Category Archives: My Thoughts on Homeschooling

Book Work v.s. Hands-on Projects

caves stalactites stalagmitesWe all know the public schools focus mainly on book work with the occasional science or social studies project once a year. As homeschoolers we have the opportunity to do as many hands-on projects as we want, whenever we want.

Studying earthquakes? Let’s do an experiment! What about stalactites and stalagmites? Create some! Geography fair time? Let’s do it! The list can go on an on, but it’s also important to find a balance that works for you and your children.

Too many projects and experiments can lead to less broad learning, but much more in-depth learning. In-depth learning is a GOOD thing, just don’t forget to touch on the high points of some other topics as well. ¬†ūüôā

growing crystals balloon skewer project
We do a ton of book work from August through September when it’s still very hot outside. In October we usually start doing more hands-on learning and field trips. By the holidays we’re doing a combination of book work and hands-on projects, then the cycle starts all over again. When the weather is pleasant we enjoy hiking and outdoor experiments, but when the weather is oppressively hot and humid we do more book work and learning games than projects.

luke & brooke bookworkOver the past few years of homeschooling I’ve learned to try to balance out fun projects with book work (or seat work as some call it). Book work is necessary and not every aspect of homeschooling can be fun all the time.

I find that our children do their best work early in the morning. Once our main written subjects are finished we can move towards the more interactive subjects like music, art, science projects, etc.

What works for you and your children? Do your children have 1-2 big projects each year? Do they complete 4-6 smaller projects? Does what you do vary and just sort of go with what you are studying, the weather, and whatever whim you (or your children) happen to have at the moment? There is no right or wrong answer.¬†ūüôā

If your children are learning and you aren’t stressing out then say a prayer of thanks. Keep exploring and learning with your children as you watch the wonder in their eyes when they discover new things.


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Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers

ninjago insideMany children are intimidated at the thought of reading a chapter book, or any book¬†with more text per page. Being a reluctant reader does NOT mean they aren’t good at reading. It may be something as simple as finding a subject matter to grab their attention. For others it might be they are shy about reading aloud.

Regardless of the reason, I highly recommend trying a couple of graphic novels.

Definition from Wikipedia:

A¬†graphic novel¬†is a book made up of¬†comics¬†content. Although the word “novel” normally refers to long fictional works, the term “graphic novel” is applied broadly, and includes fiction, non-fiction, and anthologized work. It is distinguished from the term “comic book”, which is used for comics periodicals.

Our 3rd grader has been enjoying a mixture of graphic novels along with traditional books since the end of first grade. While some teachers and parents may frown at the idea of letting children read graphic novels, we think they are GREAT!

Below are some of my children’s favorite graphic novels. Click on a photo to purchase through Amazon. You may be able to find some of these at your local library as well.

lightning thief  warriors

ninjago  boxcarchildren

trojan horse  starwars

black beauty  owly

bone  binky

Another great thing about these graphic novels is many of them are part of a series. Find one your child likes? Let them read the others in the series!

Looking for more tips for a reluctant reader? Read my previous post “Getting Your Child to Want to Read”.

***This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for more info.


Posted by on October 26, 2013 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling


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Real Life… Learning Around Town

schoolwork waiting room

What does the term “homeschooling” mean to you? Do you picture a family sitting around the dining table with workbooks? Perhaps sitting on the couch reading and discussing a lesson together? These are both valid thoughts, however not every day has to be that way.

Some feel that “home education” would be a better term for what we do every day. BUT, even the term home education has the word “home” in it.

For our family, homeschooling is NOT about staying home and doing book-work all day. We have frequent dentist appointments, visits to the library, we take grandma to the hospital for outpatient procedures, and other time-consuming events which pull us away from home during the typical school hours.

dentist office work

On top of everything above I try to plan a fun day once a month. We take our books with us to either the park, Chick-fil-a, or Pete’s Party Castle (indoor play-place with obstacle course, slide, and arcade games).

My rule for these fun places is they must complete 20 minutes of work to get 20 minutes of playtime, then repeat. Feel free to adjust these times as fits best for your children. I certainly do!

Side note: for restaurants such as Chick-fil-a, make sure to go between their peak hours so you aren’t taking up a table from their other customers. I try to be courteous and aware of my surroundings. When the lunch crowd starts pouring in it’s time to leave.

Whether your family is visiting someone at the hospital, going to a doctor or dentist appointment, or perhaps visiting your spouse for lunch; education can happen anywhere.

book cafeschoolwork hospitalcounting bugles


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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Real Life


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Real Life… Teaching Around the Mess

real life mess3Have you ever been told, “Oh you homeschool? ¬†You must be really neat and organized.” Or perhaps you heard the popular, “I could never homeschool, I’m to scatter-brained.”

Anyone who truly knows me will understand the word “organized” doesn’t really fit me. Yes, I like to have a plan, but living with children means life is rarely organized.

Since so many blogs focus on the seemingly perfect lives of homeschoolers, I’m creating a Real Life series. This series of posts will focus on the un-organized and somewhat messy aspects of our homeschooling life.

Something to keep in mind while reading the Real Life… series. Our children are allowed to do their school work wherever they are most comfortable as long as they are actually working. Often they will choose to sit on the couch or sprawl out on the floor to do their work.

real life mess4  real life mess2

The above pictures are of the kitchen bar. It seems to constantly be a cluttered mess of finished artwork, Sunday school papers, and just-for-fun drawings. Though we do the majority of our lessons in the living room, the kitchen bar is where most of the paperwork and art projects end up.

I try to clear off the lower counter once a week, but life is busy and this is low on my priorities. Since we’re on a 6 weeks on, 3 days off cycle for our lessons, the children’s work area is cleaned and straightened roughly every 6 weeks.

real life mess5

This last picture is a glimpse of how our living room floor looks most week days.¬†I’d¬†like to be able to tell you it’s back to normal on the weekends, but this post is about being open and honest.

I usually stack up the books at the end of each day just so no one steps on them. More often than not the stack of books aren’t put away at all unless we’re expecting company.

I’m sure I’m not the only homeschooling mom who teaches around the mess. In addition to the clutter of homeschool books and papers, there are mounds of clean clothes waiting to be folded, a floor waiting to be vacuumed, and the list goes on.

I am unorganized, but the children are learning despite my imperfections.

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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Real Life


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Getting Your Child to WANT to Read

Getting children excited about reading isn’t always easy. ¬†More often than not there will be groaning and whining when you ask them to read a book. ¬†Here are some tips to help you encourage your children to read.

luke 8yrs reading

Our 8yr old during quiet reading time.

Set aside a specific time each day for quiet reading.¬†¬†It doesn’t have to be a¬†long time, just 10-20 minutes for young children, perhaps 30-40 minutes for older children. ¬†Be sure to set a timer, but if one of your children wants to keep reading, by all means let them! ¬†Try to have quiet reading time in the family room. This way it’s more of a family event and they can see you are reading a book (or magazine or newspaper) as well.¬†If your child isn’t reading yet, they can look at a picture book and practice turning the pages from left to right. ¬†You could also grab a book and read it aloud to them while any older siblings are reading to themselves.

Be excited about reading yourself!  Children catch on to excitement coming from their parents.  If you love to read and are seen often with a book in your hands then chances are much higher your children will also enjoy reading.

books luke can read

Example of easy readers geared towards late Kindergarten – early 1st Grade

Buy them age appropriate books. ¬†This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of children who don’t own any books geared towards their age or interest. ¬†Is your child into airplanes, cats or astronomy? ¬†Do they like mysteries, riddles, or ninjas? ¬†Don’t forget about graphic novels, because comic books count as books too! ¬†Browse the books on or at your local bookstore to see what is available for your child’s age-range and interests. ¬†Books make great birthday and Christmas presents and most children have plenty of toys and gadgets already.

Take your children to the library often. ¬†No matter how young your child is, PLEASE take them to the library. ¬†The library is a fascinating world full of books, magazines, audio books, DVDs and more. ¬†Most children love going, they just need a parent to be willing to take them. ¬†If you’re worried about your young child being too loud or disruptive, have them carry a toy and remind them BEFORE you enter the library that only whispers or very soft voices are used in the library.

Take turns reading aloud. ¬†Some children feel really overwhelmed when it comes to attempting to read a book. ¬†Explain that you’re going to read the book together, then take turns reading paragraphs or pages, whichever your child feels more comfortable doing. ¬†Often this will take the focus off of reading the book as a whole, but onto whose paragraph (or page) has the most words. ¬†Continue to take turns and when the book is finished (or your reading time is up) show your child how many pages you read together.

reading prizes

Some of our rewards for reading books.

Give rewards for reading books. ¬†I’m sure you’ve seen the different reading rewards programs where your child can read 6 books and get a free kids meal, pizza, or similar prize from a restaurant. ¬†These don’t always work for children because some children (like our son) don’t want the free kids meal, pizza or whatever the prize is if it means they have to read books. ¬†Talk to your children and come up with prizes in the $1 – $5 range that you know they would be willing to earn by reading books.

Some examples of prizes we’ve used in the past are small games, puzzles, deck of cards, yo-yos, lego mini-figures, and even more books! ¬†Our children are ages 8 & 5, so if you have older children these prizes may not be enough of a pull for them. ¬†Instead try offering a trip for frozen yogurt or to get doughnuts. ¬†I recommend that each small book (non-chapter book) be the equivalent of 50 cents, so a young child would need to read 2 books to get a $1 prize, or 6 books to get a $3 prize, and so on. ¬†For chapter books at the 2nd-3rd grade level I typically count them as being worth $2 each. Though we don’t pay them actual money for prizes (ours would rather have toys or books instead of the cash).

Best of luck and happy reading!

***This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for more info.

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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling


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Overlooked Benefits of Using the Library

The public library has sooo many resources to benefit homeschooling families.

  • phonics blendsEducational DVDs available to rent for FREE (science, history, math, phonics, foreign languages,
    and MUCH more)
  • Music CDs (classical, jazz, rap, country, gospel, etc.)
  • Kids InfoBits – Online resource of reference materials, magazines, newspapers, maps & flags, charts & graphs, images. ¬†(Use password = gulfcoast)
  • Mango – Learn a new language for FREE – up to 14 languages available
  • Inter-Library Loan (ILL)¬†– Looking for a particular book that your branch doesn’t have? ¬†What about a book not available at ANY of the local libraries? ¬†ILL services will try to locate a copy at other libraries across the southeast and have it shipped to the local library of your choice for only $2. ¬†This is very helpful for research and our family has used the ILL services many times.
  • Local History & Genealogy Services
  • Storytime¬†– geared towards children ages 2 – 6yrs.
  • Books on CD with read-along books (perfect for emerging readers)
  • Audio books – Taking a long ride in the car? ¬†Put a favorite book in the cd player. ¬†Everything from Magic Tree House or Beverly Cleary books to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games.
  • Non-fiction books – this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents only check out fiction books for their children.
  • Fiction books – Don’t forget to let your child check out graphic novels. ¬†Sometimes they just need a different format to grab their interest.
  • Computers to use while at the library with Magic Schoolbus and other popular learning games.

Popular Children’s Graphic Novels

I’ve heard some parents say they don’t like to take their children to the library because their children are so loud or difficult to handle. ¬†Let me just point out that if children aren’t taken to places where they need to talk softly and not run indoors then how are they ever going to learn these things? ¬†Avoiding the problem is very rarely the solution. ¬†If you’re a parent of 5 or more children under the age of 7 then I’ll give you some slack, but try to find the time to take the older children while someone babysits the younger ones.

Another reason parents seem to have for not going to the library is they just don’t know which books to check out. ¬†The solution is actually pretty simple. ¬†Go online. ¬†Search for books based on subject. ¬†Select the book you want and put it on hold. ¬†Choose which library you want the book sent to and generally it will arrive within 48hrs. ¬†You can also renew your books online.


Lastly, PLEASE allow your children to check out the books they want. ¬†Don’t stifle¬†their excitement over going to the library and looking at all those books by then telling them no they can’t check one out. ¬†There is a time and a place to tell your child no, but this isn’t it. ¬†If your young daughter wants an inch thick book because of the cat pictured on the cover let her get it. ¬†If your son chooses a book that you know is too difficult for him to read, let him get it anyway. ¬†Children are smarter than we give them credit for. ¬†They KNOW what they’re capable of reading. ¬†Sometimes they just want to look at the book. ¬†Yes, even if it doesn’t have any pictures other than the front cover. ¬†It’s important for children to love books. ¬†It’s not always about reading them. ¬†Sometimes it’s simply about looking at them, or holding them, or smelling them. ¬†(Yes, I said smelling them. ¬†If you read very often you know books have a smell.)

Try to schedule a trip to your local library at least once a month. ¬†Your children may turn into avid readers because of it and that’s never a bad thing.


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Keeping it Real – Changing the Pace and Being Flexible

children on aframeWell another year has come and gone. ¬†Once again I have learned many things along the way. ¬†I’ve learned to not push ahead when we’re having a bad day. ¬†Instead it’s better to change the pace and choose a different activity for a while. ¬†Some ways we do this are to play a board game, put together a jigsaw puzzle, do a simple art project, watch an educational show on DVD or Netflix (National Geographic and the History Channel have some great ones).

Another thing I’ve learned is to be more flexible. ¬†Home education requires quite a bit of flexibility because children bring many surprises to life. ¬†Children get sick, have dentist appointments, eye exams, and those dreaded injuries that require a doctor visit ASAP. ¬†(Earlier this year our 5 year old somehow stepped on a rusty nail that went through her shoe and cut her toe. ¬†We had to squeeze in a trip to the doctor for a tetanus booster into our already planned out day. ¬†She was fine, but better safe than sorry!)

Occasionally YOU, the teacher, will have a headache, lose your voice, or get the flu. ¬†These are the days it’s better to just smile, say a prayer, and lounge on the couch. ¬†The children might enjoy reading books to each other or watching National Geographic on these days. ¬†Our 8 year old will proudly tell anyone about the deadliest creatures in the world from watching “The Deadliest Dozen” many times on Netflix.

You may be wondering how to catch back up after taking time off for a prolonged illness, or too many hectic days where things didn’t go as planned. ¬†Well, first you need to think about what are you trying to “catch back up” to? ¬†Are you trying to keep pace with your local public or private school? ¬†If so why? ¬†Are you trying to finish a specific book or curriculum before the end of the school year? ¬†The beauty of home education is you can set your own schedule and even teach year-round if you want.

color puzzleOne thing to keep in mind is the first couple of chapters of the next book will often review what was learned the previous year. ¬†No matter how long you take for a summer break, keep reading to each other and keep talking to your children about all sorts of topics. ¬†Discussing new vocabulary they come across in a book, places you visit, and situations as they occur are all part of the process of learning. ¬†Children are ALWAYS learning, whether you are actively teaching them or not. ¬†Take advantage of this by giving them materials geared towards their interests. ¬†Take the time to answer their billions of questions or point them towards the resources with the answers. ¬† ūüôā


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