Friday, May 17, 2013

Breaking Out of the Box (Taking the First Step Away from Boxed Curriculum)

Today, we are very excited to have a guest post by Dusty from To the Moon and Back!

When I first started homeschooling four years ago, I barely knew anything about the journey that I was about to embark on.  I had never expected to educate my children on my own and I didn't know anyone else who did it either.  I was all alone in a great big new world.  Lost.

After many, many hours of researching on the internet and stalking homeschooling blogs, I finally found the perfect answer--a boxed curriculum that laid everything out for me.  It made me breathe a heavy sigh of relief and a weight lifted from my shoulders.  I had found a way for my hand to be held as I took those first steps into home education.

We loved it.  Every day was a joy.  My oldest daughter was thriving and with each new skill she gained, I started to gain a tiny bit of confidence that yes, I could do this. Just a tiny bit though.  I still needed more time to grow in my new "teacher" role.

We continued to use that boxed curriculum for the next three years.  We still love it!  But as time has passed, I've slowly started to realize that our family just doesn't fit in the box.  We began to want to explore and stretch outside of it.  So we took breaks from our regular curriculum here and there to learn about other topics.  We started to supplement what was planned out for us because we wanted more than what was offered.

Now with the end of the current school year nearing, I've been pondering if we were ready to move on to different pastures.  Not necessarily greener pastures, because I believe that prepackaged curriculum can be a great blessing to the right family at the right time. It's just time for our family to break free.

So just like in the beginning of my journey, I poured over catalogs and websites and more blogs but rather than look for a hand to guide me, I was looking for the resources that allowed me to lead. 

It's been a little overwhelming and intimidating at times, but I now know that I can do this.  I'm not scared of bumps or forks in the road anymore.  God gave me these children and He knows that I'm capable, even if I'm not so sure all the time.  What are my tips for taking this step?

*Pray.  Ask God to calm your nerves and show you the way.  Even if we can be the leader when it comes to curriculum choices, we should never forget who is leader of us all.

*Take your time.  Don't rush things.  Grab a highlighter and some post its and really delve into the catalogs, reading the descriptions and taking the time to weigh if what you are looking at is a good fit for you family.  Ask questions on forums or groups.  Search the internet for reviews.  Research thoroughly.

*Ask your kids what they want to learn about.  You might be surprised with what they say!  Learning happens best when children are interested in the content of what they are being taught!

*Take into account your children's learning styles AND your teaching style.  If your child is a kinesthetic learner, it's probably best not to load up on workbooks.  Likewise, you need to think about if you want the curriculum to be teacher intensive or more independent.  Do you want to have to do a little planning with some outlines or do you want to map it all out on your own?  These are all important things to consider when choosing what you will use. 

*Don't be afraid to take a risk.  It isn't the end of the world if you purchase something new and then find that it just isn't going to work.  Sell it, return it, or shelve it for another time.  It's okay to make mistakes.

*Remember that if it doesn't work out, that's okay too.  If you get into your first year and things just aren't going well, there is nothing wrong with you or your homeschool if you decide to back to the boxed curriculum.  Some things just work better for some people and not others.  One of the best things about homeschooling is that you aren't tied down to one method, one curriculum.  You have the freedom to choose what works best for you and your children.

I'm obviously not an expert on this subject matter, as I'm only about to do this for the first time myself, but I'm excited for the new direction our homeschool is taking and want to encourage other moms who might be unsure if they have the ability to do it too.

Do you use a boxed curriculum or do you pick and choose different sources?

Dusty is a stay at home mother of three who is expecting her fourth child this summer!  She has been married to the love of her life for nearly 8 years and is trying to figure out her own path while devouring chocolate and leaning on the Lord. She blogs about homeschooling, homemaking, motherhood, and faith at To the Moon and Back.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top 3 Benefits of "Partial Homeschooling"

Last week, I shared about my family's decision to become "partial homeschoolers".  Our daughter attends Pre-K every morning and I teach her in the afternoons.  Today, I would like to share what we love most about partial homeschooling.

1. Our daughter's learning potential is up to us and to her.  Because academic instruction is done at home, we can work at her pace.  Abigail has learned so much this year from her lessons with me and the instruction she receives at school reinforces much of what she has learned.

2. Our daughter's social skills have greatly improved.  Being in school with her peers every day has given Abigail the opportunity to make friends and learn to handle conflicts with others.  Being in school has helped her learn to navigate friendships and social relationships.

3. Our youngest child gets 1:1 learning time with me.  While Abigail is in school, I spend time one-on-one with Charlotte.  She gets to learn academic and life skills during our time together each day.  Abigail being in school has helped Charlotte's learning.  In addition, having time away from Abigail has given Charlotte the chance to develop her own identity as a separate person.

Do you partial homeschool?  What do you like best?  

Join me next week as I share the biggest drawbacks of partial homeschooling.

Marla is a former special education teacher, university instructor, and stay-at-home mom of two little girls (ages 2 and 4).  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gearing Up to Start Year-Round Schooling

Today, we are very excited to welcome a guest post by Stephanie from Where He Leads, We Follow!

During our very first year of schooling we started in early July.  I thought it would be great to start early and have time off as needed and an extended Christmas holiday.  It was nice!  We got all of our days required in by the end of April and we were able to relax.  I decided that next year would be different.  We would start school later in the year and go along with the public school calendar.  So, we started in early August and followed the national holidays and breaks that the public school system does.  It left the kiddos and myself feeling more burnt out than ever and needing a major break.  We didn't do much in the way of schooling through March and are back at the grind here in April.  That made me stop and evaluate what we should change - because honestly something had to change.
I prayed.  Boy have I been praying!  Asking God to reveal to my heart what it is that we should change in order to keep us all from feeling the burn out at the middle of our next school year.
I talked to my hubby. I love that man!  He keeps me grounded when my feet want to leave the floor.  He tells me when my ideas are crazy or when I need to push forward.
I talked with the kiddos.  Honestly those two were no help!  HA!  They could care less that mom is burnt out.  They are just ready to be done with the school day so they can go outside to play.
So that leads me to taking with you today.  Today I am planning.  I am planning our very first year-round school year.  Wanna know what my thoughts are?  Good!  I thought you did.  ;)
First of all we are going to be taking a 4 week break from mid May through mid June.  That way we can rest and recharge and mom can get things in order.
While we are on our break I am going to be gathering all of our necessary materials for our next school year.  I already know the curriculum we are using and have the bulk of it purchased.  I just have to buy the odds and ends.
Then I will work on our schedule.  We are required 180 days of school (who are we kidding we all know kids learn 365 days a year!) so I am going to figure out when we can/should take breaks and chunk up our curriculum to fit within those days.  I will also have to take our co-op classes into account since we are planning to join a new co-op next year.
After that is done we get to start back fresh and new!!  We will have some workbooks, mainly handwriting  that we will have to carry over to the new school year but that is fine by me.  
We are all looking forward to our new school year and are excited to see what greatness it holds for our family.
What does your school calendar look like?

Stephanie is homeschooling mama of 2 and wife to the man of her dreams.  She has been creating graphics for her web-based business for three years.  While homeschooling was never a dream she dreamed for herself she is thankful that God placed it upon her heart.  Find her homeschool blog, Where He Leads, We Follow, here: and her design website, Tatorbug Creations, here:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why I Still Consider Myself a Homeschooler

Last fall, I wrote about my family's decision to send our oldest daughter (age 4) to prekindergarten.  When we moved overseas, our family situation changed and the move had significant social implications for our children.  Making the decision to send Abigail to school for socialization was very difficult for us and we are constantly reevaluating our choice.  

Since Abigail started school, I have questioned my participation as a writer for this blog and have wondered if I am still a homeschooler.  

Abigail attends school five mornings a week and I pick her up at lunchtime.  After lunch, we spend about 2 hours doing lessons that I have created before we attend afternoon activities (ballet, piano, gymnastics, swimming, playgroups). 

Now that the school year is coming to a close, I have finally figured out that we are still homeschoolers.  Yes, my homeschool set-up looks different than most.  

However, my husband and I still believe that we are responsible for the education of our children.  We ensure that, every day, both of our girls receive learning (academic, religious, and social) that meets their needs.  We teach some lessons and we allow others to teach some lessons.  But, when it comes down to it, we take ultimate responsibility for the education of our girls.  And, I have come to believe that choosing to be responsible for your child's education and teaching as necessary is what makes one a homeschooling parent.  

What are your thoughts?

Marla is a former special education teacher, current PhD student, university instructor, and stay-at-home mom of two little girls (ages 2 and 4).  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.
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