Crew Blog Hop: Tips for Choosing Curriculum

 

It’s our first Crew Blog Hop of the year and our topic is “5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents”. For my first day, I decided to tackle a subject that was of the utmost importance to me when I started homeschooling: choosing curriculum. Even before I officially started homeschooling, I spent countless hours (I’m afraid to even say how many) researching curriculum. It became one of my biggest obsessions. There are SO many options out there that it can be almost overwhelming and making decisions about what to use can seem almost paralyzing. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve learned a few things. I am by NO means an expert, but this is some of the advice I would give to myself as a new homeschool mom back then!

 

1. Start Small: Look, one of the biggest mistakes I made as a new homeschool mom was that I wanted to do EVERY single cool thing I saw. And one lesson I learned was that you can take on too much. If I could go back, I would probably start with one main big curriculum (say a literature based history or something) and then go basic for everything else, until I got into some kind of routine.

2. Combine as much as possible: When my boys were younger (before high school) I combined them for science and history, using products from Apologia, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace and Winter Promise. I cannot tell you how much easier that made my life. I could work individually with them for specific subjects like math, reading and spelling since they were three grades apart, but we could study some things together, which resulted in less planning and more family learning!

3. Spend Time Researching: Read reviews. For Real. The TOS Homeschool Crew offers a ton of reviews on countless numbers of curriculum, but you can pretty much search for any curriculum by name and turn up reviews on it! Pay attention to how the writer says they used the curriculum. What worked and what didn’t? Try to find users who have kids in the general same age as your kids, because that can give you a better idea of how it might work for you.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Workbooks/Textbooks: Look, I feel like a lot of homeschoolers feel some need to use whole books or lapbooks or something like that for everything. If it makes you feel comfortable, there is nothing wrong with using workbooks or textbooks. In fact, for subjects like spelling, math and reading, I kind of like the traditional approach. And, they can be very cost effective.

5. Check Out Online/Computer-Based Learning: Maybe you have a child that is naturally a techie. In that case, computer based learning may work best for them. Be sure to research these options. Companies like Alpha Omega offer programs like Monarch that are all computer based, and other companies, like Stinky Kid Math offer specific subjects you can supplement.

6. Don’t Make Comparisons : The biggest challenge with homeschooling is our natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. Keep in mind that your homeschool is specific to you and your kids. Try hard to resist the need to compare yourself and your kids to that mom in your homeschool group. This was really hard for me at first, but I began to realize that I didn’t do anything good for my kids by trying to make our school look like somebody else’s model. I had to let us be us. Choose your curriculum based on what you think will work best for you and your family. Period.

7. Allow your kids interests to dictate some things. There was a year we studied forensics for science because my kids were totally into it. We had so much fun. I also tied that study into a study of the human body using the Apologia Elementary Human Body curriculum. We did experiments on cells, fingerprints, blood typing, fibers, etc. To this day, my kids still talk about it. When your kids are in elementary and middle school, allow some of their interests to dictate your paths. Explore the things they want to explore. Trust me, it will make learning easier for all of you.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Step Out of the Box. Sometimes you see a curriculum you think your kids would love but you’re just afraid to try it because it’s just so…different from what you’ve done. I can tell you, some of the things we loved best were the risks we took. And, worst case scenario, even if you hate it, there’s a good chance you can resell it or pass it on to someone else!

 

So, those are my tips for what to consider when choosing curriculum. If you have any to add, let me know in the comments! See what other crew members had to share by checking out these links and join me again tomorrow when I share some tips for how to save money on curriculum!

Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through the Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Rebekah @ There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama
Sasha @ Such a Time as This
Tawnee @ Adventures in Homeschooling
Tiffany @ The Crafty Home
Tina @ Desperate Homeschoolers

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

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Top Ten Posts of 2015

2015 seemed to fly by. My friend and I were talking the other day, and I guess it’s true when our parents told us the years do go quicker as you get older. So, I’ve spent some time looking over my blog stats and I’m doing some review posts. This week I’m going to share my most viewed posts of 2015 overall, and next week I will share my top ten recipe posts. So, these are my most-viewed posts of 2015:

1.

My review of Christianity Cove got the most views of the year.

2.  My recipe for Irish Toffee Bars was my second most viewed post of the year.

3. Favorite Curriculum Choices

Post number three came from one of our crew round ups. Our Top Curriculum Choices was my third most popular post of the year.

4. Living Frugally

My post on Free and Frugal homeschooling from another round up was number four.

5.

This review of Time4Learning made it to number five.

6.  My crock pot recipe for Sofrito Chicken was my number six post.

7. The second crock pot recipe on the list, Creamy Herb Chicken was post number seven.

8. This recipe for my Gooey Baked Grilled Cheese sandwiches was number eight.

9. Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
My review of Middlebury Interactive Languages was number nine.

10. Analytical Grammar Review
Finally, my review of Analytical Grammar was post number ten. We still love this program by the way, my youngest is having great success with it still.

So, those were my most-viewed posts of the year. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016. Make sure to stop by next week to see my list of most-viewed recipes!

2016: A Year Of Changes Ahead

2016 is upon us, and this year brings quite a few changes to my life. For starters, my oldest son will turn 18 and graduate high school this May. For me, this is quite a bittersweet experience, because while I am certainly proud of the young man he has become, letting go of my boy is proving to be quite the challenge. His brother will officially begin high school in the fall, so my years as a homeschool mom are waning, and after so many years of being busy with school and having my time spent with my children I am left to wonder, what happens next? I can’t imagine my days without my kids. I have been preparing them for this moment since the beginning, and I am so excited to see them start their future, but it makes me a little sad at the same time…

However, before then my son and I are going on a trip up to Washington D.C. to look at some schools. He has worked really hard and is paying for the trip himself. He is still a little unsure of what exact career path he wants to take, but he has narrowed it down to medicine or something in law. While he will do his undergraduate work here in Florida since we have done the Prepaid college program since our boys were little, he really likes the idea of going to DC for his graduate work. As a young man, he is dying to get out of our small town and experience life in the big city, a feeling I understand as I too grew up in a small town and I had quite the wanderlust in my younger days. It is just him and I going on this trip together, and it reminds me of the college road trip my mom and I took to New York when I was in high school. I am really looking forward to spending a week alone with him. We will of course get to do some fun things up there too and stay with family in the area.

I also have a lot to do for him between now and the end of the year. There are transcripts to take care of, graduation to prep for (my state has a big homeschool graduation ceremony every year), applications to fill out. It’s overwhelming just thinking about it!

My hubby and I are also involved with some friends of ours in opening a business and boy is that stressful too. However, we believe it will be worth the reward in the end, and so we move ahead in the hopes that by the end of 2016, we will be running a successful and profitable operation.

So, it looks like I will be making quite a few adjustments in 2016. Some will be easier than others, but change is a good thing, right? And no matter what, you can’t stop the world from turning, so I’m just going to put a smile on my face and take it one day at a time.

Finishing Strong

Well, here we go. As we prepare to begin school this year we are also preparing to start my son’s senior year of high school, and my last year of homeschooling him. Part of me finds this so hard to believe. My first baby. The boy who made me a mom. The one who made me want to homeschool. The one I have fought with, laughed with…the one who challenged me to work harder to be a better person, forced me to dig deeper inside myself every day, and constantly questioned everything. He stands before me now as almost a man, and while I am so very proud of him, I am also feeling very conflicted. I am wistful for those days when his hands were so small they fit in mine. When he could crawl into my lap for a nap or a story…for when mama was the center of the world.

My heart knows this is how it is supposed to be. We spend these years pouring ourselves into our children to prepare them for life beyond our homes. And a part of me is so excited for the plans I know the Lord has for my child. I know He loves my son even more than I do (although that is still hard for me to imagine) and that my son has a path all his own to follow…but this letting go part…yeah, that’s going to be hard for me. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the fact that I have been able to be the one in charge. I admit, I kind of have that type-A personality, and relinquishing control is not really my thing, so this is going to be a big challenge for me. And with my younger son following closely behind, I am faced with a fear-inducing question…What do I do with myself when I don’t have children to homeschool anymore??

So I sit here with my papers, and I try to work out what credits we have left to fill. And I think about transcripts (my son has already earned 15 college credits through dual-enrollment), and my mind wanders to how much “together” time I can cram into this year. As a senior, my son is pretty independent in his learning. Mostly, I just supervise. I look forward to our late-night conversations about our school (since he is working many of our conversations occur late at night), but really, I look forward to any time we have together. And I pray, I pray a lot. I pray that God will guide me in the time I have left to steer my son in the direction He wants him to follow. I pray that God will give me strength to recognize those moments when I need to let go and give my boy independence. I pray that God will give my son wisdom as I give him the power to make his own decisions and take over responsibility for his own life. I pray for God’s blessings over his life, I pray for his safety…I pray a lot. And I have a feeling that as the year goes on, the time I spend in prayer is only going to grow.

I love this boy with all of my heart and soul. And as much as I wish I could plan out the rest of his life and tie it up in a neat little bow, I know I can’t. I am fast getting to the point where I have to let go, and trust that God has got this. I know that his father and I have taught him well. I know that in homeschooling him we have laid a firm foundation for his future. I know that God has got his hand on his life and I trust in His plan for his future. I want this year to be fun for both of us, and mostly, I want to feel like we both finished this race strong.

Real Life Homeschool : Reality Check

I hope you have enjoyed a peek into what homeschool is like for our family during this Real Life Homeschool blog hop. So, what are the most important things I would say about “real life” homeschool? Well for starters, I would acknowledge that often, things DO NOT go as planned. And I would say that is perfectly okay.

As adults, we know that real life is often very messy. You have financial crisis, sudden illness, unexpected problems, and other issues that have a way of popping up. So why should homeschooling be any different? Which is one of the reasons homeschooling is so good! It is real. Your kids get to see how you work through problems in life as they arise, and often, they get to work through them with you.

Kids learn how to prioritize when emergencies do come up, which is a lesson that will benefit them as adults. They learn how to accept the fact that sometimes, even the best-laid plans run amuck, and that you still have to keep going. See, as a homeschool mom, I don’t want to just teach my kids academics, I want to prepare them for life in the real world. I want my boys to grow up to be the kind of adults who can handle it when they get a wrench thrown in their plans, the kind who don’t wither under the pressure of some kind of crisis or disaster.

So, even though interruptions and setbacks can be frustrating, I like to look at them as learning and character training opportunities. And that is what I think Real Life homeschool is all about!

I hope you enjoyed the 5 Day Blog Hop as much as I did. I have had such a good time reading posts from my fellow crew members. To see what my friends had to share today, click here:

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Start with these 10 blogs:
Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me…Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This … A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor

Real Life Homeschool: Schooling on the Go

We are at day 4 of a our 5 Day Blog Hop, and today, I want to share how we do school on those busy, on-the-go days. You know, the days you have dentist appointments, have to run to the library, have homeschool co-op, have to hit the grocery store, or just run a bunch of general errands. One of the benefits of homeschooling is, of course, the flexibility. However, I have found that if you don’t have some kind of a plan for these kinds of days, then often, nothing gets done. So, this is how we school in the car!

My backseat is pretty comfy.

So, the first thing we do on a busy day is pack our backpack with everything portable. Our math book and notebook, the chapter book we are reading, grammar, and spelling. I used to try to cart around our history and science books too, but I quickly realized that the load was much heavier than was realistic and honestly, on a busy day like that, it probably won’t get done anyway, so I limit our carschooling days to our essential subjects.

While we are in the car, I try to provide instructional entertainment with an audio drama or book on tape. Heirloom Audio Productions offers some excellent ones, like Under Drake’s Flag and In Freedom’s Cause. These are nice because we can listen to them and then spend time discussing them using the study guides. We also like to pass the time listening to classical music CDs like the ones from Maestro Classics. I feel like this is a way to bring some value to the times we spend in the car.

If I know ahead of time we are going to be running around, I can plan around it, which is great. I limit our subjects, set up the backpack ahead of time, and the day goes relatively smoothly. For instance, once every two weeks we do a big grocery shopping trip. So, on those days, I plan for only a few subjects, and figure the life skills my kids are learning at the grocery store take care of the rest. On co-op days we also go light on school, usually only doing reading, spelling and math.

But what about those days when stuff just comes up out of the blue? Well, on those days I tell myself to pick and choose what is most important and postpone everything else. Believe it or not, I find my cell phone and computer to be handy tools on those days. There are actually a lot of educational games and applications that at least give my kids a chance to practice math and reading skills when we are out and about. I also try to make a stop at the library if we can. We might grab lunch and hit the playground too, so my boys can run around and burn off some energy. And dinner on these busy days (which I try to squeeze in in between guitar lessons and football practices)? Well, let’s just say the pizza man is quite familiar with my house! LOL

At any rate, carschooling is a reality for many homeschoolers. Unlike most parents who run errands and take care of things while their kids are at school, our kids are always with us, so it is inevitable that we have to make adjustments. How do you do school on those days when you have to run around? Let me know in the comments. To see what my fellow crew members had to share today, click here:

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

 

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Start with these 10 blogs:
Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama’s Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

Real Life Homeschool: A Not-So-Good Day

So as  you know, this week the Homeschool Review Crew is doing a 5 Day Blog Hop and our topic is Real Life Homeschool. Yesterday, I told you about what a really good day in our homeschool looks like. As much as I would like to say that all of our days are like that, if I did, I would be lying. More often than not, our regular days resemble something more like this:

I hit the snooze button one (okay, 3) too many times and I don’t roll out of bed until 7:30 (when my kids were younger I never could have done this, but now that they are older, they like to sleep). Instead of having an hour of Bible quiet time and coffee, I squeeze in a devotional that I receive in my email ( I love the daily devotionals from Proverbs 31 ministries). I pray out loud in the shower, then get my kids up and check my email while they have some Pop Tarts (breakfast of champions. LOL).

At this point I want to draw attention to the fact that my quiet time is the first thing to go in this scenario. I know this is a bad idea, and I always regret it later on, but it’s one of the easiest things to cut out. I wish I could say that I always make that a priority, because I do understand how important it is, but the purpose is to be real here, and that is my reality.

Anyway, my hurried pace always seems to agitate my kids too and it is not uncommon for a squabble to start up. Also, it never fails that on a day like today, some other crisis seems to pop up. The dog throws up all over the floor, the sink backs up and I have to spend hours on the phone first with the landlord, then coordinating with the plumber. Or, some work assignment comes up that absolutely HAS to be finished by noon. It’s like things start to bulldoze and after a while I’m just along for the ride.

So, as it seems my attention is going to be elsewhere, at least for the morning, I resort to plan B. Instead of doing a math lesson with my youngest, I have him log onto a website like IXL (moments like this I am so grateful to be on the crew review team) and have him do some work on there. I mean, it’s good for him to get some extra practice on some concepts right? (that’s what I tell myself)

After that, as I get my oldest to shop-vac the gunky water out of the sink, I have the young boy read. Read what? To be honest, whatever strikes his fancy, which is usually comics. Look, reading is reading, and as long as his nose is in a book and not focused on the TV, I figure that’s a win.

After a lunch that probably consisted of microwave corn dogs and chicken strips (yes, I know, frozen pre-packaged foods are bad bad bad, but there are days the microwave is my best friend). I hope to settle down for at least a read aloud. But then the phone rings and it is my mother in law and I have to answer because my father in law is ill and is frequently in the hospital. So, I turn to Netflix for a little history (I love Netflix). Documentaries count as learning don’t they? Especially if I have my kids write a narration of what they learned!

And since I am now relaying the info my mother in law told me to my hubby and we are trying to decide if we need to make the three-hour trek to their home, I send my boys outside for a little recess but also give them an assignment. Take their Dangerous Book for Boys outside and stage one of the battles from history. This is an assignment they take to with gusto. Seriously, they do this just for fun.

As I take in the mess that is my house (dishes from breakfast are still in the sink and army men are everywhere) I sigh and ponder going to the gym. But then I figure all the pacing back and forth I did when I was on the phone probably covered my workout for the day. Instead, I turn my attention to dinner. Since I was too scatterbrained to pull any meat out of the freezer this morning, it looks like we’re having leftovers (I did mention earlier that I love my microwave right?)

At the end of the day I convince the kids to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher while I restart the load of laundry in the washer that smells musty because I forgot to switch the clothes to the dryer and fall onto the couch. My youngest grabs a book and I read to him, then we turn on the TV and veg out. My dogs want a walk, but my oldest takes them in yard to chase the tennis ball instead. I promise myself that tomorrow will be better and I absolutely will get up as soon as the alarm goes off but, well, you know how that goes.

So, that’s a more typical, kind of crazy and slightly disorganized real life homeschool day at our house. Do you ever have days like that? Let me know in the comments. Tomorrow, I am going to tell you what one of our “carschooling” days is like. Check out what my fellow crew members had to share today here.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop