Tag Archives: lesson prep

Simple tips to keep you really focused this year

Since executive function is the major goal for my students this year, it seems only right that I practice what I’m preaching.  I’m usually pretty good but I found a new tool to incorporate into MY year to help make it even better and be sure I don’t let something major fall off my radar…

Continue reading Simple tips to keep you really focused this year


When you’re homeschooling a six-year-old (and under)

Mamas… So help me homeschooling a 6yo has got to be the worst thing ever.  There aren’t any cool classes available because all of the ones they could do last year were targeted to kids who were MAYBE taking the kindergarten year at home (and they were the upper end of the “age range” for the class.  They’re not yet 7–when some classes open up for the “obviously being homeschooled”/age of compulsory education (in most states).  Kids also go through a cognitive developmental milestone at 7 that changes their understanding of the world (and how they take in information).

But 6… Six just sucked.  So what to do for kids who are 6 (and under)?  Here are the MANY IMPORTANT THINGS you need to teach kids 7 and under (and over, too, if you need to make up for lost time).  And no, it’s not “Don’t do anything!  Just play!”  I assure you–there are things kids need to learn…

Continue reading When you’re homeschooling a six-year-old (and under)

Focus on forgotten fundamentals: exposure and experiences

So often I find myself wondering what to do and how to facilitate learning at the direction of my children and in the last year, I have struggled most with Girly.

And it’s kind of stupid because for one, she TOLD me what she wants. All I needed to do was follow. I didn’t. So that was the first mistake to correct. Continue reading Focus on forgotten fundamentals: exposure and experiences

Dads homeschool, too

It usually falls on the mom’s shoulders to homeschool.  But around here, Papa has been taking a hand in the homeschooling.   As I type this, he’s reading instructions for writing assignments from Tapestry of Grace (Year 1, week 2, level 5 if you’re following)

“This week, organize your thoughts for pre-writing two specific writing genres by completing two graphic organizers.  What does that MEAN?  I mean, I know what all of the words in the sentence mean on their own; but when they put them together in this order, it doesn’t make sense to me.”  He then bangs his first two fingers on each hand together and says “hashtag homeschooldad”

Truly, even in my house–the edumacating has always been Mama’s responsibility.  At some point I told Husbeau that he needed to step up and start doing bedtime stories (and that I could tell him which ones he should use to coincide with stuff we were learning or things I wanted the kids to experience) but that totally never happened.

Homeschool moms face a lot of the same situations and emotions as stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) of all kinds.  Dad is off all day working (sometimes at a job he doesn’t love, and in a subset of those cases–with resentment for the mama that’s staying home and not having to deal with it).  Culturally, we have undervalued parenting as “work”–so SAHMs are loathe to load any MORE work onto the husband.  In the case of homeschool moms that are doing any level of prescribed academics, we at least feel like we’re doing WORK; but some of those moms are dealing with husbands who are barely supporting the decision to homeschool.  So those moms dare not say “I worked all day, too!” lest their husband reply with “Well then put them in school and go do a job that brings in money!”.

None of this is my situation.  However, I see it often enough.  Not even just with homeschooling, but with all kinds of life and parenting choices where a husband and wife aren’t on the same page.  It’s hard.

But I digress… (because “me”)

Papa is still on this tangent of getting up early with BigGuy and we’re just hitting a point where BigGuy has actual work to do that Papa needs to be engaged in.  It’s getting interesting, folks.  BigGuy has started really looking forward to their time together in the mornings, too.  That’s no small feat since this morning it was FUH-REE-ZING and the day before it was raining.  And today, Mama mistakenly told BigGuy he could have his electronics and Papa nailed him on not doing graphic organizers… and then they sat together and worked through it.  Wow… my husband seriously rocks.

For the rest of you, here are some things you can potentially offload to Papa:

  • Read alouds masked as bedtime stories (or after dinner stories instead of TV shows)
  • Science experiments (maybe on the weekends–try this cute kit of 20 experiments with supplies!).
  • Building stuff (also maybe on the weekends or in steps on different nights)
  • Physical education/activities
  • Watching documentaries together
  • Socratic discussion (picking apart something they’ve learned or read)

Or really, just have your kids help dad with whatever and have dad make it a learning experience for them.

Yes, yes… everyone needs a break and a rest.  But guess what?  We’re a family.  Doing stuff together counts.

As I sit, planning the week…

It’s Sunday night.  Girly is out cold and Papa is giving BigGuy some reiki (more power to him because I’m so completely unable to wrap my head around that stuff).

Every Sunday night we have a family meeting.  The agenda is like this:

  1. What happened last week
  2. What is happening this week
  3. Old business
  4. New business
  5. Money stuff
  6. Something wonderful my family did for me
  7. Something wonderful I did for my family
  8. Comments/questions about anything anyone needs to talk about

As we went through item #2, Papa noted that he goes back to work this week and BigGuy jumped on the end of that with “and we start to do REAL schoolwork this week”.  I looked at my husband–whose eyebrows denoted his equal surprise.  He asked my son “Haven’t you already done ‘real’ schoolwork?” and I then took over so as to make my life a lot easier and said “Well, we’ve been figuring things out this August and then you had vacation; but we’re ready to get down to business now.” (I GUESS!!  *whew*  Nice save, Mama!)

But of course, now the pressure is on.  On ME!  GEESH!  This kid is no joke!  He wants to do some serious learning and I need to move my ass and get to it.  I just seriously cannot figure out how to accommodate Girly!  Ugh… I need to get it together.  I think I’m going to photocopy some of the pages from the Ancient Egypt coloring book for her tomorrow and tonight I need to sit down and lay out a daily time schedule so that I can work with BigGuy as needed and then work with Girly when I don’t have to work with BigGuy.  But I also really need to sit down and plan out HER activities, too.

Wasn’t I just spending the month of August trying to figure this out?  Wtf?


Sunday, Sundaaaaaaayyyy

Here I sit… on my back deck… laptop, sunshine (although I’m in the shade of my crabapple), cool breeze, coffee, Girly hollering for me to watch her climb up the slide and get onto the trapeze bar THAT way…

And wondering wth I’m going to do with BigGuy this week.

Upside: I got a free digital planner (thanks to Educents) and inside, there were pages to set goals.  It was completely awesome and totally helpful.  Because really, it’s hard to lay out a plan when you don’t know what the goal is.

Seriously?  DUH!  I TAUGHT THIS!  FOR YEARS!  Geesh, I STILL teach it by way of teleclass!

So I laid out semester goals for things above and beyond academics, but then I also laid out academic goals by subject.  *deep breath of relief*

Now I need to get better at PREPARING.  Honestly, I’m REALLY loving the way that this program is forcing us into this Socratic discussion and BigGuy is really understanding that he needs to exercise his brain better.  Win-win.  But I feel really ill-prepared and I haven’t looked in my teaching binder for this stuff but I’m sure I saw some kind of prep for this in there.  :/

This week, I’m kind of returning to worldview and various faiths rather than our regular social studies/geography/writing/literature core from Tapestry of Grace .  Papa is off of work for the next two weeks and we have a trip to Minnesota over the long weekend.  So we’re going to take it slow and light.  I’m going to try to tackle “What Counts as History?” from Tolerance.org’s Classroom Resources page (which, btw, is AWESOOOOME).  Of course, that’s going to require some prep, too.  😉

Workload independence… #fail

Remember back on Wednesday when I told you guys that BigGuy and I had plotted out his work for the week?   Well we just had our end of week meeting to go over his week’s work and clearly this was a bad idea as implemented.


First, BigGuy cannot manage his time.  Ummmm… duh.  Seriously–he’s 10.  Wth was I thinking?

Second, BigGuy needs some learning about actual study skills.  Again… duh.  And above and beyond being 10, he’s not been challenged to learn like he’s being challenged now… so double duh.

Okay, okay… not horrible.  We’re just trying to figure it out.  But we will clearly do it differently next week.

Oh wait… next week start’s Papa’s 2-week vacation with a trip to Minnesota for Labor Day weekend in the midst of it.  Ugh…  Okay… I need to figure this out.  We have some faith and tolerance lessons to work on anyway so maybe we’ll redo that which wasn’t done this week on the reading front, learn some study skills and do the remainder of the faith and tolerance lessons over the next two weeks.  And maybe I’ll sandwich in a book on audio for the trip to and from Minnesota.

AND… he is not auditioning for the current show.  He would’ve missed 3 rehearsals and they said that missing 2 or more means they’re likely to get cut (you have to note any rehearsal conflicts on your audition papers).  We’d either have to miss our Minnesota trip and miss just one rehearsal or take the Minnesota trip and miss 3 of them.  I let BigGuy decide.  He chose to go to Minnesota.  I’m really kind of relieved.  I’m not sure we could handle the chaos of being involved in a show right now.  The parent commitment is really no joke.

How to motivate homeschooled kids for powerful results

Let me just say this:  *I* do not motivate my kid.  “Kid” singular–because I don’t actually educate Girly at all yet.  But BigGuy is 10 and would be entering 5th grade and I regularly see posts from parents who “can’t get their kid to do anything”.

Totally been there.

But I’m usually dealing with that kind of stuff when I’m shoving my own educational agenda down my son’s throat.  And really, if I wanted that kind of experience for him, I could’ve put him in a school… amiright?

So here we go… now what do you do, right?  Why not let your kids decide?  One message board post today expressed frustration with a 4th grader that wanted to do his 6th grade brother’s math work.  So what?  If he’s not capable he will soon find out and either decide to do the foundation work needed or will realize it’s just not where he’s at.

BigGuy willingly working on Cell Biology homework after 6 hours of being in Cell Biology class.
BigGuy willingly working on Cell Biology homework after 6 hours of being in Cell Biology class.

When my kid pushes back, I have to really ask myself the following:

1) How does this particular thing contribute to my child’s stated desires and goals?  If it DOES contribute, I just need to explain the “how” to him.

2) If it doesn’t contribute, is it something he NEEDS to learn?  Like, ever?  I’m sorry, but my son never needs to learn that papyrus was one of the first wannabe paper products.  It will serve no useful purpose in his life.  Same for the year of any given battle of the American Revolution.

3) Let’s assume he NEEDS to learn it.  Does he NEED to learn it NOW?  In the grand scheme of things, is it something that “needs to be learned before being an independent adult” and therefore can maybe wait 2, 3 or even 5 years?  Who NEEDS to read before the age of 9?

4) Okay… you get past all of that and decide it’s something they NEED to learn NOW.  Well, then your challenge becomes the METHOD of teaching it.  Because the current method is clearly NOT working.

Out of the box thinking, y’all.  It requires a serious willingness to step outside of the mainstream and their expectations about what a child should learn and when.  Believe it or not, that is not exactly as cut and dry as the education community would have you believe.  Sorry, folks–but even among your very own children, some will do addition at 4 and some won’t do it until they’re 10.  As long as they can do it by the time they have to balance a check book, does it matter?

Hopes and dreams for the coming week

Tomorrow: we have some company coming for an early dinner; and then we’ll do our family meeting.  After our family meeting, I hope to sit down with BigGuy and plot out his week.

Monday: There is NOTHING on the schedule.  This bodes well for accomplishing some actual schoolwork as planned; and walking the kids through their chores.  Speaking of which–I need to make chores for Girly.  That evening is BigGuy’s first drama class and the school is holding an audition clinic afterward.  Not sure if he’ll go.

Tuesday:  BigGuy actually has a paid session with his choir instructor from last year’s homeschool co-op.  She coincidentally has taught at the school where he will do drama classes; and therefore knows the audition process with them pretty well.  I’m just really kind of hoping to get some stuff done before he goes to that after lunch.  Like BigGuy’s biology lectures.  There’s a park date on the calendar for the morning, but we’ll see.

Wednesday:  I have an appointment midday near my home (during Papa’s lunch break), and dinner with a girlfriend; but otherwise–the day is open.  Again: bodes well for trying to get into a new routine.  BigGuy has his biology lecture.

Thursday: We always have a sitter for Thursday afternoon; and this week–he will stay until 9pm instead of 5pm so Papa and I can go out to dinner for our 15th wedding anniversary.  BUT… I’m hoping the morning gets some dedicated routine time and at this point, I’m kind of hoping that we’re finding our stride.  BIG DREAMS, PEOPLE!!  GO BIG OR GO HOME!

Friday: At this point I’m hoping that I can sit down with BigGuy for our post-mortem and determine how the week went, do his accountability questions and thinking questions for the Tapestry of Grace portion of his work; check his other work and give him whatever corrective instruction he needs; then enjoy an afternoon hike facilitated by a local forest preserve.  It will be tricky getting home to take a client phone call.

Here is what my calendar (altered to protect the innocent) looks like.  We don’t usually go to the chiropractor Monday AND Tuesday but I killed my back last week and it’s still slightly noticeable–so I scheduled an appointment for Monday and Tuesday is the standing appointment:

My week

But then John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans…”

En route to killing my printer

I’ve finally sat down and figured out how to handle this stuff with BigGuy.  Tonight, I got his notebook set up and printed out the assignment pages that go with Tapestry of Grace (TOG).  Each week, we’ll sit down and go through what he actually needs to do and read from the curricula.  I also created a list of tasks outside of the curricula that he needs to do each week… math, science, foreign language, etc.  I did the first 5 “weeks” of the curricula and then 2 weeks of the “outside” work.  I printed out all of the resource pages he needs for the writing component of TOG.  We’ll see how that goes.

I also printed out the pages for ME to help with facilitating Socratic discussion; and managing the Accountability and Thinking Questions from TOG.

And the maps… I printed out the maps he needs for the first 5 weeks of TOG plus the teacher copies with the answers.

Holy moly…

Actually, I have to be honest that I really like the idea of sitting down with BigGuy twice each week to talk about his learning in a more mature manner.  Once to sit down and go through what he needs to do and plot it out on his planner with him; and another to talk about what he’s learned and have a solid discussion about what he’s learned.  Not just asking him to spew it back to me, but DISCUSSING it.

I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Now… to figure out Girly.  And to hope that this works for BigGuy (and me).