to read at age eight, by reading Shakespeare out loud to her and rewarded her with Mother West Wind books from the Five & Dime.

My grandfather watched the stock market daily and took careful notes.  He studied the Bible with the same careful tenaciousness that he gave to everything else. He wasn’t’ “educated” by today’s standards, but he could talk to anyone about anything and made friends wherever he went. He was passionately curious about people and how they lived and was a good neighbor to all.

My grandparents relished the gift of education. They believed that learning was a beautiful privilege and one they were hungry for.

Crown & the Growth Mindset

Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed in the mini-series Crown, seeks a tutor at one point. She has all the privileges of royalty and wealth, is the most respected woman in the world, which she travels extensively, and yet she sees a need in her own life. A need filled only by education. She hires a personal tutor to fill the void that money and prestige can’t fill. She is dissatisfied with what she doesn’t know and finds a way to fill the gap that lack of education has left.

Her sister, wealthy dissatisfied jet setter, is portrayed as bored and jealous and goes after a man that won’t “work” for her circumstances. We see a person who believes that the only satisfaction they can expect in life is physical and so she drinks and smokes and philanders to excess. The demands of her life don’t lead her to seek the fulfillment of learning and knowing. Because she hasn’t developed the intellectual discipline that character and education require, she settles.

So what does this have to do with the gift of education?

So often, in the homeschooling world, I hear this idea: character is more important than the book. “Put the book down and focus on character training.” I find this odd because it assumes that character training and education are at odds with each other. Au contrair! There is so much character training to be found by educating one’s self or another!

Let’s face it, the cycle of learning can be difficult. When we first encounter something, especially something challenging, it feels overwhelming. I remember the first time I tried to teach First Form Latin. I didn’t understand the teacher’s manual. I didn’t understand the grammar vocabulary; terms like Declension, Imperfect, Pluperfect, Mood, Conjugation. It felt awkward and tough. Now, years later, I love The Forms. It takes difficult material and lays it out in all its parts- vocabulary, grammar, sayings, culture.

Learning often requires an overview and familiarity before we ever get to mastery. It takes perseverance, hard work, vision and character to grow past overview. Getting to mastery requires all sorts of soft skills, character, and strength! Education IS character building!

Education is not a given

For many people around the world, education is not a given. My grandparents received very little formal education. Kids in the third world often don’t’ have the gift of education. Even royals don’t get the education that they need. Education requires infrastructure, stable government, money, and the character and vision to pursue it. It’s a gift. Educational choice is an even bigger gift.

In my weekly Latin classes, I pray. I pray that we all appreciate the gift of Latin and Education and that we steward that gift well. Latin isn’t going to save the world, but students who learn to appreciate words and the Word that became flesh, are great instruments to lead people to the One who can!

Gratitude for a life full of education – 

Homeschooling is such a unique and beautiful gift in this day and age of fast food everything. We have the time and opportunity to train our kid’s character as we school them. It’s a both-and, not an either-or proposition. You can teach math AND character at the same time. In fact, I would say they often go hand in hand. And to have the time and opportunity to train our kids well-their minds as well as their character is a gift.

I often hear that homeschooling should be fun, and I wonder where that idea got started. I’m not saying it should feel like slavery or a grind, but often hard work requires just that- work. Not that you can’t have fun while you work, but often work doesn’t feel necessarily like fun. And even if our kids don’t feel like they are having fun, they should still be educated, and we should not cheat them of the opportunity to have that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from learning and academic accomplishment. We should teach our kids to be grateful for the gift of education, for the opportunity to homeschool. It’s not a right. It is a privilege.

And what’s all this have to do with a horse barn anyway?

That simple gift of work that causes one to sweat a little and feel the good tired that comes from working hard; that’s what education often consists of. Real education – the kind that takes us beyond ourselves and transforms us, requires hard work, like the horse barn; vision, like my grandparents had; and a growth mindset like the Queen.

Gratitude reminds us of the above – that we are being given a great gift by being educated, and we are giving our children a great gift by handing them a personalized education, in the form of homeschooling.

 

Are you grateful for the gift of education? Do you understand the privilege that comes with the ability to homeschool? See why we love homeschooling and while we will forever be grateful for the ability to pass on the gift of education. #truenorthhomeschoolacademy #homeschooling #education #homeschool

Getting Started – Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

Getting Started – Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

I’ve had several young Mommas (so young I could be their Momma!) ask me about homeschooling preschool and kindergarten recently. The biggest challenge of littles is keeping them engaged. Most still have a relatively short attention span, are quickly tired, and need to be fed and watered at regular intervals. Habit is key- routine is your safest bet.  

(Still considering homeschooling? Check out our post on three reasons we love homeschooling.)

So what are my tips for homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners?

Tip #1 – Morning Baskets

I would recommend developing a morning basket for littles. This method means they get your attention first thing, right after breakfast.  This basket is a great way to think about what you want your littles to learn and how to organize it. Morning Baskets for littles can include card matching games, Kumon workbooks, Memory CD’s, Poetry, Simple Bible Stories, Phonics, and math games if they are ready for them.

After years of doing this, I recommend over-planning before you get started and then going with the flow once you start. With littles, like with anything else, you don’t get what you want, you get what you plan for. With littles, you often get lots of surprises, too, right?!

Tip #2 – Add in age-appropriate chores.

Kids do what you inspect, not what you expect, BUT, they do need to know what you expect, too! One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Andrew Pudewa is that if your child keeps asking for help, they need help. This seems simple- well, it is, really, but it might not come naturally! Life skills are a big part of homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners.

Tip #3 – Add in Some Books

If you live with books and magazines, your kids will think having them around is normal. My kids love books on tape. We use Sonlight, Bethlehem Books, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press catalogs as reading lists. Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids, Ladybug, Boys Life have all been favorite magazines around here.

Pre- Reading: Read aloud 15 min a day. There are so many adorable books on everything under the sun; don’t limit your read-alouds to baby books.

Curriculum Suggestions for Homeschooling Preschoolers and Kindergartners

I think some table time is good at this age because it helps kids get acclimated to regular study. Art or History Cards are great to look at, even for pre-readers. Usborne, Memoria Press, and Veritas Press all have beautiful ones.

Christian Studies- Arch books are a fabulous way for your littles to get a great introduction to basic Bible stories with pictures that they’ll remember for a lifetime. We also have loved and read out loud to our kids a couple of different Children’s Bibles, including the Golden Children’s Bible.
We had tons of felts, and teaching Bible stories through felts is always an attention grabber.

IEW Language Acquisition through poetry memorization– this is a fantastic program and easily accessible for littles, especially with the CD. There are four sections of 20 poems each, starting with simple, short poems and ending with epic dramatic re-tellings. Andrew Pudewa (who put the program together and recites the poems) has incredible diction, so your kids will hear fantastic vocabulary and superb story-telling.

Letter and Number recognition– we used Kumon and Usborne workbooks, colorful, easily accessible, and fun. There are tons of complete programs available.

Phonics- We always used Alpha-Phonics in conjunction with Explode the Code. There are other great products out there. We took the low cost, no bells, and whistles, a practical approach.

Bible Study– Arch books, Bible Memory, reading a good quality Children’s Bible, Veggie Tales, Veritas Press, or Bible Study for All Ages Bible cards.

Memory Work – When our youngest was four, she learned 160 VP history cards that year (even though she was a pre-reader), along with 24 history sentences, several others hundred facts related to grammar, geography, Latin, poems and more because we regularly and diligently used CDs and table time to review. She also learned the letter sounds and started on a notebook-sized time-line. I say all of this so that you realize your littles are capable of learning a LOT.

This is NOT to say that you should set them at the table and force information down their throats. Kids this age, however, can learn a ton through CD’s, good DVD’s, books and great visual aids such as flashcards. Also, if you have older kids, why not include your younger kids? They are sponges. If you start early “training their brains to retain,” you’ll be amazed at how much they really can and do retain as they grow older.

More Fun Ways to Learn while Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten

Outside play, exploration, and nature walks – Nature journaling and nature tables are an excellent way for kids to display the cool things they’ve found as they explore the great outdoors! Homeschooling your preschooler and kindergartener should always be fun!

Read-alouds – At least 15 minutes a day; more is better ; )

Crafts and Art – There are so many fun art books, but in any case, an easel, paper, and paint is always appropriate. Colored shaving cream is excellent for bath/shower painting. And hey, how about a shower tile wall- works great as a whiteboard and for painting- easily wipes off- all for $15 bucks.

Gardening – This can be in the yard, with containers, or how about a Fairy Garden?

Open-Ended toys – Brio Trains, Playmobile, Duplos/Legos, Stuffed Animals. Pinterest has some adorable pins of old entertainment centers rehabbed as play kitchens. Add some felt food; and old pots, pans, and measuring cups.

Art Supplies – Easels, paint, glitter, glue, pipe cleaners, colored paper, stickers, colored rice bins, colored shaving cream to “Paint” in the bathtub, Whiteboards around the house (make a whiteboard wall with shower tile or several smaller lapboards), chalkboards and magnet boards (easily made with some chalkboard or magnet paint).

Unstructured Outside Play – Trampoline, playhouses, daily walks, parks, swimming, Gardening, Sandboxes, Swings,

“Sound exploration” – Musical makers. Kids loving making sounds.

Cooking- My kids have all loved to help cook in the kitchen. Usborne’s First Cookbook is full of fun and simple recipes.

Gross motor skill development–  For years, we had a “Step 2” playscape, complete with ladder and slide, IN our house.

Sandbox or table– a friend built a sandbox in their basement for their kids, and we had a sand table on our front porch for years.

Fine motor skill development – Have plenty of pens, pencils, markers around for the kids to play with, sewing cards, small toys (once they are past the “everything in their mouth” stage- legos, of course.

Travel/ field trips –  What better way to learn about the mail than actually visiting the Post Office? These types of learning experiences make learning fun AND educational.

Singing – the Wee Sing series, with books and CD’s are full of old favorites.

Daily Prayer – Family evening prayers, with everyone snuggled in a bed together, is a gentle way to teach your littles about what’s important to you. We have each child pray, youngest to oldest, ending with Daddy blessing each child. If your kiddo doesn’t know what to pray for, just help them along following ACTS (Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We would have them repeat a simple sentence or two, such as, “Thank you, God, for this day.” This year, we made an Easter garden.

Finally, as a word of caution…..Limit screen time.

There are so many apps, computer games, DVD’s, etc., and they are all fascinating. We use some but in limited quantity. You want your pre-Ker neurology to be hard-wired to people and words, not electronics. Studies have shown that kids learn language skills by interacting with people-NOT screens.

For littles, almost everything they encounter is new and amazing. It’s so fun to explore the world together and to see it through fresh eyes. You don’t have to be super planned, but some planning does help and kids, again, thrive on routines. So what are you waiting for, take the leap to homeschooling preschool and kindergarten today!

Like what you see here but need more? Check out our post on Homeschooling Basics.

Are you considering making the homeschooling leap with your preschool or kindergarten child? Do you feel overwhelmed and under prepared? Let's us help you! At True North Homeschool Academy we strive to make your homeschool journey a success while fighting your overwhelm. Check out these great tips on homeschooling preschoolers and kindergartners. #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #homeschoolingpreschool #homeschoolingkindergarten #newhomeschooler

Using Homeschool Travel as Career Prep

Using Homeschool Travel as Career Prep

In our Orienteering Class, we talk about many things related to adult life and careers. We had the good fortune to have a guest speaker this month, a homeschooling, blogging, expat, living in Scotland, to share about how travel has enriched her life and the life of her families. With the emerging “Gig Economy” and the ability to work remotely, people have more options than ever before to travel. So how can you use homeschool travel as career prep?

The benefits of travel in relation to building one’s career are great and something to consider as you plan your student’s course load, opportunities, and eventual career!  I’ve gathered a short list of ways that travel enriches one’s life and, ultimately, career. If travel is not an integral part of your educational plan and path, isn’t it time to consider integrating into your overall strategy?

What are the benefits of homeschool travel?

1. Travel can open unexpected doors as you meet new people. Jobs are often learned about through contacts, and the more you have, the more options available to you.

2. Travel allows you to bond with people in extraordinary ways and form life long friendships. I have remained friends with my tarp mates from a month-long backpacking trip as well as my travel buddies to Greece, during a college trip.

3. Travel allows you to learn a new language – if only just a smattering. But getting up to speed on some necessary verbs and then practicing abroad or living as an ex-pat for a time is a great way to hone skills.

4. Travel increases your cultural competency, global awareness, and helps you gain a new perspective. The very nature of travel removes you from the known and comfortable and demands that you look around and experience life in new ways.

*In August of 2016, my family went on a trip to Alaska with my mom’s dad and her brother and his family. It was so much fun and so pretty there! One of my favorite things we did was take a train from Seward to Anchorage. On the train, they also served the BEST roast and mashed potatoes that I have ever had, so we certainly got “dinner with a view.”  ~Amme (True North Homeschool Academy Student)

5. Travel allows you to develop Soft Skills- communication, leadership, flexibility and adaptability, time and distraction management, creativity, and teamwork. Travel demands soft skills as people get tired – physically from the trip, but emotionally as well, from the barrage of new experiences, places, and even languages.

6. Travel allows you to fail and demands that you fail forward. No trip is complete without a missed connection, showing up at the wrong time or place or lost luggage or wallet. Snafus are just part of an excellent travel adventure, and “failing” is to be expected. Learning to fail forward with good humor is an excellent skill to learn early and well!

7. Travel allows you to develop courage as you see, smell, feel, and hear the world in new and different ways. As you fail forward, courage rises to meet new challenges!

8. Travel allows you to learn management skills -if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Not packing necessities may mean that you go without. Having to show up on someone else’s time when you are experiencing jet lag or not stewarding the time allotted may mean you miss out on the not to be missed sight-seeing trip.

9. Travel allows you to become a better storyteller- your life becomes enriched with all of the experiences and memories that you gather and gain. We are people of the Word, and followers of the Master Storyteller. We should take the time to learn how to tell compelling stories, as well.

*This past January, we took a family trip to Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. Although our trip was during the Government shutdown (obviously we didn’t plan it that way – our trip was already scheduled, and tickets were booked when the Government shut down), we still had a fantastic time! All of the Smithsonian museums were closed, as was the White House, and several other historic sites. However, we were still able to visit several amazing places – my favorite being George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.  ~Amme

10. Travel allows you to gain confidence as you replace the fear of the unknown with a healthy curiosity. Traveling to new places means we don’t know what to expect, and we’ll need to pack along a healthy dose of courage to get through to the next thing.

11. Travel allows you to gain independence and interdependence as you craft your solutions and learn to rely on others, perhaps some of whom you just recently met- as part of those solutions.

12. Travel allows you to become a better problem-solver as you tap into and develop your creative genius. Travel demands on the spot problem solving and innovative solutions.

13. Travel rests your brain and fosters creativity. It provides a break from the regular routine, gives you new input, and rejuvenates and reenergizes you!

14. Travel allows for family bonding, and you support each other, problem-solve together, and create beautiful stories and memories together.

*Every summer, we drive up from San Diego to central Oregon and attend a family camp for 800+ people that is hosted by some of our friends. We often stop along the way to visit national parks such as Yosemite, Lassen, the Sequoias, and Crater lake. They are all unique and beautiful in their own way. We make many memories in the car on the long drives.  ~Amme

15. Travel allows that you learn from geography – how places define and determine how people live where they’re at, what things look like, smell, taste, and feel like. Geography is of utmost importance in the Bible, so much so that people call Israel “The Fifth Gospel.”

16. Homeschool travel allows you to gain a deeper perspective on your home, and also reminds you of the beauty in the seemingly mundane aspects of life. It helps you appreciate the beauty and joy of home. There’s a reason why the adage, “There’s no place like home” is understood.

“We went to Colorado in 2016. My favorite memory was when we went up Pikes Peak. At first, all was well, until we were almost at the top. My mom and dad started freaking out! It was a 10,000 foot drop, and the van was 1 foot away from the edge. My dad was thinking of backing up, but thankfully he drove on until there was a wide enough place to turn around.  Later on, we found out that every year people fly off that mountain and get killed in motor accidents every year and it is rated as one of the top 10 most dangerous roads in the U.S.  We had a wonderful time in Colorado; there is so much to see!” ~Rupert

Travel builds practical skills, as well as Soft Skills. And, if you’ve listened to our podcast, you know, “we are hired for our hard skills and fired for our soft skills.” Travel builds your kiddos soft skills muscles, which are going to be more critical than ever before in the emerging world of tech and industry that our kids will be living and working in.

Where have you traveled recently? What’s been the biggest benefit of homeschool travel that you can see?

Are you curious how homeschool travel can fit in with career prep? Check out why we think travel is an itegral part of the homeschool plan. #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #homeschooltravel #homeschooling #careerprep

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

Reading and Writing Checklists

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

When you first begin homeschooling at a young age, it’s hard to know what is considered “on track” before first grade.  Here is a checklist of “essentials” that a child should know before being ready to successfully begin most first-grade curriculum.  For more information and activity ideas, check out this great article from SPED Homeschool:

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

Reading:

According to Proust and the Squid by Maryann Wolf, reading is not a natural process, but strictly a learned one.  Therefore, there is usually not a single method that works for every child.  There may be an issue with reading if a child has difficulty with phonemic awareness skills or phonics after being specifically instructed in these areas.  

Before beginning to read, your child should know:

  • Letter Knowledge
    • Upper Case Letters __________ out of 26
    • Lower Case Letters __________ out of 26
  • Letter Fluency
    • Names ________ upper and lower case letters in 1 minute (goal is 52 in 1 minute or less)
  • Letter Sounds
    • Names _____________ letter sounds
    • Knows 2 sounds for a, e, i, o, u, c, and g
  • Phonemic Awareness – This is a huge “buzz word” in the early childhood teaching world right now. However, you are most likely already doing it. Here are the parts of phonemic awareness and some simple activities for each.
  • Syllables – breaking words into their parts – clap, jump, stomp the syllables of familiar words like banana – ba-na-na (3 claps)
  • Alliteration – Most or all of the words begin with the same sound – Sally sells seashells by the seashore (tongue twisters)
  • Rhyming – words sound alike at the end like cat and hat (Dr. Seuss is great for rhyming)
  • Onset-Rime – the onset is the first sound in a word (/c/) and the rime is the rest of the word (/at/). When you put them together you get c-at, CAT! (you can give your child the two parts and have them put them together)
  • Compound Words – two unrelated words come together to create a new word like rain and bow go together to make rainbow (you can give your child the two words and have them put them together)
  • Segmenting – breaking words apart. Say CAT, C-A-T, CAT
  • Blending – putting words back together – C-A-T makes CAT

***Phonemic awareness activities are very important to learning to read by phonics and other methods. It equips children to later be able to decode words, find words within words, and perform other effective reading strategies.

Writing:

Before a child holds a pencil to write his/her name, there are a lot of skills that need to be mastered to help build hand muscles.

  • Pouring using 2 hands – pouring out of pitchers and buckets
  • Pouring using 1 hand – measuring cups and bath toys
  • Squeezing bath toys
  • Using tongs, children’s chopsticks, and other small tools to pick things up
  • Making balls and snakes out of play-doh (gluten-free/allergy-friendly play-doh is available for those like my son who cannot use traditional playdoh)
  • Painting – with finger paints, brushes, q-tips, cars, sponges, stamps, and a variety of other tools
  • Using a variety of tools for play – crayons, pencils, pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers
  • Stickers – great for developing pincer grip (what is needed for gripping a pencil – using two fingers and thumb)

Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the list because your struggling child is just not there yet. Take heart! For some kids, things take longer. There is no timeline on a person’s ability or learning. And if you need extra support or encouragement, we offer special needs classes, testing, and advising. We’d also encourage you to join Survive and Thrive Special Needs Homeschool FB Group and follow SPED Homeschooling.

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