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Looking Back Things I’ve Learned From Our First Year Homeschooling

” I have lots of plans.” Or so I thought!  Whether your are here for the free Master List of Free Online Resources ( which will be offered in the pop up) , the free PDF of over 65 field trip ideas for all my fellow PA people ( skip to the end if that’s all you wanted), because you enjoy reading of first year homeschooling adventures or perhaps you are thinking of homeschooling and want to get ahead of the curve by reading up on things to pay attention to or things to avoid… it’s all right here!

Let me start this by saying we are officially done!  Woohoo! Summer is upon us and school is over the boxes are checked and papers signed.  So now that we have made it here through the tears and the threatening to return to school and the days where Netflix made our school day I can go back to the beginning and evaluate our journey this first year.  Let me also preface this post by saying to all those veteran homeschooling families out there that I by no means have it figured out, as most any homeschooling parent will admit.  Even though I have “big plans” for our next year I know that things will change, different challenges will arise, and we will inevitably fumble our way through them and hopefully still come out loving each other on the other side!

So some things that looking back I didn’t know, or these ideas weren’t helpful to us. And for those that don’t really like to read I made this simple by numbering them so you can just skim the numbers if you like. I will also then address how I am doing things differently for our next school year below.

  1. Not Enough Planning. Yes this sounds like a no brainer  that you must plan, but for me with not having my summer to make my school plans and not knowing what to expect… I decided once I had the curriculum before me ( we did it eclectic style with mixing some unit and family studies in) that I would sit down (a week before school which was when I found the time) and plan!  Man was that a bad idea.  I had no idea what to do.  So after coming up with a schedule that looked very much like a highs school students daily schedule and writing the lessons down I wanted to cover I called it good, packed everything up and said ” I really have no idea how to pace things so I am just going to see how these first two weeks go then I’ll plan out from there.” This is unrealistic for me.  By the time Friday rolled around I was so done with school and now that I had a day job (teacher) I needed to figure out how to balance my wife, mom and homemaker duties. I didn’t feel like grading papers ( SO MANY PAPERS) or lesson planning by the time the weekend hit.
  2. Too Worried About Getting The Days In. We need to complete 180 school days just like everyone else.  When I sat down with my schedule and compared it to the days the regular schools took off for vacation and in service days let alone snow days or just the regular holidays I went mad thinking we will be doing school until the end of June.  So while I did do a good thing in knowing that with our long grey winter I want to have some days around February to just take off I really was very rigid with our days.  Not allowing the joy of homeschooling to take place with our schedule.  I was so focused on the work and days that we actually finished before I realized it! A full 2 weeks before local schools were finished.  The thing about homeschool is that because our days can be shorter I would often not take advantage of that and if we had a field trip that only took half a day I would still make the kids do their work for the other half!  This rigid schedule didn’t allow for the fun of going places when we want to investigate something further, or to participate in a lot of activities which included other kids.  I would count this as number so let’s get into that a little more.
  3. Not Enough Social Time. While my son didn’t mention it much and my youngest doesn’t know what school was every like. I still know it was missed.  My middle child, the social butterfly, stated that was the only thing she missed about regular school was seeing her friends everyday.  Now since we live on the outskirts of town in the country she doesn’t have friends that live close by. But that is definitely an area we look to improve on next year.  They did get to socialize at least once a week all year long but going from a daily to a once a week is a big difference.
  4. Other unnecessary things. So here we are just at the broad category of things I will eliminate.
    1. “Brain breaks.”  These did not get utilized once! The kids didn’t want to pick a popsicle stick with a ‘fun’ activity on it they just wanted 5 minutes to go outside or color a picture.  Letting them have the breaks they choose is a much better idea.
    2. Tons of extra books and pinterest pins.  Again unless I plan something beforehand using one of these extra resources just having them sitting in the cupboard they didn’t get used once.  Perhaps you are different from me in this area but I would rather eliminate the clutter of extra books and only use what I have planned.
    3. School desks.  Now this is to each their own, however my kids ended up not using their school desks at all so we eliminated them.  Since our house is already limited on space with no designated school room; my kids would rather sit at the dining room table, with its cushioned chairs, than sit on the hard wood or metal chairs with their desks.  So away with the school desks.  Now sitting around the house would be in the office, on the futon, on the couch, on the floor, at the side table, at the dining table.  If there was a lack of focus while one was sitting on the couch then to the table they went.

Ok now onto our BIG CHANGES for next school year.

  1.  Starting our year in the summer.  Summer field trips, days where we work on a science experiment or the kids do a math lesson and read etc…. Being able to count these days as part of our required school days is such a blessing and will allow more freedom next year in our schedule.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan. Again the no brainer but now I know what I need to do for me. At least I think I do… talk to me again at the end of next school year.  So what this practically looks like.  Math and Grammar are pretty easy we do these everyday just follow along with the next lesson.  However pre planning our lessons ( for the year) in science, history, and art is going to eliminate the hard work of doing this later.  Since I do not want a rigid schedule I am not planning lessons out for specific days but rather knowing what the next lesson is going to be when we need to do it. This includes having all the materials on hand.  I love art and we sadly did not do as much as I wanted last year because of the planning and buying of materials.  So already this year I have all of our art lessons planned out, every item printed out, and I am now working on buying up all the materials for every lesson we need ( this is great because I can use coupons since I am buying things slowly until the start of school). The same goes for our history activities, supplemental activities, science experiments etc.  Anything that need to be had on will be here and the corresponding lessons are all done and filed in an expanding file.
  3. Self grading.  Yes… Why did I not think of this sooner!  Our oldest is old enough to learn the lesson of integrity when it comes to grading his own papers and with two other children I am schooling this helps the mound of papers.  Last year we did this for the final week of school with my sons math.  Once he completed a lesson he then graded it and would go back through without the answer key to redo the ones he missed. This was so helpful because then he wasn’t getting behind on his corrections because mom didn’t get to it!  This year we are changing our math curriculum and since its computer based it will grade itself immediately ( what what!)
  4. Reading corner.  We tried the cute on the floor with pillows and string lights thing but it didn’t really get utilized.  They would rather sit on the futon or the couch to read so while this didn’t work I am excited o get one of those big round chairs to have a comfy place for them to sit that’s just for reading!

Things that we will be keeping for next year because they worked so well this year.

  1. Prize Box.  The kids absolutely loved this.  I kept all prizes around $1 so it wasn’t expensive to throw in some new things.  They liked the rubber ducks, small notepads, packs of sixlets ( from the baking isle at Walmart), sticky hands, noise making putty etc. We have a rewards sticker program.  Each child has their sticker bookmark on the fridge.  They can get a sticker for completing a reading book, or for doing exceptional work, this could be their handwriting or their grades, even having a go getter attitude and getting their work done!
  2. A candy dish somewhere special.  I got this cute apple candy dish which I kept on the computer desk and I had it filled with individual candies ( such as Hershey kisses or peanut butter cups) all the time.  The kids loved this little pick me up. They would usually only ask when they were at the computer working on typing or watching one of their videos.  It wasn’t something that got abused so we will be bringing this little treat back next year
  3. Charts.  The charts hanging on our cupboard door were definitely utilized.  Having a preschooler and 1st grader we used the alphabet, number chart, manuscript and cursive charts, as well as the money chart a lot.  Since we don’t have a blackboard or a large whiteboard on the wall anywhere or having to take on and set it up somewhere we also had a dry erase poster chart that we used as our blackboard when we needed one.
  4. “School activity” for the littles. During the times where our youngest or even my two younger children needed a break or were not doing schoolwork but my son still needed to focus it was great having quite educational activities for them to pull out and play with.  These included:
    1. Marble Maze
    2. Pipe builders
    3. Modeling clay and play dough
    4. Puzzles
    5. Dinosaur alphabet

It feels like a whirlwind and there are so many other things that I know I either forgetting or not including here for the sake of time.  Thankfully we all came our of year one still loving each other and looking forward to next year!  I will share more about our homeschool adventures in the future but comment below with any questions or let me know if you would be interested in our art plan for the year!

Here is the list of field trip ideas in PA and some in your local area!

Field Trips PA

Easy 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

 

This is a great quick and easy cookie recipe!  It’s kid friendly so they can help with this one (an adult should always supervise when using a mixer).  Bonus this recipe is gluten free and you probably have what you need in the cupboard right now to make these.  This fact also makes it a super life saver for those unexpected visitors so you can offer them a homemade treat!

I love peanut butter cookies but I never take the time to make them because it’s just not one of those cookies that I want to put the work into.  However these taste just like the ones with all the flour and baking soda and salt and every other ingredient that you just simply don’t need!  These guys come together in a matter of minutes… the longest time is waiting for the oven to preheat!  You will have these cookies ready to go in the oven by the time it is preheated.  I am not one for long introductions as I usually skip them and get right to the recipe because..well, if you’re like me and you’re searching for something to make you’re either hungry and ready to get baking or waning to get to the store to make sure you have all the ingredients! So lets get baking.

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 10m
  • Total Time: 15m
  • Yield: 1 1/2 Dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar + extra for rolling cookies in
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Stir together all three ingredients ( I like to use a mixer to really make sure the sugar is well mixed in) until well combined
  4. Roll cookies into a ball ( using a cookie scoop makes this easier)
  5. Roll each cookie into extra sugar, then place on cookie sheet and press with a fork once vertically and once horizontally to flatten and create traditional pb cookie pattern.
  6. Bake at 350° for 8-10 min or until set.
  7. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 min then cool completely to wire rack. Cookies will be firm once cooled completely but should be set when they come out of the oven

 

 

 

Prone To Wander

‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Bind my wandering heart to thee.’

The verses of this song ring so true. I am prone to leave the God I love. This is not something I, or you, suffer from alone. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 he states “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We know that our flesh and spirit are at war with each other to keep us from doing what we want to do. Galatians 5:17

But we are not lost and left there. Wandering. In the verse prior (Galatians 5:16) it says to walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

George Müller said the first business of the day was to have his soul happy in God. –So how do we do this? He goes on to answer that by saying– the food for the inner-man is the word of God. (paraphrased) 

We must be nourishing our souls with the food of His word.  In order to stand firm in the promises of God we must know them. To be able to dwell with a happy heart in God we must know Him deeply and intimately and know His promises. 2Peter 1:3-4 says “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who calls us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His previous and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”[emphasis mine]

So we see that we must walk by the Spirit. The other verse in this song so sweetly says “bind my wandering heart to thee”

As a believer you are bound to Christ. It says in Galatians 2:20 ” I have been crucified with Christ so it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…John 15:4 “abide in me and I in you…”v5“…whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.” How sweet to see that we are in Him and it is Him who dwells in us.

In Colossians we see time and time again the words in Him. Colossians 2:6 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” Brothers and sisters we have received Christ so we need to walk in Him. We must be rooted in the Word, nourishing our souls so that we stand firm in Him and when we are prone to wander because of our flesh, we cling to the faith established in us and feast on His word through that time instead of leaving the One we love.

 

Come Thou Fount- Robert Robinson 1757

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh, that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Clothed then in the blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy wondrous grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Take my ransomed soul away
Send Thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above