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Have you ever felt a bit sheepish because your kids are still in their pajamas at four in the afternoon? Have you ever second-guessed yourself when the topic of bedtime comes up in conversation with other parents? And what about how late your kids sleep in?

It’s easy to slip into the mindset that we’ve developed bad habits and we need to make changes to whip our crew back into shape. But the truth is, our so-called bad habits may be the fertile soil that allows our homeschools to thrive

Bad Habit #1: Staying Up Late and Sleeping In

Does your child like to sleep in? Does she stay up later than her public school peers? There are all sorts of recommendations about what time children should go to bed and how much sleep they should get. I don’t know about your family, but with my six kids, none of them fit the guidelines! They have what outsiders might call bad sleep habits.

My ten-year-old finds that his mind works overtime at night so he likes to read or draw or write in his journal at what would be bedtime for most kids. This usually means that his booklight is still burning bright at 10:30 or 11:00 at night! This also means that he sleeps later than most of my other kids. At first, I resisted this pattern, but as time went on, I realized that this is simply the natural pattern for his body and mind. The next morning, when he shows me what he has written or drawn, or launches into a conversation about what he read, I can see all of the learning he did while everyone else was sleeping. Who am I to stand in the way of this kind of authentic learning? 

My eight-year-old is a fast-to-sleep early-riser! His mind is fresh and ready to jump into the day when the sun rises, so his focus tends to peak early in the day. 

Thankfully, with homeschooling, I can make adjustments for each child. My late-rising nightowl has space to honor his own natural tendencies while still getting the rest he needs for good health and concentration. The same holds true for my eight-year-old. Can you imagine what a disaster it would be if I tried to force one or the other of these boys into the other’s sleep patterns? Yikes! 

We don't have bad sleep habits. We have individual sleep habits that mesh perfectly with our homeschool!

Bad Habit #2: Not Having a Set Start Time for Homeschool

Most of us have been taught that having a specific schedule is needed for us to accomplish our goals and have a healthy life. While it is important to set aside time to pursue activities of learning, homeschooling does not require us to start our days promptly at 8:00. From my family’s experience, we’ve found that having a hard, non-negotiable start time has actually hindered us. We feel more pressured to squeeze ourselves into the allocated times which makes us all grumpy.

Instead, we work within the flow of a routine.

We rise at our various times, wake up in our own ways (reading, playing, watching TV, exercising), and then we come together to dive into some focused learning time. By setting aside the expectation that we must start our day at a certain time, we free ourselves from the pressure to fit learning into the hours of 8:00 and 3:00. 

We aren't lazy. We work at our own pace and according to our own schedule. 

Bad Habit #3: Not Doing Things in a Schoolish Way

If you have a traditional school background of any sort, you’re familiar with all these trappings of school. I’m here to tell you that you can ditch these schoolish habits (if you choose), and your homeschool will flourish! Many of us fall back on these habits because they offer a sense of security in measuring our children’s growth, but the truth is, we already know that our kids are growing. So, let’s take a peek at some of these schoolish habits and see why we can ditch them.

  • Raising Your Hand to Ask a Question: Homeschoolers are notorious for peppering people with questions! Why? How? What? Even in the midst of a prepared lesson, your child may latch onto an idea that was not the original intent of the lesson. This leads to questions and rabbit trails and interest-led discoveries! When passion for learning ignites, questions and comments erupt, and raising a hand is a sure way to extinguish the flame. 

  • Receiving Grades and Taking Tests: You know what your child knows. You spend days and nights together, discussing, exploring, and debating. If we skip the testing and the grading, we show our children that learning is natural and takes place all the time. We show that we value learning for the sake of learning and not for the gold star of a grade. We see learning as a vast ocean rather than the limited information that can be gleaned from a test. So feel free to ditch the grades and the tests! 

  • Scope & Sequence and State Standards: We all know that every learner is unique and every person learns at different rates. We have the privilege of ditching the state's scope and sequence and standards. Sure, these can make a lovely menu for selecting topics that interest our kids, but we are not tied to them. 

  • Finishing Every Math Problem: When your child has mastered a topic or just needs a break, skip a few math problems. Skip a page! Skip an entire section if need be! Look at the child in front of you. What does he need? You know the answer.

We don't do things like the schools do. And that's precisely why we homeschool!

Many of us chose homeschooling because we wanted freedom from the confines of traditional school and as it turns out, the "bad” habits that we have formed over the years are exactly what homeschoolers thrive on. So, stay in your pajamas all day if it works for your family! A relaxed, joy-filled environment promotes the life-love of learning that we all seek!

About the Author

Angela Awald is a homeschooling mama to 6, certified teacher, writer, and doula. Her days brim full of learning, loving, and laundry (lots and lots of laundry)!! She believes that nurturing children (and ourselves) means helping them to see that all of life is about learning – from our mistakes, from each other, and from great books! Angela blogs at nurturedroots.net where she shares the ways she is nurturing her family and inspiration for nurturing your own.

   
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After six years of homeschooling, loving it and feeling successful, I’m here to say I have fallen off the homeschool wagon. Big time!

A move, followed by the holidays, followed by major house issues and renovations zapped the creativity and energy I once had. My homeschool well is dry! For the last several months, homeschooling has not felt even a little fun. It’s felt like work. All I could think about was the to-do list looming and how it would be easier if my daughter were in public school.

Homeschooling asks a lot of us. It’s not easy, especially when life changes or chaos enter our lives. The truth is I would have had a lot more time to work, recharge, and get things done if we’d stopped homeschooling.

Do you know what else is true? I am in a perfectly normal blip in our homeschool journey. Things we love can sometimes feel extra hard. Our patience and motivation naturally wax and wane.

I think realizing the truth about the situation and not beating myself up for how the last few months have gone is the first step towards getting our homeschool rhythm back on track. There are a handful of other things I’m going to do, too.

Feeling unmotivated, stuck, or like you’ve fallen off the homeschool wagon? Let’s get back on track together. Here are seven ways we can find your homeschool groove.

1. Be Kind to Yourself

Offering myself a big dose of shame or believing I’m not good enough to homeschool is not going to make getting back in the saddle any easier. If anything, it will reaffirm the story of failure I’m telling myself.

If you’ve fallen off the homeschool wagon, it means you were once on it! Remind yourself why you are homeschooling. Each day is a new start.

2. Remember What Has Worked in the Past

Spend time remembering all the ways homeschooling has worked in the past. Maybe make a list of these things and try implementing a couple of them.

For example, reading together at a set time each day has always helped ground our homeschool day. It offers us time to connect, learn, and get inspired. So we’ll definitely be finding time each day to read as we get back on the homeschool wagon.

3. Don’t Panic! Learning is Happening All the Time

Chances are, even when things don’t go exactly as planned, something good can be found. Our homeschool days were not ideal this winter and spring, yet my daughter’s reading proficiency and math skills skyrocketed. I can forget the progress she made if I just focus on what we didn’t do.

We have the time as homeschoolers to press pause when we need to. Your children are not going to fall behind just because you’ve had a few bumpy months.

4. It Takes a Village

Having a homeschool community, online or in person, is crucial, especially when homeschooling feels hard. Look for co-ops or groups, field trips, playgroups, or classes. Enlist the help and creativity of others.

Talk with other homeschool parents. Homeschoolers love to share and will probably offer all sorts of ideas to help you and your kids get back in your grove. At the very least, they will be able to commiserate with you! Falling off the homeschool wagon happens to all of us.

5. Have a Learn Nothing Day

Sandra Dodd, a known unschooler, celebrated Learn Nothing Day with her children every year. The idea is to tell your children that on Learn Nothing Day, learning is not allowed to happen. Of course, learning is always happening, but it’s fun for kids to think they aren’t allowed to learn.

They’ll probably try to break the rules. Catch them learning and laugh together. Reset your homeschool year with silliness.

6. Set New Goals

One of the ways my children and I reset each semester is by setting new goals together. This is a great activity to do when you’re feeling burnt out as well.

Brainstorm with your child

  • all the science topics or historical periods they are interested in studying
  • what books they want to read
  • what goals they have for math or writing
  • any life skills they want to master
  • any classes they would like to take

Choose a couple of goals to focus on first. Post them someplace you all can see them, and then begin.

7. Take Care of You

Chances are if you have fallen off the homeschool wagon, something else has needed your attention. Take your mental temperature. We can spend a lot of time focusing on what our children need and neglect ourselves. What do you need?

  • Do you need to hire a babysitter for a few hours a week or trade childcare with friends?
  • Do you long for solo-time to curl up with a good book?
  • Do you need a date night to reconnect with your spouse?
  • Do you just need to sleep?

We can only give so much before our own well runs try. Give yourself something each day that is just for you!

Falling off the homeschool wagon isn’t fun, but it doesn’t mean we’re doomed to fail either. If anything, it’s an opportunity to remember why we’re homeschooling. We’ve had success in the past and will have it again. Hang on to the wagon and climb back on.

About the Author

Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.

Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.

   
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Among the many benefits of homeschooling, flexibility is at the top of the list. Because homeschoolers are not tied to school calendars, we don't have to wait until school holidays in order to get some rest and relaxation. Homeschoolers are able to take vacations during the school year when rates are less expensive and locations are less crowded.

Because of this freedom, some homeschoolers travel more often than their public school counterparts. They may world school or road school or spend more time visiting family around the country. While many may opt to abandon homeschooling while on vacation, other homeschoolers may prefer to keep a routine in place. Here are some easy ways to homeschool while on vacation and still leave plenty of space for fun!

1. Plan Ahead

Before you leave on your trip, research your destination. Head to the library together and check out books about your destination's history, famous people, and attractions. Watch videos or movies filmed in the location. Make a list of everything you'd like to do on your vacation.

This vacation unit study can be as brief or as lengthy as you desire. Not only will they be learning as they help you plan the trip, your children will be building anticipation for the vacation. Did you know that research shows anticipating a vacation brings as much pleasure as the vacation itself

Reading novels and poetry, watching films and television programs, browsing fashion and design blogs that are either from or about the place you plan to visit encourages you to not only learn about your destination, but to dream, providing some concrete details for your mind to latch on to. (Read more here.)

2. Do What You Love

Does your daughter love a certain homeschool activity? Is your son obsessed with a certain subject? Pack what they love and leave the rest behind. You need not fill your suitcases with workbooks and textbooks for your trip to be educational. Remember to focus on the fun. More learning will happen when you relax!

3. Use Audiobooks

If you plan to travel by car, audiobooks are a perfect opportunity for learning on virtually any topic: classics, poetry, biographies/memoirs, mythology, history, science, and more! 

4. Enjoy Fantastic Read Alouds

So much learning can happen through reading aloud. Packing a chapter book and reading it before bedtime during your vacation is educational and you will be making memories in the process. If there is a particular subject that you have been neglecting in your homeschool, make up for it by selecting a fantastic read aloud on that topic!

5. Play Board Games

Board games offer an opportunity for play during down time in hotels or at rest areas on the road. There are a wealth of board games on the market today covering a variety of subjects. By playing a game together, families are able to connect and make memories while working on academic skills in a way that doesn't feel like school. 

6. Explore Nature

Nature provides you with science at your fingertips. Head outside as a family and explore nature together wherever your vacation takes you. Pack your camera and hike together. Take an interest in the local plants that you don't typically see at home. There's no need to pack heavy field guides. Search for a few plant identification guides instead.

7. Take Field Trips

A new location means new field trips! Visit a local museum, art gallery, musical performance, or other attraction. Gather brochures, maps, and postcards for scrapbooking when you get home.

8. Journal

An easy way to work in writing and art is to keep a vacation journal. Take some time each day to write about the day's events. Older children can write about their day while younger children can draw a picture and dictate to parents. By saving these journals, your family will have wonderful keepsakes!

9. Practice Life-skills

Reading maps, planning outings, navigating public transportation, purchasing necessities, trying new cuisine, and even speaking another language are all wonderful learning opportunities when you are in an unknown place!

10. Relax

While on vacation together, take the time to relax and enjoy yourselves. Remember that you don't need textbooks and worksheets all the time in order for learning to occur. Learning happens all the time when you relax and let it!

   
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The journey of teaching my younger two to read and write has often been difficult. No matter how gently or how slowly I try, the frustration with letters and words is still there. And yet, in the midst of that struggle to read, there has never been a struggle with books or stories themselves. 

My kids love books. They love stories. A literature-rich education has been a constant for us, regardless of dyslexia.

Books stack two rows deep on shelves and spill over onto the floor. An audiobook blasts to life every time I start my car. My kids crowd around the tablet, not to play an app, but to listen to an audio drama. And when I announce I’m about to start reading our latest read-aloud, the kids come tearing through the house to find a seat in the living room. 

We love stories. 

Dyslexia can’t touch that. 

So when I’m asked whether a literature-rich homeschool is a good idea for a child with dyslexia, I never hesitate to answer yes! Yes, filling your life and your homeschool with literature has enormous benefits for a child with language based learning difficulties.

1. A Literature-Rich Homeschool Creates a Family Culture of Stories 

I noticed a few years ago when anyone asked my kids what they were learning in school, my kids always talked about math. It bugged me. Why, I wondered, when we were learning about Vikings, castles, knights, and wonderfully exciting stories, did my kids always talk about multiplication? Then I asked them, and their answer still makes me laugh: math was the only subject they considered school. The rest was just fun. Surrounded by real books and real stories, even my kids with reading challenges didn’t consider books to be school.

 We do more than just read books. 

Our family culture is infused with a love of stories. In our house, no one discusses reading level. If a book interests my child, it doesn’t matter if it is above or below their reading level. Even picture books have tremendous value as we talk about stories and characters and what makes a good book. 

2. A Literature-Rich Homeschool Creates Positive Memories Around Books

“Every time I drink a chocolate shake, I think of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” my daughter told me one day. 

 “Why’s that?” I asked. 

 “Because last summer you read that to us each day while we drank our shakes,” she explained.

It wasn’t an intentional decision on my part to pair that book with milkshakes; it just happened that way. But it’s an illustration of how stories create powerful memories.

My did the same with me as well. I remember bowls of steaming ramen soup while my mom read out loud to my siblings and me. And I remember trips home from college with a new book I couldn’t wait to read with my mom. Even today, when my mom and I get together for our annual road trips, one of the first things we plan is the book we’ll read together.

These positive memories are powerful, especially for my kids with reading challenges. Reading has no stigma or painful memories of embarrassment and failure. In spite of the time we’ve had to spend struggling through blends and syllables, our literature-rich homeschool has provided an atmosphere of positive memories around books and literature that has buoyed my kids through their language challenges.

3. A Literature-Rich Homeschool Creates Relationships Through Shared Stories

One of our favorite homeschool activities are what we affectionately call book talks. Rather than filling out reading comprehension worksheets, we sit down together with a cup of tea or coffee and talk about the book my child just finished reading. We talk about 

  • the characters and their problems

  • the setting

  • the rising action and conflict

  • the themes 

I’ll use my teacher notes about the book to guide our discussion at times, and at other times I’ll leave the script and ask my own questions: 

  • “Tell me what you liked about this book.”

  • “How was the character like you?” 

  • “How is the character in this book different from the character in your last book?”

These book talks are about so much more than literature. And it’s not uncommon for them to quickly turn into heart-to-heart conversations about difficult friendships, feelings of failure, or big questions of life a child has wanted to ask but didn’t know how to start. 

We also deepen our relationships through our shared experiences with books, as we remember the adventures we’ve been on together through the pages of a read-aloud or the miles we’ve driven while listening to an audiobook. Particular quotations from books we’ve shared together become inside jokes and part of our family culture. On rainy days, we instantly think of making tea and reading books together. When my husband has to work late, my kids’ first question is whether we can read aloud. We put on pajamas, grab blankets, and snuggle together, listening to a story until Dad gets home or bedtime rolls around.

Creating a literature-rich homeschool has nothing to do with a child’s ability or inability to read. Instead, it has everything to do with the atmosphere and fabric of your family—the memories you create for your child with the stories you share together. My kids don’t understand every word that is read, and they hardly recall every detail of a story; but we remember enough. And what we remember has been much more meaningful than anything they’ve forgotten.

About the Author

Tracy Glockle lives with her husband in Oregon where she homeschools their crew of three kids with ADHD/dyslexia. She’s constantly making adjustments for her out-of-the-box learners, finding creative ways to use their strengths to teach their weaknesses. As the frontal lobe for her family of ADHDers, Tracy loves planners and systems and organization. But housecleaning—that’s something else entirely. She enjoys black coffee, superhero action films, and reading the end of a story first. Tracy writes about homeschooling ADHD and dyslexia for several blogs including her own at Growing In Grace.

   
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Sometimes we’re stuck at the kitchen table nearly all day. We watch our kids drill math facts, trace maps of the fifty states, and work on spelling words from that table. Then we pull out our latest historical novel and read aloud while the kids color or play quietly with blocks. We eat snacks and lunch right there at that same kitchen table. Besides bathroom breaks and the inevitable dash to find a pencil sharpener or ruler, we find ourselves constantly hovering over our kids in that hub of our home—the kitchen.

If you've had your fill of kitchen table homeschooling, here are seven ideas for learning in other areas.

1. Read Books Aloud on the Porch

When your kids aren’t enthusiastic about reading books they find too long, too difficult, or too old, don’t take no for an answer! Grab the books and read aloud from one of these non-kitchen locations:

  • the couch in the living room
  • the hammock in the back yard
  • the swing on the front porch
  • under a makeshift bed sheet fort on the deck
2. Perform Science Experiments in the Bathroom

It’s too easy to get into the dull routine of reading about science, writing about science, and taking a science test—all at the kitchen table. Change things up and do science for a change. Head to the bathroom where it won't matter if you make a mess with baking soda and vinegar, soap and shaving cream, magnets and water. 

Do save the Mento and Diet Coke experiment for outdoors, though!  

3. Take Nature Walks Outdoors

Head outside and savor nature firsthand. Tote journals with you to document the birds and flowers you find. Search for tadpoles in ponds, watch bees gathering nectar, and follow ants back to their hills. Make notes about the weather, and gather collections of rocks, feathers, leaves, and new buds. 

4. Visit Museums

Do you make time in your weekly routine to visit the local museums? You should. There’s a lot to be learned on these field trips, and they get you beyond the four walls of your kitchen. Learn about art and local history. Grab the children and head to a science museum for involved experiments that are difficult to do at home.

Make a list of the various museums in your area and visit one each week. As the months go by, you’ll be amazed at what your children learn.

5. Hang Art in the Hall

Art is often pushed aside in favor of reading, writing, math, and drill. It’s important to make time for art in our school day. Art inspires creativity and the imagination. Don’t make art difficult with a complicated program or supply list. Simply pull out the art supplies every week and let the children create.

Frame and hang the best of your children’s artwork down the hallway for family and friends to admire.

6. Enjoy Music Throughout the House

Music can be just as neglected as art even though it’s simple to turn on the radio. Remember your kids will learn a huge amount simply from listening to music. So turn on classical music while the children are doing artwork. Enjoy jazz while cooking dinner or doing chores. Sing folk songs together in the car.

At times have everyone sit down, close their eyes, and simply listen to the music you turn on. Music can serve as a calming or energizing background to your homeschool day no matter where you choose to learn.

7. Volunteer in Your Community

There are many places that are looking for volunteers to help, and children learn a lot about their community while volunteering. See if you can sort books at the library for an hour, take food to a food bank, or visit a nursing home. Walking dogs for the local animal shelter is another fun option to consider. 

Find a volunteer opportunity which fits your family’s passions so you can get away from the kitchen table for some hands-on learning and serving.

Don’t get caught by the belief that you can only homeschool by completing workbooks at home. Instead plan to leave the kitchen table and check out the marvelous educational activities elsewhere this year.

   
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If you homeschool for any length of time, you’ll inevitably struggle with the idea that a fresh curriculum might be better for you and your child even if you are having no problems with your current curriculum! That maxim about the grass appearing greener on the other side of the fence can apply to homeshool too. 

Why We Chose BookShark Homeschool Curriculum

My oldest loves history and reading, and we chose BookShark for that exact reason. While using BookShark, my son received a strong historical overview of the time period that we were studying, but he also got plenty of excellent historical fiction related to the events he was studying in history.

Each day, he spent time in his room reading on his own. Later in the afternoon, after my youngest two were done schooling, my son and I read our current read aloud together. Sometimes even the younger kids listened in, asking questions and commenting on the book. BookShark fit our family perfectly, and we all enjoyed it.

The Temptation to Switch Curriculum

However, our family doesn’t live in a homeschooling bubble. Catalogs from various publishers come in the mail, and I often read other homeschool moms raving online about different science or history programs. Unlike years ago, today there are a myriad of curriculum options for a homeschooler.

Last summer, when I was reading a book about homeschooling high schoolers, I saw mention of a curriculum I’d never heard of before. Like any good homeschooling parent, I hopped on the computer to research this company.

It sounded like such a great program! There was a lot of history, perhaps even more than BookShark programs because this alternative included more non-fiction along with their list of historical fiction. I contemplated buying this curriculum for a while before I finally took the plunge.

Within two weeks of using this alternative homeschool program, my son and I both knew I had made a huge mistake!

Why We’re Back to BookShark 

True, the other curriculum did win high points with us for the interesting non-fiction selections that gave my son an even deeper knowledge of history. But honestly, that was the only advantage this curriculum had over BookShark.


We missed so many features of BookShark!


As a teacher, I missed BookShark’s easy all-in-one, open-and-go format. With the other curriculum, I had to spend ninety minutes to three hours every weekend, choosing my son’s assignments and laying out a schedule for him for the week. I didn’t have time for that! With BookShark's Instructor's Guides, I could simply glance at what was coming up for the next week. Prep took almost no time.

Both my son and I also missed the questions BookShark includes at the end of each reading. The other curriculum didn’t have that and instead relied on students doing projects or lapbooks to show their comprehension — neither of which my son enjoyed. While BookShark has projects and lap books, they are optional add-ons and not essential to the program.

We missed the historical fiction in BookShark. Because the other curriculum was so heavy on non-fiction, there were fewer novels to read. While my son loves history, he also loves reading fiction, and he really missed the quality fiction books he was reading with BookShark.

After only two weeks, we set aside the other curriculum and are happily back to BookShark. Now, though I may still get catalogs and read others’ comments online, I can rest assured that BookShark is the best curriculum for us.

About the Author

Melissa is a homeschool mom to three kids. BookShark is her primary curriculum, and she and her kids love it! When she's not homeschooling, she's either shuttling kids from one activity to another or working from home as a freelance writer. You can read more about Melissa's homeschool journey at her blog Moms Plans.

   
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Setting your own daily schedule is a wonderful luxury homeschooling brings. We’re not scrambling to get kids on the bus at 7:30 in the morning. Breakfast becomes a leisurely meal instead of a frantic race against the clock. The shift into and out of Daylight Savings Time hardly impacts us.

You have time to welcome the morning, spend time with your children, and enjoy a slow start. You determine the course of your day by setting your own daily schedule regardless of what the school does or what your other homeschool peers are doing.

Homeschool in the Mornings

Many of us enjoy homeschooling in the mornings. We can start the days with a brief morning time of poetry recitation, great literature, music, and art. The children tackle math when they’re fresh and able to think carefully about the problems. We get the business of our day—school—taken care of as first priority so we can do more frivilous pursuits later.

After homeschooling in the mornings we have the afternoons free. We’re able to explore the town and go on field trips. Children can enjoy their favorite activities or play with friends. We can take long nature hikes and see the flowers bloom, leaves bud, and geese return.

Evenings can be spent watching documentaries, enjoying read-alouds, or simply spending time together as a family.

Homeschool in the Afternoons

Just because many homeschoolers sit down to educate children in the mornings doesn’t mean you can’t homeschool in the afternoons instead. Sometimes it works best to spend the mornings sleeping, relaxing, working at home, doing chores, or simply enjoying the day.

If a slow start suits you best, consider homeschooling in the afternoons instead. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You set the daily schedule to fit your family’s needs.

Enjoy a slow morning together, eat lunch, and then gather your school supplies. Run through math, English, and science. Curl up on the sofa to listen to the latest book you’re reading aloud. Spend the afternoon doing science experiments or history projects.

Homeschool in the Evenings

Despite the flexibility homeschooling brings, most people believe you still need to homeschool during daylight hours, and that’s simply not true. Remember, you set your own schedule. This means you can spend the morning on nature hikes, long bike rides, and exploring the town.

Afternoons can be spent in activities, field trips, or time with friends. You can spend the day exploring the world and using up your children’s energy so they’re ready to sit and study quietly in the evenings.

Begin your formal homeschool day at dinner time. Engage in long history and science discussions at the dinner table. Teach children to read in the living room after dinner. Work on math together.

Each parent can take a child to run through schoolwork together. Discuss math, teach phonics, and write during the quiet evening hours.

As you think about your ideal schedule, remember that homeschooling is flexible, and there is no right or wrong time to homeschool. Consider carefully your family’s routines and lifestyle before setting a daily schedule for your homeschool. Non-traditional homeschool hours may be best for your family.

And you may find that one season of life fits morning learning while another season of life is better suited for evening homeschooling. Younger chidren tend to rise earlier, and teens love to sleep in, so adapt with their preferences by adjusting your daily schedule too. Or use a hodgepodge of times for your children. No one says that all your children have to study at the same time either!  

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Whether we used to be a teacher in the school system or we’re brand new to homeschooling or we’re just unsure of what we’re doing as homeschoolers, there are some big assumptions that homeschool moms need to let go of. I would venture to say that most of us grew up going to a brick and mortar school, sat at a desk with metal legs, went out for recess and drank warmish milk out of a cardboard carton.

We might have loved school. We might have hated it.

But the fact is that we’re homeschooling now. It takes place (mostly) at home. We don’t have to wait in line for lunch or sit in uncomfortable desks. It’s home. It’s different than regular school. Some of us, though, feel this awkward disconnect when we stray from the ways of the school we grew up in as if somehow if it’s too different it won’t work or it won’t be valid. Can I squeeze your shoulders in encouragement and let you in on a little secret?

Homeschooling works.

And it doesn’t work because it mimics a school room. In fact, there might be a few things hindering you from having that homeschool you yearn for because you’re trying to imitate the school room. Are you guilty? I have been.

Here are a few myths to ditch. ASAP.

1. We Need to Finish the Whole Book

Take a long trip down memory lane. Don’t you remember packing up your desk on the last day of school, gathering up all your broken pencils and used up glue sticks? Remember what else you packed up? Yep, workbooks. I remember there being several of them. And my favorite part? They were unfinished! I remember because that meant I had some pretty legit props for my play school room at home that my sister was soon going to fall prey to the next time we played schoo. And yes, I was always the teacher.

My point is, they never finished the entire books in school, nor should we be hung up on it. If your child does 80% of his or her math lessons and knows them really well, that is good enough! The next math book’s first 30 lessons are just going to be review. Skip over them and start on lesson 31 and give everyone some freedom to goof off for a few days of the year. It’s ok. No one will come and check that you have finished 180 math lessons. 

2. Our School Days Should Look Like Regular School

I am all for having a good daily routine. I think it’s great when my kids wake up to their alarms and come down dressed and ready for school in the morning. But what I want more than efficient mornings is memorable mornings. I don’t want my kids remembering how crabby I was to getgoinggetgoinggetgoing in the morning. I want them to remember coming down to a kitchen with to a mama who greeted them with love and a hot plate of breakfast (or a nice bowl of cereal if I’m being honest).

Furthermore, some days of school last for three hours, and sometimes they’re just one hour. Some days we learn with reading and some days it’s documentaries. We don’t have to look like a typical classroom to be productive. My kids can learn math just as well at a table or a desk or their bed if they want to. You chose to homeschool for a reason. There’s no reason to reproduce a classroom at home. There is plenty to learn right in their own cozy spaces.

3. Progress Is Tracked by Grades and Tests

One kid studies for hours and hours and hours and knows the material like the back of his hand. Another kid studies for five minutes. First kid bombs the test; the second kid aces it. Some kids simply do not test well. While I know that someday, if my children go to college, they will have to know how to test efficiently. But my point is a test is not the tell-all to end-all.

  • Does your child read really well and retain what he’s reading?
  • Does your child do division in his head?
  • Is he able to talk to you confidently about an entire chapter in his science book without checking back?

If so, your child is learning.

Letter grades are just letters. Progress is seeing a light bulb go on after using fraction manipulatives for the tenth time. Progress is your child finish his first chapter book on his own. Progress is hearing that click when your child figures out the difference between proper nouns and regular nouns.  

We know our children better than anyone. Don’t get hung up on tests. Their day-to-day discoveries mean so much more. 

4. My Kids Are Behind

I have one child doing a math curriculum that is one grade level ahead of what his grade would be if he were in public school. I have another child that’s working through a math book one grade behind where he would typically be placed. These are the levels that match their skill level with just enough challenge while avoiding frustration.

When we are at home, we are not behind anyone. Don’t let comparison of other children put your child in the behind category. The thing about homeschooling is that it is efficient. I worried my daughter was behind in her reading skills. I let it go, worked with her, kept changing things up to keep it interesting and not monotonous, and before I knew it she was reading chapter books and loving it!

Trust the process. You might have to call in a tutor or change up the curriculum if your child is really struggling. But don’t ever feel like they’re behind the regular school kids. That’s a term used in school. Ditch that terminology and meet your child right where he is and love him right there.

Homeschooling can feel like uncharted territory where everyone has taken the more trusted and sure path. It might very well be uncharted, but it can’t be enriched by trying to imitate the very institution we’ve chosen to avoid. Pave your own way with your little navigators, mama. Do your own thing. It’s going to be great!

About the Author

Alicia Hutchinson is the homeschooling mom to four.  She and her children love reading and history and exploring outside. They are just settling into their new home in the Minneapolis area, where they just relocated from North Carolina.

You can read more about Alicia and their homeschooling adventures, current projects, and thoughts on motherhood at her blog Investing Love.

   
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Congratulations to you for exploring the idea of homeschooling! It is a rewarding lifestyle! But even if you can clearly imagine the future rewards, you may still feel unsure about your qualifications to homeschool your kids. If you're not a teacher yourself, do you have what it takes to homeschool?

The truth is, there are only two necessary requirements for you to homeschool your kids: curiosity and connection. If you are willing to ask questions and are connected with your kids, the rest will flow into place. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but every worthwhile venture is filled with them.

I was a public school teacher until my oldest turned two. But as my husband and I searched for preschools and kindergartens, we had a hunch that none of them were the right fit. Thankfully, we trusted ourselves. We knew our son and knew that there must be an alternative. Maybe you’re in the same boat. School isn’t working for your child or your gut is telling you that your child is missing out on the joy of learning. You’re already on the right path to consider homeschooling.

Before I send you on your way with a little nod of reassurance, let me tell you why am so sure you can homeschool your kids without a teaching degree. I've got three big reasons. 

1. You Can Homeschool Because You Know Your Kids

You know your kids with a depth that no school teacher ever can. When I was faced with a classroom of 25 shining faces at the beginning of each school year, I hoped that I would get to know each of them well enough to guide them in their learning. I'm not talking about laying out a lesson plan in front of them and checking off items from the scope and sequence. I'm talking about truly knowing each of my students enough to understand what ignites their learning. Are they interested in historical figures, machines, reading for long stretches?

As much as I could, I tried to learn about every child and attempted incorporate at least some of their interests into our days. As you can imagine, this was incredibly challenging with 25 diverse learners and state standards to account for. The good news is homeschooling makes space for diverse interests, and our children flourish because of it.

This space is made because you know your kids! You know

Homeschooling allows us the privilege to tailor curriculum choices year by year, week by week, and day by day!

When challenging times arise, your connection with your kids will guide you through the murkiest of waters. A wise friend once told me, when I was faced with a difficult time in our homeschool, "Just love them."

And you know what? She was right! My love for my children allowed me to look into their eyes and see the next step.

2. You Can Homeschool Because You Know What Your Kids Need

After eleven years of homeschooling, I can see where my public school teacher background was a hindrance rather than a help in our journey.

In the early years, I attempted to recreate school at home. My little guy wanted nothing to do with it!

He missed our long days playing outside and walking to the library—days of reading aloud and playing games. My agenda of schoolish learning encroached on his natural curiosity. So I made changes! We kicked the school-at-home dust from our feet and dove head first into the homeschooling lifestyle my son needed:

I wish I could go back and give my younger self some encouraging advice to forget what the school is doing and trust my gut and my child.

3. You Can Homeschool Because You Are Curious

You may be saying, “That’s fine for the earliest years, but what about learning to read or mastering math concepts?” There are two things I want to point out about this question.

  • There are so many tools available for homeschoolers—many more than the limited curriculum provided by school districts. You will find what you need.

  • Perhaps the most important point: You asked the question! Woohoo! Your curiosity and love will guide you to the answer! When you decide to embark on the journey of homeschooling, you’re not going to sit back and let someone else guide the canoe. You’re going to grab the oars and steer your family through every kind of water you encounter. You can do it because you want to!

I thought for sure that my kids would read early and without hesitation. I’m a reading teacher for goodness sake! Ha! The truth is each of my six children have learned to read in their own time with the support that they needed. For a few, this meant a simple introduction to letter sounds and they were off and running. For a few others, it meant a choreographed dance of focused learning with a curriculum and open space for growth, with me backing off a bit to allow the newly introduced skills percolate for a while. No two kids of mine took the same path to reading, but like every homeschooling parent, I asked questions and looked at our options. Eventually, they all learned (or are currently learning) how to read.

Chances are, when you begin homeschooling, you will try on different styles, like I did. Some will feel scratchy and awkward like the wool sweater I accidentally sent through the dryer. Others will fit like your favorite sweatshirt, cozy and comforting, allowing you and your children to relax into the homeschool lifestyle.

As your homeschool grows and changes, so will the day-to-day happenings of your homeschool. The common thread, however, is your connection with your children! You know your kids and that is your guiding beacon. You have all the tools you need for homeschooling: curiosity and connection!

About the Author

Angela Awald is a homeschooling mama to 6, certified teacher, writer, and doula. Her days brim full of learning, loving, and laundry (lots and lots of laundry)!! She believes that nurturing children (and ourselves) means helping them to see that all of life is about learning – from our mistakes, from each other, and from great books! Angela blogs at nurturedroots.net where she shares the ways she is nurturing her family and inspiration for nurturing your own.

   
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I never imagined I’d homeschool. Ever. In fact, I was vocally anti-homeschooling.

I loved my public school experiences and had very little experience with families who chose to homeschool, so I had based my (very strong) feelings on (very incorrect) stereotypes and assumptions. Since you're reading this post on a homeschool curriculum blog, you can guess how those false beliefs turned out for me! (Read more about my blended education situation here.)

My oldest child was what I call a trick baby—a dream come true—a kid so easy to parent that I figured I must be a pro and should have a hundred more babies. My assumptions obviously fail me pretty often because my second born, my middle child, was not easy. He did not make me feel like a pro. He was adorable and fun and never ever boring, but he was, to put it gently, a handful.

My husband and I knew when he started kindergarten that it would likely be pretty bumpy. That was an assumption we got correct.

The Shock of a Lifetime

He’d only been in school for a few weeks when the phone calls started. He was sarcastic and would frequently make comments that were pretty out of the ordinary for kindergarteners. He read several grade levels ahead, so he was bored and acting out during class. He was struggling socially as he couldn’t relate to the “babyish” things the other kids his age were into, and no other 5-year-olds were interested in his scientific monologues.

His behavior problems grew and intensified, and despite months of private counseling, we were at a loss as to how to help him. His self esteem plummeted as he got “bad” colors on his behavior chart every day and became aware of just how poorly he fit in. Kindergarten was turning out worse than we’d expected.

We met with his teacher in the middle of the year and were shocked when she suggested that he skip first grade and go straight to second grade. Totally floored. We knew he’d been doing well academically, but had no idea he’d been doing well enough to bypass an entire grade. Subsequent testing showed that he could do more than that. He was identified as profoundly gifted, having an IQ higher than 99% of the general population and a brain that worked light-years-too-fast for kindergarten.

We were still reeling from this revelation when the idea of homeschooling first popped up in a desperate and tear-driven Google search.

  • How on earth are we going to meet his needs?
  • How can a school that only goes up to fifth grade possibly teach anything new to a kindergartener who is reading on a middle school level?
  • How can we possibly handle the responsibility of making sure his magnificent little brain isn’t being wasted?

Homeschooling.

Every time, homeschooling was the answer.

I Tried to Avoid it, But Homeschooling Was the Solution

I saw it over and over, but tried to ignore it. There was no way I would homeschool. That was for those kids who were in college by age 8 or selling out concert halls by age 6. My kid had a high IQ, but he wasn’t a chess prodigy or working on his master’s degree. He didn’t even wear glasses! Surely this wasn’t for us.

We went ahead with the grade skip, and he was granted special permission to attend Talented and Gifted enrichment with older children. We continued with the counseling, and combined with the new challenges of TAG and a grade skip, he seemed to improve. For a few weeks.

We got a 504 plan in place for him. Then an IEP. Then we modified the IEP. A dozen times.

He was struggling with some pretty intense anxiety and the cafeteria was too overwhelming for him. His brain struggled to take in and process all the stimuli at once. He started eating alone in his classroom.

By the second month of second grade, there was nothing new for him to learn. His teacher started sending him to the library to occupy himself—to write research papers or read whatever he could find. His behavior worsened. He started hiding in his locker or under his desk. He was moved away from the other students and placed in the hall, alone, with the thickest book his teacher could find.

We kept meeting to tweak his IEP, and it kept not making a difference. His principal said he walked the halls looking like an injured dog, tensed up and in a constant state of reaction. He was miserable. We were miserable. He couldn’t learn anything, couldn’t make any friends, couldn’t find a single reason to go to school in the morning. He was being kept away from everyone and denied the opportunity to learn something new every day. School was just not working.

Making the Leap from Public School to Homeschooling

Finally I had to humble myself and accept it—it was time to homeschool him.

He had this incredibly gifted mind that wasn’t being stretched. His behaviors, due to the extreme boredom and anxiety, were the sole focus instead. It was time to accept that the school just could not meet his needs, and he just could not be who they wanted him to.

  • As much as I was intimidated by his mind, I knew that he deserved the chance to learn, every day, like any other child would.
  • As much as I was intimidated by being responsible for his education, I knew I was already responsible for his well-being, and keeping him in that environment was damaging.
  • As much as I wanted him to have a “normal” school experience, I had to accept that he wasn’t a typical child and he needed what was best for him.

He worked faster than a classroom allowed and craved going deeper than a room full of other children could permit. His brain could receive all of the sensory stimuli going on around him—and in an elementary school there is a lot—but his 7-year-old self didn’t know how to handle it all.

He craved knowledge, learning, challenge, but instead was sent to a corner and told to sit quietly. He was not built for a traditional classroom and the traditional classroom was not built to accommodate him. I had to eat crow, take my foot out of my mouth, and humble myself to recognize that homeschooling was his very best option, if not for the academic challenge then for his own peace.

The Aftermath: Consequences of Homeschooling

It’s been two and a half years since we pulled him out of school, and he is flourishing. He learns as quickly—or as slowly—as he needs and wants. He’s not bombarded by stimuli, and he’s not made to feel like a nuisance by people who don’t know what to do with him. There’s no arbitrary grade level ceiling that keeps him stagnant. There’s no color-coded behavior chart. There’s comfort, freedom, and an absolute metric ton of books for him to devour. He’s a happy kid now, and it shows.

I never, ever thought I’d homeschool. Now I think I’ll never stop.

About the Author

Jennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.

She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.

   
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