Posted in Homeschooling, Work & Life

What About Homeschooling?

A couple of weeks ago, I shared about the homeschooling side of my organizational system. But, you have probably noticed that I rarely write about homeschooling.

It’s odd, I admit. Homeschooling is such a huge part of my life. I was homeschooled through most of my childhood, and now I’m in my eleventh year of teaching my own children. So, why does it not figure dramatically into my writing? Well, there are a few reasons.

First, I am not really the hands-on, photograph worthy homeschool mom that you might see on Twitter, Pinterest, and in the great bloggy world. Yes, I’m comparing myself, and I am not that mom. Oh, we have done some of those things in the past. I do have posts on the family blog of the elementary years displaying outings, projects, and funny moments. And, there are sometimes blog worthy moments even now that they are older. But, now that the kids are older, those picture perfect moments have grown fewer and farther between because my kids do not fit that homeschool model either. Books fill their love for learning, but pictures of kids sitting around reading book after book after book tend to get a little old.

Second, we’re strange. What works for us does not work for many other people. Maybe even most other people! (Again, rather obvious from social media and the blog world.) So, I actively refrain from writing about what we do as if it’s THE way to homeschool. It’s not. It’s just our way to homeschool.

Finally, I love to encourage and mentor other homeschoolers, but I’m a one-on-one kind of person. If you have questions, I’d love to sit down face to face or over e-mail and talk through them with you. I’d love to help you discover what will work best for you and how to get the most out of your homeschooling. A blog post does not accomplish that. Not in the least. Mostly because I can’t hear your questions and respond according to your unique needs.

There’s a Problem, Though

All of this leaves me bothered about something. You see, there are a gazillion homeschool bloggers out there. Think I’m kidding? Get on Twitter and search #homeschool. Then, begin following everyone that pops up. But, as you follow, make sure to look through and follow all of the recommendations connected to each new account you follow. It keeps going and going and going and going and going! And all of them have plenty to share about their homeschool experience.

And that bothers me. Not because they are sharing what works for them (I applaud that part!), but because their posts often – and usually very unintentionally – leave other moms like me (and maybe you) feeling like failures because we cannot make that same system work. Or because we have never taught this topic or insisted on those lessons. Or because we don’t do all of those creative, hands-on projects. We come away with the feeling that, no matter how exhausted we already are as we try to fit everything in, we have to make sure to fit in this one more thing or we’ll be leaving incurable gaps in our children’s growth and education.

That, my friends, is a lie. And many of the homeschool bloggers out there would be mortified to discover that they in any way contributed to that lie.

I work with a team of amazing homeschoolers. Each of us has homeschooled a different way. We prioritize differently, and our children are all developing differently. But words cannot express just how much I have learned from my amazing coworkers through the years. They encourage me, exhort me, and share their wisdom with me. How I love it!

That is what homeschool community is meant to be. And, that is actually what the blog and social media world can be to all of us, if we know how to navigate it and sort through the massive amount of information flowing our way.

So, I have decided to start writing more about homeschooling. Not necessarily about what works for me, but more about how we can navigate this huge, intimidating, but potentially helpful community that is the world wide web of homeschooling. And I would love to hear your questions! Is there anything you want to know about homeschooling or navigating the online community? Any general homeschool questions that you have never known how or where to ask? I’d love to hear from you! Either comment below or click on the Connect with Me tab at the top and send me a message. I’d love to connect with you over a little homeschool chatter!

Posted in Homeschooling, What Works for Me, Work & Life

The Planner in Me: Homeschool

I’m a planner. I’ve always loved calendars and planners and getting things all lined out! Recently, my husband wrote a blog post outlining what he uses for schedule and organization. When I shared it on social media, I mentioned that I would outline my own system soon.

My system actually started with success on the homeschool planning front first. I have tried many, many planners and organizational systems over the years, both for homeschooling and for life. All of them kinda sorta worked, but each one left something to be desired. Then, I ran across a huge discount on a planner that only had a few months of life left in it. That was early 2011; it was also my very first Well Planned Day planner. Later that year I would become a volunteer reviewer for the Well Planned Gal, the creator of the planner. But for the time being, I was just trying out a planner I’d never heard of from a company I was only vaguely familiar with.

And I was hooked.

This gal who had tried one planner after another and rarely been diligent with any single planning system had suddenly found the one homeschool planner that truly worked. And now, six years later, I actually get to help make them! Why yes, I do love my job.

Ahem…back to the task at hand. So, why do I love Well Planned Day so much? Well, it accomplishes what I had always looked for before. It allows me to lay out assignments on a weekly basis in a large, roomy format. For even greater ease of use, I keep a colorful array of Frixion pens on hand. (Yes, they really do erase well – very important for when the schedule needs to be tweaked.) Each child has a color of their own, then there is a separate color for things I do with each child. When each assignment has been graded, I write the grade beside the assignment. Then I highlight the assignment, leaving the grade un-highlighted until I have entered it.

So, where do I enter the grade? Well, that’s part two of my homeschool planning system. You see, I don’t like to plan on paper more than a week or two in advance because of all of the little things that pop up and require us to change the plan. But, I do like to have a handle on the whole school year. That’s why I also use My Well Planned Day, an online planning software. I lay out the entire school year online, then I can tweak it as needed each week. It saves me a ton of time and allows me to stay on top of where we are. And, it’s a great place to keep grades, which is especially helpful now that I have a high school student who will need a transcript soon. Oh, and the best part is that the girls each have their own login. So, they can get on, pull each day’s assignments, and make notes in their own student and high school planners. In the next couple of years, I’ll teach Steven how to do the same thing.

What’s neat about it all is that I got to spend last weekend showing other homeschool parents what works for me. I helped Rebecca the Well Planned Gal, aka my boss, man her booth at the Ft. Worth Great Homeschool Convention. Yes, I was working. But, the whole time I was also getting to share what works for me (and getting to spend time with my amazing boss!). What works for me doesn’t work for everyone, and I was quick to admit that this weekend. It’s fun, though, to know that I get to be a part of sharing the system that I love!

Next week I’ll share what I use for everything beyond homeschooling.

Posted in Faith Nuggets

Willing to Work

I find it funny when people say, “Oh, I could never do _________. I’m not ________ enough.” Go ahead – just fill in the blank. You just might be able to remember at time when you have said just such a thing. I know I can!
As is frequently the case, God has used both life in general and my children specifically to make me completely rethink my “I could never” statements. Take my oldest child, for instance.

No Outlet

For years I have marveled at the stories floating around in my daughter’s mind. She is so incredibly creative, and she has concocted entire worlds in her imagination. For years, I tried to figure out how to get those worlds out of her head and into a form that she could share with others. When she was little, I had this notion that, as soon as she learned how to write, she would be able to keep a journal and just write everything out. When she finally did learn how to write, however, it didn’t take long for that notion to crumble.

The physical act of writing proved to be excruciatingly tedious for my sweet girl. She could draw all day long. But handwriting was a completely different story. She hated it. And I finally accepted the fact that my sweet girl would never write. She finally accepted that it was okay to hate writing, even though she needed to learn the basic skills involved. But when it came to those stories, I was determined to not give up. We would just have to get them on paper another way.

Discovery

Fast forward a few years. As my daughter grew older, she learned a new skill: typing. Or keyboarding. Or whatever it is called these days. She learned how to push the letter keys on a computer keyboard in quick succession to cause letters and words to appear on a computer screen, an action that opened a whole new world to her. And created quite a shock for her mother!

First, she wrote a nearly perfect book report without help. Then, single-paragraph writing assignments for school became easier for her.

But it didn’t stop there! I nearly fell out of my chair the day she said, “Mommy, I got to write three paragraphs in language arts today!”

Got to? GOT to? Whatever happened to “had to”?

It got better still. She followed that statement up with, “It was fun!” I almost cried.

A few days later, I walked into the living room to see her propped up before a laptop, tapping away.

“What are you doing?” I asked, curious.

“Writing a fantasy novel,” came her matter-of-fact reply. Later than night she asked me to help her set a daily writing goal. Yes, that time I really did cry.

Work for It!

My child thought she hated to write. But she discovered she just needed the right avenue through which to do it.
All of us have dreams and talents. But, we often find ourselves limited when it comes to actually turning those dreams into reality or utilizing those talents. So, we hole up. Or give up. Or push it all down. We neglect to fight for those dreams. We refuse to push for ways to express our talents. We are unwilling to think outside the box.
Scripture is full of evidence that God is not limited by normalcy. Story after story reveals how He worked creatively, uniquely, and unexpectedly in the lives of biblical heroes. The incredible reality is that you and I are no different. Were our talents and dreams to be fulfilled through normal ways, how often would we give glory to our Creator? But, when He makes us turn to Him for a creative solution, He is glorified as the world watches what only He can accomplish through us.

I have been privileged to read some of my daughter’s novel and peruse several related short stories. It is so obvious to me that God made no mistake when He created an incredibly imaginative child who hated to write. She had to blossom. She had to push. And now, she loves writing more than she ever would have had she not had to work for it.
What are you willing to work for?

Posted in Marriage

The Way We Think

As homeschooling has developed and grown over the years, many families have discovered a fantastic reality: school doesn’t always have to look like school! Homeschoolers have the beautiful freedom to tailor an education to a single child. This fall, I don’t have to walk my youngest through fourth grade the same way I taught his older sisters. By the time my seventh grader reaches her sophomore year of high school, the practical details of her daily work load will shape up very differently than it will with my oldest this year, even if they take the exact same courses!

To accomplish this customization, I have spent years exploring learning styles and special needs. Processing every bit of information I’ve taken in – even information about needs none of my children have – I’ve been able to explore what does and does not work for each child. And, I learn something new every single year. It’s a journey of constant discovery, and exploring how they learn has allowed me to get to know my children in a very precious way.

Learning Styles & Marriage

For some reason, though, until recently I have never really contemplated how learning styles affect marital relationships. It’s not that I haven’t pondered the way my husband learns, especially the ways his mental processing differs from mine. I have. That sort of observation just comes naturally to me, so I’ve observed his learning style for years and marveled at our differences. But, although you’d think it obvious for someone like me to make the connection, I have never really reflected on how our learning differences have impacted our marriage, for good or for ill.

Fortunately, even if I haven’t reflected on that impact, I have automatically responded to it over the years.

Consider these realities:

– How we learn affects how we present information. If we learn best through picture or illustration, we will use as much illustration as possible when passing information on to others. If we are more black and white, then we will be direct and pack as much information as possible into a short amount of speech.
– We receive what others are communicating based on the way our brains process information. Consider the presentation thoughts and turn them around. How would you receive information offered by someone who presents differently than you do?
– Misunderstandings often arise based on differences in mental processing, sometimes resulting in fights and anger simply because of communication differences.

Now, stop and think for a moment. How do you process information? How do you explain what you’re thinking? How does that compare to your spouse’s methods of processing and communication?

Here’s another point to ponder. Does your spouse communicate and process with you the same way he does with other people?

All of these thoughts and realizations rained down on me just recently as I described something I was thinking to my husband. He doesn’t need word pictures, but I do. And, on so many occasions, he has patiently listened as I’ve described my word pictures in detail, processing out loud as I try to explain to him what I’m thinking. Meanwhile, another recent conversation made me realize that he’s comfortable communicating with me in ways that he does not communicate with others, leading to unique discussion situations that do not occur anywhere else in his life. So, I have to evaluate our private conversations differently than I do our public conversations.

Oh, what an impact his patience and my discernment – or lack thereof on both accounts – have on our marriage!

There is no single solution for effective communication in marriage. But, when we make the effort to have a well-rounded understanding of our spouses and their personalities, our ability to communicate with one another can grow by leaps and bounds.