Tag Archives: schedules

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Lacking Confidence?

This past week, my 15-year-old went to the DMV to take the written test for a beginner’s driving permit. His birthday was at the beginning of August, so he had been asking me for a couple of weeks when we could go, so as soon as we had all the paperwork together, we went. But the night before we planned to go, his attitude suddenly changed.

“We don’t have to go tomorrow,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked. “You’ve been asking and asking to go.”

“I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

“Sure, you’re ready. You’ve been studying the driver’s manual, haven’t you? And, even if you fail the test, so what? You can always try again.”

“I’m just not ready,” he replied.

“You can’t get your permit if you don’t try,” I said. I was starting to get a little frustrated. During the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling a lot of the kids’ activities, trying to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there. We had set aside this particular time for him to get the permit. I didn’t want to re-figure the whole schedule.

Though he wasn’t convinced, off we went, my son very nervous and myself just glad we were going. He took the test and came out of the DMV a proud owner of a driving permit.

I’d like to say that the lack of confidence has only been on his part, but lately, I can really relate. As we start another school year, I’ve been reassessing how we’ve been doing and what needs to change. But sometimes, I’m just not sure. There are so many opportunities available; which ones should we make time for? What activities are the best ones to be involved in? Are we getting too involved in extra programs? Should we stay home more? Are we spending enough time with the books? Are we spending enough time as a family?

There’s no single answer to the questions, as every child is different, their needs are different, and family dynamics are different. And for us right now, I don’t even have an answer. We’re trying a sports program for my daughter that’s requiring a lot of time and a lot of travel, but she loves it. Yet as our co-op gets ready to begin, so do the big assignments, and I know we’ll have to start working on those for the majority of each day. So as we begin a new year, I’m thinking, like my son, “I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

But like my son, even if I fail, so what? I can always try again. And I can keep trying until I find what works. After all,  that’s one of the reasons why we started homeschooling in the first place.

And as for my confidence as a homeschooling parent? I’m thinking that might come after they’ve all graduated…or made it through college…or have families of their own…or maybe just through a lot of prayer! 🙂


Photo by karlzbobarlz


Easing into School

Remembering back to my elementary, middle, and high school years, the first days of school were always an exciting time when I met my teachers and found out who shared my classes. Then the teachers went through the school handbook and discussed all the rules. Though we may have had a homework assignment or two, it was a good way of “easing” into the new school year.

Well, my kids already know their teacher and classmates, and the rules of the house are still the same. Because of this, I tend to want to jump back into school “full steam ahead.” I have to remind myself that we haven’t been on a regular schedule for a while, and it might take a few days to get into a regular routine again.

But there are things we can do to make the change easier for us all to adjust to:

  • We’ll spend time talking about the subjects they’ll be learning, and how and when I can help them individually. We’ve had the problem in the past of one student interrupting me while I was trying to help another. This time, they’ll know just what to expect.
  • I’m not assigning them work in every subject…yet. We’ll tackle a few of the basics first, especially reading and writing. I’ll introduce the other subjects as the week goes on and they’ve had time to readjust.
  • Although the kids are going to wake up at the same time and eat breakfast together, they’re going to go through the day at their own pace.  Some of my students will get right to it and get things done, while others will work in a much more leisurely manner. I’ve found it only frustrates all of us when I try to keep everyone on task together.
  • We’ll play some educational games together.
  • We’ll plan an outing with friends towards the end of the week, giving them something special to look forward to.

Even if you homeschool, or rather, especially if you homeschool, those first days can still be an exciting fresh start!


Photo by earl53


Fun Things for Summer

Well, this summer will be another one spent finishing up the school year. “But it’s summer!” the kids say. It is, and for that reason, we’re going to try to keep the formal schooling to just a couple hours a day. But we’ll still have time for some summer fun! 😉

Summer movies – Our local theater offers summer kids’ movies twice a week for a dollar per person. While we’ve already seen them all on video, we might still go to one or two for the fun of the theater experience.

Roller Skating – The roller skating rink offers year round “homeschool skate days.” Twice a month, homeschooling students meet to skate together for two hours. We missed the skate days during the school year, so this summer we’ll catch up!

Swimming – In pools, lakes, and rivers, my kids love to swim. Our state park fees are very minimal; for just a couple of dollars admission, we can spend a hot day splashing in the icy cool water.

Reading – Our library offers a reading program for children of all ages. After reading a certain number of books, they receive special prizes, such as ice cream coupons. Yum!

Field Trips – A friend of mine who organizes a field trip group keeps the activities scheduled all summer long. I know blueberry picking is already on the agenda.

Friend Days – Summer is the perfect time to plan for friends! We’re already planning  some themed “get-togethers” this summer (the girls especially love themes).

Scout Activities – With so much to do during the school year, my oldest son doesn’t have a lot of time to work on extra merit badges. Summer affords the perfect opportunity for him to get them done.

House Projects – There the list goes on and on. Besides just cleaning up and cleaning out, we need to give several rooms a fresh coat of paint.

Whew!  Looking at the list, I know we’ll be spending good quality time together — which, as my oldest prepares for 10th grade, is becoming more and more important, as he’ll be leaving for college in just a couple of years.  What will you be doing this summer?

Ending the School Year?

Mid-May seems to be the time of year when a lot of homeschoolers are finishing up the school year and looking ahead to next fall. Our co-op classes finished last week, and because we had company visiting as well, we took the week off of schoolwork. And that’s how our year has gone; when things come up or company comes to visit, we take time off. And it’s during those times we all think, “Homeschooling’s great!”

But then, we have yet to finish up our school year in May. Or June. We usually keep schooling through July, taking time off here and there to travel or spend time with family and friends. And though the kids are moaning a little, I’m still thinking, “Homeschooling’s great!”

Sure, we’re still working on math, reading, and grammar through the summer, but as we do, they’re keeping their minds sharp and prepared to learn. They also have things to work on in the afternoons when it’s too hot to stay outside; instead of playing video games or watching t.v., we’re doing science and history projects. And simple summertime activities, such as planting tomatoes or catching fireflies, take on a whole new meaning when paired with unit studies in botany and entomology.

So even though our school year isn’t ending quite yet, we’ll still enjoy the lazy days of summer. We’ll get up a little later, sip on lemonade during lessons, and play on the slip and slide during break time. We’ll work on house projects and go swimming during free time.  We’ll spend more time hanging out with friends and visiting with family. And when September comes, we’ll be ready to get back to a regular schedule and co-op classes. And I know we’ll all be thinking, “Homeschooling’s great!” 🙂



Photo by PenyWise

Time for Re-establishing

After lots of traveling over Christmas and New Year’s, we had our first quiet week at home this week. Our co-op did meet on Monday, so that day was full, and Tuesday the girls had music lessons, but that was all we had on the calendar. And, for a few days our car was in the shop, so I couldn’t have gone anywhere anyway. I had anticipated getting a lot done, including unpacking from our trips, putting away the Christmas decorations, and cleaning the house.

But the house is still a mess and the Christmas tree is still up. Instead, this was the week of re-establishment.

First, we had to re-establish our school hours, and it took a couple of days before the routine was set again. Some of that time was also spent looking for workbooks that somehow disappeared. One math book is still on the loose.

Then we re-established the daily chore plans, including the “before breakfast” and “after school” lists. After several weeks of letting daily chores slip by, it’s nice to have some helping hands with the housework again.

Because adjusting to school and chores again can be tough, we had to re-established the “No Whining Rule.” That one was a little harder and involved a few more tears, but it’s coming along too.

We also re-established the “Video and Computer Games May Only be Played on Saturdays” rule. We set up this rule about a year ago when I felt the boys were spending too much time at the games, and it works well for our family. During holidays, however, it’s an easy one to bend, especially if they get a new one for Christmas.

Looking at the state of our house this week, one (especially my husband) might wonder what we did at home all day. But we did work at some hard things, and the year is off to a good start, even if the house isn’t. 🙂

Photo by Grafixar

A Typical School Day

This school year is not turning out quite as I expected. With Child #1 high school now and Child #2 in sixth grade, I anticipated them doing more work on their own, leaving me a little more time to work with the Child #3 and Child #4. It hasn’t happened that way yet, though, and we’re already into November.

Our school day starts out pretty laid-back, and I begin working with my first grader, Child #4. Before we’re done, however, Child #1 calls my name.

“You’ll have to wait,” I respond. “Go on to something else until I can come.”

Since Child #2 already saw that Child #1 didn’t get help right away, Child #2 tries another approach and stands beside me with her book.

“I have a question,” Child #2 says.

“Wait until I’m done,” I answer. “Go work on something else.” But Child #2 continues to stand there. “It’s just a quick question,” she says.

“Oh, all right,” I say, interrupting the lesson with Child #4. That’s when Child #1 comes into the room.

“Why are you helping her? I asked you first, and you told me to wait.”

I start sounding like a pirate at this point. “Arg! Fine. Let me help Child #2 a minute, then I’ll help you.” Meanwhile, Child #4 is still waiting to continue his lesson.

“Mo-o-o-om!” Child #3 calls from the other room. “I need your help!  I can’t finish this.”

“Bring it here,” I call back, figuring Child #4 and I have lost our momentum anyway.

“Can you come here?” Child #3 answers.

My sweet teacher-like disposition is now almost totally gone. “No — you have legs — you come to me.”

Child #3 comes in as Child #2 finishes. I begin to help Child #3, when Child #1 says, “You know, I asked for your help a long time ago. Why are you helping Child #3 now?”

I look down at Child #4, still waiting to complete his lesson. “You can go play,” I say, and another school day has begun.

School Time

Every family has a different daily rhythm, depending in part on parents’ work schedules, obligations, and outside activities. While I have some friends whose children begin their schoolwork late in the afternoon and go into the evening, my children seems to get the most completed the earlier we start in the day. If I get them up and they start right to work, the younger ones can be finished by lunchtime, and John just has to work through the early afternoon, leaving time for chores, lessons, errands, and play.

That’s a good plan for us — if we followed it. But often, something deters us. Or rather, something deters me.

Sometimes, if my husband has to leave for work early before the children wake up, I find myself enjoying the quiet a little too much. I wait to get them up, using the time to catch up on projects or reading. It’s a productive morning for me, but they get started later, and the school day seems to go on and on. And  if we have errands to do in the afternoon, the kids might still be working on assignments in the evening as well.

I’m thankful for caller ID, but sometimes it can make things more difficult. Though I can avoid morning calls from telemarketers, I also know when family or friends are calling in. Instead of letting the machine pick up the call, I’ll usually try to answer it; after all, it might be an emergency.

Another big distraction for me is the computer. While it’s an invaluable tool for researching assignments, finding worksheets and resources, and connecting with other homeschooling families, “school hours” is not the right time to do it. Though I plan to just “find an activity page” for my first grader, I usually end up checking email and looking around for other resources — in short, spending much longer than I intended, and losing the learning momentum that we started with earlier that day.

The answer? Set a time for school and stick with it. Wake up the children on time, or give them each an alarm clock to set so they’ll wake themselves up on time. Put a message on the phone saying that I’ll be available to take calls after a certain time in the afternoon. Leave the computer off until after all the schoolwork is done; if I need to look something up or find a worksheet, I can make a note of it and do it later in the afternoon. In short, reserve “school time” for school.

How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

Photo by jppi

Getting Back to School?

Every summer, it seems we have a few subjects to catch up on, and some days we’re more successful than others. By the end of July, my children had completed a number of school days interspersed with swimming, camps, and time with friends and family. August is usually the month we start back, and my plan was to start full-swing this past Monday. But, as sometimes happens with homeschooling, things didn’t go quite as planned.

After a busy weekend, we started our school week by gathering schoolbooks, clearing off desks, and finding supplies. Not the best way to begin, but we started early and by mid-morning everyone was organized and working on lessons. I didn’t give them a full day’s work, but it was enough to get re-acclimated to a school schedule. Everyone finished up shortly after lunch except for my oldest who was still working on math. All-in-all, though, it was a pretty good day.

Tuesday came, and the kids got an earlier start on their work. Most finished before lunch and had some free time before I had to take the girls to their music lesson. Another good day.

Wednesday, however, was much different. With dental appointments and errands to run, we left the house in the morning and didn’t return until suppertime. While my older two children worked on some subjects independently in the car, the younger two didn’t finish any schoolwork. And the remainder of the week appears almost as busy.

Sometimes that happens, though. Sometimes, life comes up and there are things that demand your attention or need to be taken care of right away. But that’s one of the benefits of homeschooling — the flexibility in scheduling as your family works to get it all done. So this week, we’ll have to do school on Saturday — I just haven’t told the kids yet. 😉

Planning for High School

My oldest son John is finishing up the eighth grade, and the thought of keeping up with courses, extracurricular activities, transcripts, and standardized tests of high school makes me feel more than a little nervous. We are planning on John going to college, but we won’t be able to pay out of pocket for tuition, which means that we also need to be knowledgeable about potential universities, their costs, and any scholarships available. So when I hear about seminars, classes, or other information regarding homeschooling your high schooler, I’m ready to learn.

One tip I heard recently was to plan out your child’s high school career from the beginning. You will save yourself a lot of stress in the junior and senior years if you already have a clear idea of what your student needs to take not only to graduate but also to meet college admission requirements.

To do this, find out what courses are needed for graduation within your state, then check college websites for courses your student needs if he wants to apply to those schools. For example, our state requires only one foreign language course to graduate from high school in the college prep program. Some universities in our state, however, require the student take three years of the same foreign language if they plan to attend. I know, then, that if John might attend one of those universities, he’ll need to start a foreign language course no later than his sophomore year.

It’s not hard to find out what classes you’ll need. For high school graduation, simply do an Internet search of using the name of your state and the words “graduation requirements.”   To find out what colleges are looking for, google the name of the school and “admission requirements.”

After an afternoon of searching the web and studying the possibilities, I think we’ve come up with a pretty good four-year plan. There’s room for flexibility, and we won’t be caught short in the senior year. Now on to the extracurriculars….