Homeschooling and the Gift of Time

Back in 2007, while watching Meet the Robinsons with my family, I got choked up hearing “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas. Before I knew the actual title, I thought it was called “These Small Hours,” because it was all about time—how we spend it, how we look back on it, how our memories are made of it.

Our lives are made

In these small hours

These little wonders

These twists and turns of fate . . .

For many years, I took time for granted in our homeschooling. We were homeschoolers, we always had homeschooled, and I didn’t know any differently. But when two of my sons entered (and one later left) the public school system, I began to greatly appreciate the gift of time that homeschooling had provided to us. And time, as most of us in the modern world would agree, is precious—precious like gold or diamonds, to be treasured and protected.

Time in the morning and in the evening

This is an immediate, everyday way that homeschoolers receive the gift of time. When you homeschool, morning time and evening time belong to you and your family, not to a school bus schedule or a homework to-do list. Teenagers can sleep in, past the usual ultra-early required rising time of most high schoolers, at a time in their lives when they need sleep the most.

And, glory be—there is no homework. Ever. You might think that “no homework” would be a blessing to the kids alone, but you’d be wrong. It’s a tremendous blessing to parents and the whole rest of the family, as well. Perhaps there are some children who cheerfully and willingly tackle their homework each night, without arguments, without tears, without whole-family stress. I wouldn’t know. I do know that when I pulled my youngest out of school 3/4 of the way through fourth grade, the most wonderful, freeing thing about that decision (for both of us, I think) was never again having to deal with or even say the words “math homework” or “reading log.”

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Welcome to the Annual Mid-August Homeschool Mom Freak-Out

Every year for many years now, my August experience has been the same.

I start the summer joyfully (as do whichever of my kids are being homeschooled at the time, even the poor older guinea pigs I subjected to minor “summer math and reading” in early years—sorry, kids). I’m full of hope, relaxed expectation, and plans for catching up on all the things I had no time for during the school year. I even have a list of what I intend to accomplish in all of the “free time” I’m going to have.

During June and July, I continue my work as a freelance writer and editor, but with more flexibility than during the rest of the year. I begin my work day at 8:00, 9:00, whenever I want … and end when I feel like ending. Afternoons are spent with appointments, catching up on paperwork, visiting friends, fun family activities, trying new recipes, or writing for this blog. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and flip my days, doing the fun stuff first and working later. But every day is full, and in a good way.

And then August arrives. Even now, when I’m down to just one high schooler, I start feeling little twitches of anxiety during the last week of July. Then the calendar rolls over and I’m officially facing the Final Weeks of Summer Vacation.

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Homeschooling · Parenting

Homeschool to Public School … and (Sometimes) Back Again

Tips on making the transition when you’re considering public school

We’re an 85.9% homeschool family (I did the math). We started out intending to be a 100% homeschool family, and in my heart I’m a 100% homeschooling mom, but Child #3 and Child #4 required different approaches to their education, so we’re going to end up at 85.9% overall. Kids will throw you a curve ball like that sometimes.

During the time that I was considering other schooling options for my two out-of-the-homeschool-box boys, I searched in vain for real-life experiences, examples, walk-throughs—anything to guide me in uncharted territory or even just encourage me in taking these huge steps into the unknown. I couldn’t find much, so now that I’ve walked this path myself—twice, in two different ways—I decided to write about it in order to help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

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Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 2

In my previous post, I explained how and why you can use Norman Rockwell paintings as resources to teach social skills and inference to kids on the spectrum, as well as neurotypical (NT) kids. I also provided a walk-through of a lesson based on one of Rockwell’s early paintings.

In this post, I’ll go into more detail on the kinds of questions to ask your child, what to anticipate during the lesson, and what to do about a resistant child or one who seems to be in over his head.

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Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 1

How to use classic illustrations to teach social skills to kids on the spectrum.

For many years in our homeschool, we did “artist/composer study” every Friday, studying one person each month. For most of those years, we simply focused on the artist’s life and their most important works. But when I was teaching my youngest, I realized an amazing thing during our study of Norman Rockwell: his paintings are incredible teaching tools for developing social skills and inference for kids who struggle in this area. And as a bonus, they’re really fun to talk about.

Both this post and the next are for the benefit of those who are homeschooling a child on the spectrum, as well as those who teach or provide social skills therapy for kids with ASD, or want to use these techniques with neurotypical (NT) kids just for the fun of it.

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Creating Your Own Middle or High School Bible Curriculum

Looking for tips and suggestions on creating a homeschool Bible (or Bible-related) class for your high schooler or middle schooler? Read on to see many of my favorite suggestions for a wide range of students, including a great Bible you may never have heard of, other books at all reading and interest levels, and miscellaneous ideas to round out your Bible class.

After I graduated two students from homeschool with credits in Biblical Studies 1 and 2, I thought I had my Bible plan in place. But after a gap of several years, I was back to square one, needing to develop a different high school Bible curriculum for my youngest. One of the great advantages of homeschooling is that you can (and should, if needed!) adapt your plan for each individual child, according to their abilities and interests. I kept some elements of what I had used before, but I also needed a new approach this time around, taking into account my son’s naturally inquisitive nature and lower tolerance for long readings than his siblings at that age.

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Schooling Uncertainty 2020: Homeschool Edition

Going into this year (so long ago now…), we all thought that Decision 2020 was going to be about casting our vote for President of the United States on November 3. Silly us. That decision pales in comparison to the difficulty of determining what school will look like for our kids this fall.

I really feel for my friends with kids in public school who are struggling right now with near-daily emails from their districts, changing policies, unhappy teachers and parents, food insecurity or health issues, the challenge of working full-time yet having their kids at home, and (for some) being suddenly plunged into the homeschool world willingly or unwillingly, for a wide variety of reasons.

As a long-time homeschooler (beginning my 20th year), you would think that this whole stay-at-home thing would be a piece of cake by now. That COVID would be a mere blip on the radar of our usual days of homeschooling. But the chaos that this virus has unleashed has been difficult for homeschoolers as well.

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DIY Copywork for Early Elementary

When my kids were young, we mostly followed the Charlotte Mason approach to education: literature-based schooling, short lessons, lots of nature study, and frequent copywork, among other things. For the most part, I kept this pattern for all four of my children, through their many differences in enthusiasm for school, attention spans, and abilities in each area of learning. I quickly discovered that I didn’t need a formal language arts program at all until mid-elementary years, thanks in part to the practice of Do-It-Yourself Copywork.

In its most basic form, copywork hones important skills like attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, “keeping your place” while reading, remembering, and writing, learning new things (depending on what you’re copying), and of course, handwriting/fine motor skills practice. These are all foundational skills for early elementary education and easily accomplished when the passage being copied is high-interest and personalized for the student.

The copywork method I used for first grade appealed to all of my children, no matter what their ability level or personal interests. It was effective because it was customized for each child—some sentences were used for all children, and some were tweaked or completely rewritten depending on the child. This might sound like a lot of work for the teacher, but in fact it was one of the most enjoyable lesson planning activities of my homeschooling years! The DIY aspect forced me to think carefully about each child as I wrote sentences just for them, depending on their likes and dislikes, what was going on in their life at the time, their high-interest areas, etc. I highly recommend this copywork method not only as an effective educational tool for children, but as an interesting activity for the teacher that helps you get to know your children better!

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Homeschooling · Reading

The “How to Raise a Reader” Myth

I’m an avid reader. I own a couple of thousand books, I read almost every day (for fun), and I’ve been like this my whole life. When I was a little girl, I spent breakfast time reading every box and bag in the kitchen, I read during recess at school, and I was often admonished to “take my nose out of a book” to look at the scenery on car trips.

I married a man who reads almost as much as I do and owns even more books. When we had children, they were all raised in a house full of books, used literature-based learning for school, saw their parents reading often, and were read aloud to until they were teens every single school day. We read really good books, too—fun and interesting books that everybody liked. So naturally, they all grew up to be readers, right?


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