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13 Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ 13 Simply Great Ideas

Thirteen Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ Thirteen Simply Great Ideas

My firstborn graduated from a high school course of study accepted by the state of Alaska and is now attending college (paid for by the state because of good test numbers!).  Thirteen years of homeschooling now and I feel properly disposed to present some great ideas.  In no particular order they are:

1One hour a day “alone with your thoughts.”  Not a nap.  Never call it a nap.  This sounds a little fruity, I know, but the real reason is for me to get reacquainted with my thoughts, changing this . . .

into this . . .

2. Family newspaper.  Two or three times a year, we hunker down and assign articles to every child for the Howelling Herald, printed on that longer-sized paper.  We do recurring features such as Outdoor Odysseys (excursions around), Family Accomplishments  (from black belts to potty training), History page (reprinted assigned paragraphs), and Classifieds (from lost cufflinks to cheap plastic crap for sale).  Smaller people just color stuff, which I scan and add right in, along with witty commentary.

3. Cheap ziplocs, tape, bandaids, and paper clips as toys.  Dump onto the floor and watch them get all MacGyver on you.  Amazing creations.

4. A time line made of 3×5 cards stuck to the top of the wall where a wallpaper border would be.  Helps to consecutively organize discombobulated reading selections and also helps to place into perspective things like an 8 year old’s obsessesion with ancient Greece and an 11 year old’s love of Scottish fairy tales.  I point to the section of the wall where it fits; they draw another 3×5 card with a minotaur or a fairy ring ~ bingo!  School.

5. Lots of reading and lots of legos makes an excellent curriculum.  Corresponds nicely with:

6. Pair up older children with a younger sibling for a half hour blessing (I call it a spiritual word because it guilts the big kids.).  This means that young teens can play forts and legos without embarrassment and little kids get to hang out with cool teens.

7. If there are male children, you can create an entire curriculum around battles. Choose 6-ish important battles to read about.  Read all about the country/ies and the reasons (social studies).  Recognize and dig into a relatable science topic.  Then write about it, play-act it, draw pictures of it (language arts).  An easy example is Gettysburg.  It’s fun to recreate the battlefield in your yard or living room with small soldiers.  There are strategy books for older kids and picture story books for younger kids.  Watch it , if they are old enough.  Science is battlefield medicine, which is pretty gruesome, which means they’ll love it.  Actually, my daughter did, too.

8. An IV in a kid’s arm that needs to be flushed and run through with antibiotics is great science.  If you don’t have someone with cystic fibrosis in your family, sorry.

9. Pet care = science.  But only if you make the children do the care and then draw pictures of things like the creepy rash on the dog’s belly.  Extra points if they mix up tea tree oil and warm water and bathe it.  If you make them write about it all, you’ve got language arts; if you make them do graphs of information like weight and amount of food and exercise, you’ve got math.

10. Boxed curricula works just fine and may be exactly right for whatever season you’re in.  So does unschooling.  

 

11. Elizabeth Foss’ book Enough said.

13 Reasons to Homeschool

12.  My shelf.  The red basket squares hold, from left to right, science equipment, math manipulatives, and art supplies, with books on the bottom corresponding orderly.  I love my shelf.

And my 13th great idea ~

13.  We stuck with it.  With all the stress and wondering and trouble and comparisons, we did it; for there is also fun and learning and companionship and education.

What ideas have worked in your homeschool? What would you add to this list?

Check out our Homeschool, Homeschool Curriculums, and Homeschool Resources boards on Pinterest, too!

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10 Ways to Find Joy in Our {Catholic} Homeschool

It was the third week of Advent. My shoes were uncomfortable, my skirt did not fit right, my veil kept falling off and even the cushion on the kneeler beneath me felt bumpy. I looked up and shot my two sons one of those disapproving look and looked up at my husband and frowned. Tears swelled up in my eyes so I shut them quickly and created a dam for them with my eyelids. First tear rolled down. It was useless, I was sad. My thoughts raced. I opened my prayer book and something feel from it, a paper? a book mark?  And there it was, the answer to my frustration but I couldn’t really see, so I left it on the tile floor and closed my eyes to pray, “Dear Lord, what is wrong with me? Why am always so upset, bothered and angry? Why is it that my children do not listen? Why do they hate school so much?” My mind raced. I was going to THAT place again and Communion was coming up…I was feeling so sorry for myself, again.

How did I lose my joy?

Then I felt my four year old crawling over my legs to get to the other side of me.  Which annoyed me, of course.  But when I opened my eyes and wiped the tears away, I see his little hand reaching out to me, handing me a paper that had the answer to my frustrations.

34884-The-Joy-Of-The-Lord

I came to the realization that Joy does not simply happen to us. We must choose joy and keep choosing it daily! I spent the last two weeks working on finding my joy. I have to be honest: I felt lost.  So I turned to prayer, I asked for prayers and I begged God to help me, to guide me.  As I type this, tomorrow marks the end of the first week back to school after this discovery and after two weeks off of school on Christmas break. It was the most successful week in the entire six years we have been home educating.

Did I get upset at a child not doing what they were supposed to be doing? I sure did.  Did I loose my temper? No, there was no need. A quick redirection and back on task we were. But this only happened first thing in the morning. So, what happened? How did I find my joy? How did my children learn to love homeschooling again?

Well the week didn’t exactly start off with a happy note, but I was expecting this so I did not let it shake me. I was standing on firm ground with my husband on the same page as me, God my by side, my guardian angel helping me stay on task, and Our Blessed Mother holding my heart each time it felt like it would break. I was not going to allow anything, nor anyone steal my joy. Not even this journal entry written by my nine year old son:

"Today is our first day back to school after our Christmas break!!! Which I loath!!! Now I "have to" go back to school."
“Today is our first day back to school after our Christmas break!!! Which I loath!!! Now I “have to” go back to school.”

 

So what did I do to find my joy in out homeschool?  I came up and tried these ten simple things and guess what?  THEY WORKED!

1.) RULES AND SCHEDULE.

Review your house and school rules.   If you do not have rules established yet, this is the time to do it.  Go over the schedule and stick to it. Don’t have a schedule, make one!  Even if you hate schedules like I do, do it.  Trust me, you will thank me for it later.  Having a schedule helps you have a focal point for the day.  Even if it is as simple as this:

8AM Eat Breakfast
9AM Start School
12PM Eat Lunch
1PM Afternoon School
5PM Eat Lunch

2) NEW BOOKS.

Get new read aloud books for the children and also get a new book for yourself.  This year we got each child a book on a saint and then a book or set of books from a series for independent reading as Christmas presents.  We read during quiet time after lunch and also at bed time.

3) FREE PLAY.

Allow for more free play time.  Play is so underrated and children learn so much from just playing.  We got the children some horses, and a set of royal families and my eldest son made a castle for them.  This is what they love to play with the most right now.  I actually sat down and listened to them play today, they were reenacting scenes from books we have read…sweet!

4) TEACH ART.

Don’t teach Art?  Time to start!  Teaching Art adds spice to your school day! There are so many things available online for free for Art, there is no need to spend a lot of money on expensive programs!  This week I taught the color wheel and how to mix colors to make new colors.  Keep is simple and fun!

5) HANDS ON LEARNING.

Do hands on things like painting or sewing because crafts make this kind of learning possible.  Children remember more when they do things. I would love to add wood working to these tasks, but the weather will have to cooperate for this.  There is so much we can do from home.  I also planning on field trips to local museums that have hands on attractions.

6) TEACH MUSIC.

Don’t know anything about music?  Me neither but I can honestly say we are a music loving family.  Anyone can put a CD on and just sing!  Listen to music while you school and even in between schooling. Once they have learned a new song, record them!  Send them to relatives to see or if you are on social media, share it with friends!

7) LAUGH.

Introduce laughter into your day.  Read funny stories, tell jokes or read funny jokes!  My eldest son found this one comedian who is pretty good and funny, we listen to him all the time, in the car and in between school and supper.  My eldest was dictating spelling words and making up sentences with some of these jokes, we were in stitches!

8)  JOURNAL to TRANSITION.

While you are preparing breakfast, have them sitting at the kitchen table journaling already.  Journaling helps transition into the school day. Journaling is really simple to do, at first it is not so easy as the children have to get accustomed to doing it.  I wrote a whole article on this which you can read. Journaling also helps you see if your children are happy or not… (see journal entry above)

9) NEW WAYS to do OLD THINGS.

Find new ways to teach basic subjects.  There is a plethora of ideas available online.  Make a lap book, create a mini book, etc., so many other ways to learn than just a textbook or a workbook!

10) REST, READ, RELAX & PRAY

Last but not least, rest, read, and relax.  Mothers work so hard at home and school and we need to take care of outselves.  We need rest, we also need to feed our souls with good spiritual reading.  We also need to relax, the more I am on social media the more I realize we are so stressed about being on task and time and, and, comparing ourselves to others just kills joy.  Do not do this to yourself.  If something does not happen today, there is always tomorrow. Always, always, always turn to prayer when things are not going right.

How do you find joy in your homeschool day?  Here is my successful week in a slide show:

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A Foolproof {Catholic} Homeschool Day

When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to attend a local homeschool “Mom’s Day Out.” One of the speakers was Mrs. Mary Ellen Barrett, who blogs over at Tales from the Bonny Blue House, which gave us this lovely list of how to survive your homeschool day.  Since she shared it with us moms, I have called it the foolproof plan for our {Catholic} Homeschool day! Seriously, I’ve have had a chance to institute it with my lovely {but very headstrong} five little blessings and guess what?  IT WORKS!  And since it works {and I struggled so long to find something like this} I had to share it.  So here it goes; of course, some days this plan won’t work because illnesses happen, babies are born, etc., etc., but under somewhat normal conditions, this plan really does work:

1. ​Wake up before your children. Seriously, try this!  Wake up about an hour before them.  Get dressed and looked polished {you don’t want your children’s childhood memories be of mom in sweats and a dingy shirt}. Also, waking early makes it so that you are more tired at night and get a better night’s sleep.  This promotes going to bed earlier for those like me who are night owls. This also gives you time to drink your coffee or tea in silence, get some prayer time in, and also gives you time to plan the day ahead even possibly gathering school supplies.  This is also a great time to get some exercise in. Also, a good time to plan out your meals for the day, take meats out to thaw, etc.

2. All school work planned out ahead of time. Planning out your child’s school work ahead of time has numerous benefits.  Create a checklist or lesson plans for each child as far ahead as possible.  I like to do one quarter at a time.  So at the end of summer, I plan out the first Quarter.  Before the first quarter is over I plan out the second quarter, etc.  This has been a wonderful thing especially when I have some children needing me more because of illness or having to go to an appointment, etc., the work is ready to go without having them wait on me.  I also recommend, if you can purchase already made lesson plans, even if it is just a shell of what you want to do; this has really helped me! In addition, on a weekly basis, take some time out like on Sunday evenings to look ahead of what the children will be working on ahead of time.

3. Stay focused, curriculum-wise. Grrr….I was so unfocused when I first started and I made the mistake of asking too many people’s opinions and surfing too many blogs, my head was spinning!  First and foremost know what your teaching style is and what your children’s learning styles are ahead of looking for curriculum.  For the beginning years I am a firm believer that all moms should try to just buy a boxed program and work you way out of it {unless you just totally love it}. Then starts switching things out as you need.  Then find the curriculum that works best for your children and then STICK WITH IT!  Stay focused! This, of course, does not mean you should keep a book that you and your child hate, oh goodness, no.  But truly try to quickly find the right program and stay with it.  Keep it simple, do not overdo it! Pick something that keeps you and your children calm and focused.

4. Keep an orderly home. I know, it is not the easiest thing to do but here is my secret:  Simplify! Clutter overruns our homes anymore, society keeps telling us we need more and more but we do not.  Do not fall for this trap.  What we need is a clean orderly home that is inviting and warm.  Once you have simplified, make sure you have a system in place.  Clean a different room each day of the week.  Plan it all out and have the children involved in this it helps you and it teaches them to be orderly.  So remember, downsize on everything: books, TOYS!, and yes, even clothing!  “Less is better!” is my new motto!  {Lent is the perfect time to do this too!}

5. Enjoy your time with the children. This I have to have tattooed to my forehead as I am a worry wart and tend to not enjoy the moment.  So if you are like me: STOP! (and if you know me IRL, tell me to stop).  Instill discipline with firmness but with love.  Enjoy the time you have with your children being able to be home and all, not many mothers are able to do this so enjoy it! Remember to smile at them, encourage their hard work and hug them often.  After all, a happy and loving attitude towards them will make every school day flow more smoothly!

6. Avoid all electronic distractions. Yep, this means all phones, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, television, Facebook {ha! ha! You know who you are, and we are probably friends on FB}.  I have a love-hate relationship with the darn thing {FB}…loving my Lenten break from it though.  It helped me realize that I had my tablet attached to an umbilical cord and felt the need to post everything going on at home, seriously: WHY?  After my initial shock that I actually allowed this to chain me to it, I deleted the app off my tablet and I am FREE!  I may or may not return but just the realization that the darn thing had such a grip on me scared me because I don’t get attached to things so easily.  Anyway, any electronic distraction is not good in your home or homeschool.  Ditch it! Or minimize it.  As a friend said to me, “it should be our tool, it should not use us as tools.”

7. Create a set routine. Not a minute by minute…that would drive you and me nuts, right? Well some of you like that, I don’t! But I do like to have a shell of my routine.  I would recommend you have things you do in the morning, afternoons, and night.  This way children know what is somewhat expected of them. Establish clean up times, and also quiet times on a daily basis. This will give your children meaningful work to do and an expectation of when it should be done.

8. Consult with your husband.  Even if he is not the asking type and trusts you in all you do, tell him the plans.  Get his input, get him involved in some of the aspects of the homeschool curriculum and routine.  You do want to keep the “principal” as we call my husband, happy. What are somethings that are important to him?  Make sure you involve him in the disciplining of the children, actually, he should be the lead in this if at all possible.  If it is not happening, pray and fast about it and talk to him about it. I have seen many homes were dad takes the backseat on this and the outcomes are not great.  He is the head of the home, you are the heart.  Men also see things from a different light and will help us in our homeschooling journey so involved dad as much as possible.  If you have boys, it is important that they help dad with physical work around the yard and house.

9. Be disciplined about your tasks. Do not stress yourself out but if you have a list of three important tasks you want accomplished for the day, stay focused on those.  This does not include what we said above these are others tasks that will help you get things done throughout the day.  This kinda goes back to #6 above but stay focused so check email, and read blogs before school begins.  Then avoid getting back online until all of your schoolwork is done.  Be disciplined about this and your day will be lovely.  For me, when we get to finish all or most of our school day BEFORE lunch it is a sweet victory and buys us a trip to the park, weather permitting!

10. Pray all the time.  Pray before the children wake.  Pray throughout the day with the children.  Do the Morning Offering with them, perhaps when you sit to have breakfast. At Noon, before or after lunch is a great time for the Angelus or to pray the Rosary…or other times in the liturgical year, to say the Stations of the Cross.  Whatever you do or do not do, make sure you always pray with your children on a daily basis.  Let them see you praying quietly alone, after or before Mass.  Go to daily Mass or/and Adoration.  A great priest once suggested that I start my day praying for each one of them by going child by child and asking their guardian angel for help and guidance through the day. Pray with them, for them, and ask them to pray for you.

So there you have it a little list of how to foolproof you {Catholic} Homeschool Day!

Fool Proof plan