Homeschooling: There has Never Been a Better Time!

Homeschooling: There has Never Been a Better Time!

Homeschooling has been an educational alternative since the late ’80s, eventually becoming legal in every state. It wasn’t really until 2020 that homeschooling was normalized as the entire world stayed home and muddled through homeschooling, homeworking, home sanity keeping. (#pandemic) Everyone quickly understood that homeschooling took planning, intentionality, and investment.

We began homeschooling in the early ’90s- the second year that Sonlight was in business- a big breakthrough in the market. It meant we had options beyond the traditional textbook approach of Abeka, Bob Jones whatever curricula the public schools were throwing away.

Mentoring Our Children

That was thirty years ago, and in that time, homeschooling has burgeoned into a billion-dollar industry. What does that mean for the homeschooler? It means choices, opportunity, and freedom. And, honestly, it can mean overwhelm as we all manage decision fatigue- not just with homeschooling, but with managing life during a unique time in history. Homeschooling was growing before 2020, and it has expanded exponentially with curriculum, online learning opportunities, and more. And while areas co-ops and class days may not be meeting as of yet, there are plenty of opportunities still around! And, because of the pandemic, you now have the entire world experimenting with online teaching. That means world-class teachers are at your fingertips!

Homeschooling means you own your children’s education- you are not outsourcing to a government or private system. But because of the plethora of choices now available to you and with so many people working part or full time, while they homeschool, it often means that we are coaching or mentoring our students through their academic life.

How do we make the best decisions and navigate the millions of choices?

  1. Understand what a typical course of study is – possibly within an educational pedagogy.
  2. Set priorities and a budget – include money for books, supplies, resources, online classes/ experiences, travel, equipment, co-ops, opportunities. Does it have to cost a fortune? No, but like many things, it may come down to time or money- which do you have more of?
  3. Craft and implement a workable plan.

 

What is a typical course of study?

    1. It starts with the Core 4 – Math, English, Science, and History, and for Christians, the Bible
    2. Often includes electives such as a foreign language
    3. Add in extra-curricular activities and other electives. For example, in the high school years, you’ll want to consider adding health, art, music, geography, etc.

Keep things simple and doable. Start with the basics such as math and English for all grades, then add in science and history. I am not advocating a class or a curriculum for each subject. I am simply saying, consider how you’ll teach these areas.

When planning, you’ll want to consider your approach. Does your family prefer a traditional textbook approach, a classical approach, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or a unit study approach? Various pedagogies come with pros and cons. Your chosen homeschool style will inform your focus, curriculum, and time expenditures.

For an overview on pedagogies, please take a quick look at our informative article on Homeschool Pedagogy.

 

Set priorities and a budget.

I recommend that you create a word document to help you plan your subjects, curriculum, and the skills you want them to learn. Once you plan these, you can more easily budget.

What are your non-negotiables – the must-learn skills and subjects for your family?

Our approach was heavily influenced by the great books and the classics, with a heavy dose of science and the arts. Your focus may be more STEM-oriented. This is important to think through. Why? Because the shiny object syndrome exists in the homeschooling world, like everywhere else! And look, we all want the best for our kids, so we think this curriculum, or those books, or this parenting information will help us get to their best. But less is often more, particularly when it comes to our kids and education.

They don’t need everything. They need the basics – math and literacy, a thirst for knowledge, and the skills necessary to learn.there has never been a better time to homeschool! We have so many choices and opportunities that we can involve our kids in each year. We can avoid decision fatigue when creating a simple plan that focuses on curricula and activities that fit within our educational philosophy. Child waters plants outdoors.

Other things to consider:

  1. How much money do you have to spend? Prioritize your non-negotiables and find quality materials.
  2. Freebies -quality materials are literally everywhere for free. Here I have listed a few:

But there are also exceptional courses or experiences available that are an investment. For example, learning Biology, Chemistry, or Anatomy & Physiology from Dr. Kristin Moon at True North Homeschool Academy will set your future nurse or doctor up for success in a way that goes through a textbook haphazardly won’t. Learning Politics or Strategy from Adam Pruzan at True North will set your future analyst or politician up in a way that little else will.

Opportunites for “extras” such as camps, class days, lessons, hands-on activities, readers, travel- all of the things that go into creating and crafting an exceptional life should not be overlooked. Do you need a microscope or pottery lessons, or a horse or dog to train? Will your kids compete in sports or academic opportunities, Boy Scouts, AHG, or TeenPact? These opportunities often cost money and time. Can you budget or barter for it?

 

Create a plan.

Your plan can be a simple table or grid on a word doc with subjects listed down the side and the school planning year across the top.

For each student, fill in the current levels of math, language arts, science, history, foreign language, electives, physical education, music, extracurriculars, church events like youth group or Bible study, and community service projects that they will be involved in during the year.

Plan Example:

SubjectCurriculumWhere/ WhoSkills
MathSaxon 6/7

Kahn Academy

With Mom
EnglishU.S. Lit. & CompOn-line True North with Mrs. Hemmings
Novel in a yearWho Dun It

NaNoWriMo

Online with Mrs. Curtis; Nov challenge
ScienceScience of MarvelOnline with TNHA Mrs. Grande
HistoryU.S HistoryOnline with TNHA Mrs. Hemmings
BibleBible/ MPWith Mom
For LanguageNiHaoOnline Chinese with Mrs. Cao
PEWork-out with Dad
Music/ Art/ TheaterOne Act Play/ Jan.
Co-ops/ClubsMath Games/ Art/

AHG

Community Center Tues
Community ServiceAGHWeekly Meeting
CampsTeenPact 1-day Camp

TNHA Family Camp

State Capital,

Black Hills SD

YouTubeComedy- dry bar, Trey Kennedy

 

There Has Never Been a Better Time to Homeschool

In conclusion, you can take it from veteran homeschool moms like me – there has never been a better time to homeschool! We have so many choices and opportunities that we can involve our kids in each year. We can avoid decision fatigue when creating a simple plan that focuses on curricula and activities that fit within our educational philosophy. Your plan should organize the basics and allow them to pursue their interests. Remember to keep it simple, create a budget based on your priorities, take advantage of free stuff, and set them up for success in their chosen fields with classes from in-real-life or online experts when needed.

Get Some Sleep!

Get Some Sleep!

Get Some Sleep!

I’ve said before that sleep can never be overrated. It’s so important to get adequate rest when one is working hard. And let’s face it, managing a home, parenting and homeschooling are all hard work. It takes brainpower including creativity, critical thinking and communication skills, a fantastic sense of humor, and the ability to improvise, adapt and overcome in almost any given situation. Phew! I get tired just thinking about it!

Years ago I heard Jesse Wise (Mom to Susan Wise Bauer) say that there was little that a nap or a snack couldn’t fix. I think it’s an important reminder that our kids often need simple re-sets and re-fuel to function well.

And it’s not bad advice for us mommas, too. I have said for years that good sleep is cheap medicine, and we would all do better to adequate time off from work, including homeschooling, and make sure that we have good, uninterrupted sleep, and rest when we need it.

So, how do you rest- especially those of us who are working, homeschooling, managing house- the list is endless-and how do you get a great night’s sleep?

Schedule Sleep. Put it on the calendar.

    • What days will be screen-free?
    • What days will be work-free?
    • What days will be free from formal schooling?
    • When will you and the kids begin winding down in the evening –schedule 30 minutes for your wind-down routine?
    • When will you and the kids go to sleep at night?
    • When will you and the kids wake up in the morning? Regular wake-times help with better sleep

 

Create end-of-day routines for both kids and you so that you can get good sleep.

    • Adequate water throughout the day
    • Adequate green therapy throughout the day
    • Adequate exercise and movement throughout the day
    • Don’t eat late in the evening
    • Cut down on the caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
    • Cal-Mag drink or lotion
    • Screen-free for an hour before bedtime
    • Supplements if you take them
    • Epson salt foot bath or bath
    • Relaxing music or bedtime story
    • Simple phrases or cues for kids, such as bedtime stories
    • Lights lowered and household activity quieted
    • Turn off the Wi-Fi and gather phones for the evening
    • Limit napping

 

Create sleeping spaces that are welcoming and cue rest/sleep.

    • Make bedrooms screen and electronic free, including phones
    • Block out light
    • Block out noise – use a white noise machine or fan if you need it
    • Set up a cool room temperature
    • Create a peaceful environment that is set aside for sleeping
    • No reading or eating or other activity in bed
    • Paint your bedrooms a soothing blue – blue sends a message to your brain that you’re in a calm environment, lowering your heart rate and your blood pressure. Yellow and Green are also great colors for bedrooms, while purple, gray, brown, and red stimulate your brain and rev you up
    • Establish regular sleeping and waking habits.
    • Manage stress before going to sleep- journal, pray, practice deep breathing

 

Staying on Track

Getting adequate sleep improves performance and reaction times, including emotional regulation and judgment, as well as thinking skills such as memory, critical thinking, and creativity.

As every Momma knows, sleep deprivation can lead to grumpiness, lack of cooperation, and bad attitudes. Adequate rest and deep sleep are imperative for doing the very important and high-energy work of homeschooling.

Need help keeping on track? Our Mom’s Membership site is all about supporting you to do the hard work of homeschooling.

Homeschool Pedagogy

Homeschool Pedagogy

How Does Pedagogy Apply to Home Education?

Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching, especially an academic subject or theoretical concept.

There are several distinct Homeschool Pedagogies. These are helpful to know as you research curriculum, consider your family’s abilities and challenges, and future goals.

Pedagogy is distinct from the method’s delivery; you can utilize a classical pedagogy at home, in a co-op, or an online venue. Just as educational pedagogies vary, so do delivery methods, and it’s good to know and understand both. For example, an online program might utilize a classical, textbook, or unit study approach.

For a complete discussion on online education, check out Online Learning: A Homeschool Primer.

You might also have heard of Pedagogies referred to as Methodologies. What’s the difference? Pedagogy is a discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education; in other words, why are you doing what you are doing. The Methodology is the practical application of the theory, so Pedagogy deals with the theory, and Methodology is the practical application of that theory.

Charlotte Mason

This Pedagogy is named after, not surprisingly, Charlotte Mason. Mason believed that traditional educational methods expected too little of the student while, at the same time,  interacting with them in a way that was too harsh. This method focuses on “living books” rather than twaddle. Living books are books written well and authored by those who love their material. The method also emphasizes narration which is a verbal retelling of the material rather than the use of worksheets and quizzes to determine what a child is learning. Rather than focusing on seatwork, learning happens through exploration, hands-on activities, and nature study. The emphasis is on short lessons that take advantage of a child’s attention while they are interested and focused. While Charlotte Mason believed whole-heartedly in studying nature, she believed that a child’s nature should not be left unbridled but reined in by good habits; thus, Habit Training is an important piece of the Charlotte Mason pedagogy.

Want to discover more?

Tools and Resources

The method is based on Mason’s 20 Principles.

Prominent Features of this Pedagogy

  • Habit Formation
  • Nature Studies
  • Living Books
  • Narration Journaling
  • Composer and Pictures Study

Homeschooled children On Outdoor Activity Camping Trip Looking At Map TogetherClassical

The Classical Pedagogy is based on the theory of the stages of learning below:

  1. Trivium – the 3 paths: Grammar, Dialectic (or Logic), and Rhetoric. These stages are primarily language-based. The Grammar stage focuses on memory work and the study of Latin. Students progress in their studies by furthering their understanding of logic, critical thinking, and the art of argument. As they continue to gain influence and mastery, they become the expert and the teacher in the rhetoric stage.
  2. Quadrivium –the 4 paths. These areas of study are more Math based and often tackled in the later years: Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music.

Course work is integrated throughout studies. Students make connections about the importance that each subject plays in working towards an integrated whole of understanding the universe. There is an appreciation of the importance that history and language studies play in this integrated approach.

Related Resources

Prominent Features of this Pedagogy

  •  Memorization & Skill Acquisition through practice
  • Socratic Discussion
  • Logic study, Timelines
  • Great Books
  • Systematic learning
  • emphasis on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful
  • Latin studies
  • Moral formation through story and Myth

Black homeschooling mother and cute smiling girl using digital tablet while lying in illuminted tent in kid bedroom. Cheerful ethnic woman and lovely daughter on video call under a cozy hut. Lovely little girl with mom watching cartoon on digital tablet in bedroom.

Unschooling

This term was coined by John Holt, who was one of the forerunners of the homeschooling movement and a public school teacher. The term originally referred to people leaving traditional or government schools. Holt advocated for providing resources for your child, being aware of their interests and passions, and letting those be the guiding factor in your student’s education. The main tenant of his writing was that play was a child’s work and that children are learning all the time. He believed that children should direct their own studies, and parents were to be mentors and guides to help children reach their individual educational goals.

Related Resources

Prominent Features of this Pedagogy:

  • Parents take the lead from the child
  • Children take responsibility for their own learning
  • Students learn through natural life experiences
  • Adventure-driven
  • Adaptable and an excellent way to take advantage of unique lifestyles like Globe schooling or Road schooling

Unit Study

Prominent Educator Raymond and his wife, Dorothy Moore, were probably the first to talk about Unit Studies, also known as Delight Directed Learning. Their method was to manage your homeschool time by blocks of time each day devoted to time working around the house, time for table work (what would be considered traditional school work), and Unit Studies or Delight Directed learning. For instance, if you are studying about the Revolutionary War, you would create a unit learning the weaponry or clothing of that time period, incorporating writing and cooking projects about this time period, and reading letters or works of fiction about this time period. A student is learning more as a result of integrating subjects. Their interest and a love of learning are retained since they are immersed in the topic and learn more than a list of facts about that subject.

Related Resources

Prominent Features of this Pedagogy

  • Books
  • Projects & Crafts
  • Activities
  • Lap books
  • Research
  • Easily school several students at once

Textbook

Many hardbound books background, selective focus

The textbook method of education uses texts to convey the information. This can be a very effective way to convey large and complicated bodies of information. This method requires that the student can read and understand the text and has the ability to take effective notes for study. It is often used in conjunction with a teacher giving live or pre-recorded lectures. Textbooks are particularly beneficial for upper-level subjects and grades.

Prominent Features of this Pedagogy

  •  Conventional & Traditional
  • Formal standards
  • Many options
  • Can make use of readily available resources

Related Resources

  • Abeka
  • BobJones
  • Any other large textbook company such as Prentice Hall

Eclectic

While many people do homeschool “eclectically,” this can be either a well thought out pedagogy and method or an educational salad- or a combination of both.

It is picking and choosing what one likes or appreciates from one pedagogy and leaving behind what one doesn’t. And, as very few homeschooling curriculums or pedagogically “pure,” we are all probably homeschooling somewhat eclectically anyway.

What is your preferred Homeschooling Pedagogy? We’d love to hear about it and we chat about all things homeschool in our Facebook group – please join in the conversation!

The Accidental Homeschooler

The Accidental Homeschooler

The Accidental Homeschooler

The Accidental Homeschooler. It kind of went something like this, “Mom, you can just homeschool me!”  My 8-year-old daughter begged. Her excitement and hope confused me.

What?!

Why?!

She did great in school, had so many friends, and wasn’t struggling academically at all.  It was at home the meltdowns occurred.  Her frustration would reach a boiling point that would bubble over and leave tears streaming down her beautiful cheeks.  Her wide blue eyes would spill over with tears, and the sparkle was becoming rarer.  It was at home, not at school, that the temper tantrums would occur.

I laughed.  There is no way I could homeschool her.  We fought with each other all the time.  Our frustration would reach points where I am not sure we liked each other at all.  Oh sure, we loved each other…but we really didn’t enjoy spending time together.  Homeschool her?  Why would I?  We would kill each other.  I DID NOT HAVE THE PATIENCE TO HOMESCHOOL THIS CHILD.

God Had Other Plans

I prayed, “God if you want me to homeschool my children, I need you to change my heart.”  I was sure the answer would be to leave them in the amazing school they were in!  They were doing so well.  All three of my girls had great friends. They had teachers I loved!  GREAT teachers.  A community that involved parents and families.

Also, I Do Not Own Any Denim Jumpers!

Bright Pink sneakers at a starting line.And then I had an epiphany. I realized I missed my children.  I could tell my youngest was a struggling learner, and my oldest was growing up so fast.  That middle child, the one that just wanted her mommy to see her, she just needed to not be overwhelmed by the end of the day.  Our days consisted of getting up early, loading up to drive to school, being at school all day, activities at night, go home, fast supper, clean-up, do homework, get ready for the next day, and repeat.  This is what everyone does!  I was a substitute teacher in my children’s school, and I got to see them every day…but they could never be my focus.

I will never forget trying to work through a math lesson while teaching my daughter’s class.  She was so frustrated, but I couldn’t help her.  I knew I could help her at home, and my job was to work with the other students.  I then figured out she was copying her neighbors’ work in order to just get it done.  I sat her down that night to talk with her and realized that she was hurting by the end of each day.  She was exhausted.  She needed more.  More time to work at her own pace, more time outside, more sleep, more mom, and more family.  How on earth could we handle more?

I Guess I am Homeschooling, even if I am an Accidental Homeschooler

I decided that I would pull her out for a year.  I wasn’t committing to more than that.  My original plan was to take her out for a year and leave her sisters in school.  This wasn’t just any school.  This school required parent involvement.  4 hours per week, per child.  It was small, and there was a waiting list!

Wading In With One

OK God.  I can do this. One foot in, one foot out.  Let’s compromise?  I will homeschool this one, for now.

My youngest child just wasn’t getting it though.  She never had.  Reading was really tough for her, number sense just wasn’t there.  She was sweet, sensitive, and an amazing friend to everyone.  Everyone told me, “Don’t worry.  Developmentally she’s on track!”   But I knew.  Something wasn’t clicking for her.  Once she found out I was going to be home with her sister, it became a non-issue.  She had always wanted to just stay with me.  At the end of her first day of kindergarten, she said to me, “I don’t know how to read, naptime is too short, I don’t think I need to do that anymore.”

I Can Homeschool Two

Ok God.  These 2.  I can homeschool these two.  They are both young enough.  I can teach them at home.  My oldest however, I can’t teach her.  She is so smart!  I could never challenge her enough!

My oldest came to me shortly before the school year was up.  “Mom, I don’t know, but I think I want to be at home too.”  Ok. Don’t panic.  I can talk her out of this.

And here I am finishing my fourth year of homeschooling, and I am probably doing it wrong.  I am definitely not doing what I envisioned.  I don’t have more patience, I still fight with my middle daughter about her math lessons.

God Will Fill in the Gaps for the Accidental Homeschooler

We don’t have only great days, and I never feel like I am doing enough.  So many nights I lay in bed.  “God, I did my best but we both know it wasn’t enough.  I need you to fill in the gaps.”  I have faith He will.

What we do have?  Laughter when we trip up.  Together we learn, we play, we explore,  we grow.

The truth is we are involved in each other’s lives.  WE LIKE EACH OTHER!  Love has always been a given, but now, most days, we want to spend time together.

We want to make our home a culture of learning.  Do I ever see that school bus go by and think, “Hmmm…I would have so much time if….”?

ABSOLUTELY.

Would I change the decision to follow the calling God put on me to homeschool my children?

NEVER!

Rebecca Lundgren

Rebecca Lundgren, The Accidental Homeschooler, lives in South Dakota with her husband Jeremy, three daughters, and their zoo of adopted animals.  While her family never intended to homeschool, she has learned a lot along the way.  Her background includes a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from South Dakota State University.  Before she began her homeschool journey, she taught in Public Schools k-12, English as a Second Language (ESL) k-6, and directed an Early Childhood program.  In addition to homeschooling, she is a well-loved teacher at True North Homeschool Academy where she teaches Jr High Classes.  She loves camping and hiking with her family, reading, crafting, and children’s ministries.

For more of this type of you-can-do-it encouragement read Managing My Home and Time, Using teamwork in Your Homeschool, or Homeschool While I Work? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

 

Can Testing Ever Be Helpful?

Can Testing Ever Be Helpful?

Do you use testing in your homeschool?

Over the years I’ve heard many complaints and negative aspects of testing. It seems like one of those subjects that every homeschooler has an opinion about.  It’s true that testing is not for every child.  But are there good reasons to test, even if your state does not require it?  I say yes!  

When can testing be helpful?

To gain experience.

Like it or not, testing is part of our society.  We take tests to drive, to gain access to college, even to serve in the military.  It never hurts for your children to have at least a little testing experience under their belts. Some students are naturally gifted at testing while others struggle more, but it’s probably safe to say that everyone can use some extra practice.

To know where you stand.

Yes, there are times when testing may not accurately represent your student’s knowledge, but you may also find yourself pleasantly surprised at what your student does know. I think that sometimes our children read and glean things that we don’t even realize. They can learn from a wide variety of sources, so sometimes a subject you perceived to be a struggle is right on course. Other times we may have missed something important. Testing can point out these strengths and deficits.

Standardized Testing can be intimidating to Homeschool parents and students! Stress no more! True North Homeschool Academy offers state of the art standardized testing through Scantron’s Performance Series tests. We offer Reading, Reading Foundation, Math and Language Arts, Algebra, and Geometry tests for grades K-12. Tests can be taken in the privacy of your own home and can re-taken more than once throughout the school year. Delivered online, accessible through a computer convenient to you, the test is private and secure. Your student can go at their own pace, learning testing skills without suffering test anxiety. Tests can be “paused” and re-engaged, allowing students to gain testing skills, score well, and gain confidence!For peace of mind.

Sometimes as homeschool moms it’s hard to know if we are doing enough, or being enough. There’s been more than one day when I’ve felt like I was failing my children. Testing often shows me that things aren’t nearly as bad as I think. Maybe that math I’ve worried about all year is actually on grade level, or maybe there are places reading can be improved. Either way, I know where we stand, and I can correct what I need to and lay aside worries that I don’t need to visit.

So where do I find these tests?

You are in luck because True North Homeschool Academy offers the Performance Series Testing just for homeschoolers!

So what’s so great about the Performance Series Test?

  • They can be taken in the privacy of your own home.
  • Your student can complete them more than once during the school year.
  • Your child tests at their own pace, eliminating anxiety.
  • The test continues to asses the student in the subject matter, as long as your student can answer correctly, so you get an accurate read on what your student knows.
  • Scores will save, year after year; giving you a clear graphic of how your student is doing over time.
  • Standardized and nationally normed; meets the requirements of states who require annual assessments for home educators.
  • You will receive a complete PDF of subject scores, along with a Lexile Reading Score.
  • True North includes a 15 minute review of the scores with a teacher/advisor FREE

The Performance Series test is available for grades K through 12  in the following subjects:

  • Reading
  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Geometry
  • Algebra

It’s Cost-Effective:

  • Can be submitted for state requirements
  • Can be taken more than once throughout the school year at no extra cost to you
  • A personal consultation is included in the cost. Use this time to review scores and ask about recommendations for your student based on results.
  • True North Homeschool Academy offers bundles for families with multiple students and for co-ops Bundles save you money: bundles of 5 (save $6 per test!), bundles of 10 ($22 per test) and bundles of 15 ($20 each) all offer a substantial discount. You still get all of the benefits mentioned above, but receive a group discount.

We hope if you have questions you will contact us – or order it now online HERE.

 

True North Teachers Share Back to Homeschool Traditions

True North Teachers Share Back to Homeschool Traditions

It’s that time of year again – back to homeschool! And that means back to school traditions!

Homeschoolers use their educational freedom to teach their kids in a style and on a schedule that suits their family. That means that some homeschool all year ‘round, others started weeks ago, and some have not yet begun.

It’s the same here at True North Homeschool Academy -some of our online classes have started while others, including our homeschool clubs, will begin later on in September.

We have found that even though we are not returning to a “school building,” home educators have their own back to school traditions.  There is excitement in the air as many of us are beginning a new homeschool year, meeting new students and friends, sharpening those Ticonderogas, and cracking open our shiny, new curriculum.

Some families have simple traditions such as purchasing new p.j.’s, kicking off the year with a field trip, or participating in the online National Homeschool Spirit Week, which is the 4th week of September every year.

We asked some of the Academy teachers to share their favorite “Back to Homeschool” traditions and words of advice as we roll into a fresh (and maybe a little challenging) homeschool year.

Traditions We Love

Dana Hanley is our German teacher and her first day of school tradition involves making Schultueten and filling them with candies and small school supplies. It is a German thing, but over there, the class party is on the first day of class, not the last day of class. Dana says: “ I really like that general attitude. Last year, we did a brand new outfit for each kid, too, because I randomly thought how much I loved getting new school clothes when I was a kid. All of my kids are asking to repeat that one!”

Homeschool Student Theo Pool learns with a hamster in his pocket

Pets are welcome too in the Pool homeschool room!

Tamara Warner Pool shared with us some words of wisdom and a peaceful way to begin the homeschool year. “My children needed a consistent rhythm and flow to their days, so we would gently enter our new school year and gently exit it for our break times. We don’t have “First Day” photos, and we didn’t have “Last Day” parties, but we did celebrate small accomplishments and goals achieved when any of them crossed a “finish line.” If we were involved in a coop or activity, we would build up to that so everyone was prepared for whatever disruption that would bring to our routines.”

Dr. Kristin Moon reminisced about when her kids were younger. One fun tradition they had was that they got the day off on their birthdays (hers too!). As the kids got older and co-ops and college classes mandated, they come to class even on their birthday that changed, but they all still remember those days fondly. She advises us to prioritize relationships over the curriculum. “We get so caught up on finishing books or getting through a lesson plan that it can be easy to overlook when a kid just wants some mom time. As homeschoolers, we can put the books and lesson plans aside when our kids need us to. Don’t ALWAYS be in teacher mode. Yes, as homeschoolers, we are always learning, but don’t turn everything into a forced lesson. It’s ok to go to the beach and enjoy each other’s company; you don’t have to quiz them on how tides are formed. My third piece of advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your role as a homeschool mom that you forget the person who you were created to be. Continue to make time for friendships, your health, your marriage, and your hobbies.”

Sonya Goodwin Hemmings encourages us to: “Be careful as you tailor your students’ education not to eliminate all of the obstacles that threaten to stand in their way. Struggle always precedes growth. It is quite essential. And when parents and their children pray and persevere together through a difficult subject or even a difficult year, the rewards that lie on the other side —shared knowledge, special bonding, and confidence to dig into the next challenge — are incredibly sweet.”

Emily Harkey counsels homeschool parents to “Pray…a lot!” and offers practical tips and reminders. “Think about dinner when you wake up and use a crockpot or Instapot as much as tolerated by your people. Make eating cereal for dinner a special treat when needed. Give lots of hugs and smiles and affirmations throughout the day, especially to your older kids who can work on their own while you work with your littles. During the younger years, remember that if you’ve been able to touch the three R’s every day: reading, writing, and arithmetic- that is an EXCELLENT school day…even if you are unable to replicate it again in another week’s time. Give yourself some slack and grace. Take a teacher’s “in-service day” when you need it and have your kids clean while you take a day away to work on you, and go to the dentist or get your hair cut. Organization and routine is your friend. Pray for your kids and all those who influence them.”

BJ Prammon, our Art teacher, points out that “back to school” can be casual and doesn’t have to be routine. “Our most prominent tradition for back to homeschool is really our lack of formal tradition. I never remember to take a “ first day of school” picture. Back to school shopping really doesn’t happen until October. I don’t like making school charts, and my kids don’t like following them. Even as I write this, I haven’t gotten around to ordering a social studies curriculum for my oldest. I’ll get around to it. We start on a different week every year, with different curriculum and different learning strategies, different goals, and, frequently, different opinions. If any of that could be rolled up into some sort of formal stab at useful information, I suppose it would be this: Don’t let what other people are doing dictate your own groove. Don’t let what last year looked like keep you from exploring this year to its fullest potential, even if last year was a really good year, but especially if last year was a ‘bad’ one.”

Whether you are already back in the swing of things or still in the planning phase, what we can all take away from this collective wisdom is that the key to a great start is concentrating on keeping a school/life balance and focusing on what works for our family.

A huge thank you to these True North Academy Teachers for taking time out of their busy schedules to their back to school traditions  with us!