Let's Get Real Wednesday

Let’s Get Real Wednesday – #1

Let’s get real, shall we?

I had the best intentions to write a post a few days ago with a few preschool activities I’ve been using lately.  But honestly, the past few days have been hard.  I absolutely do not want my blog to have a facade of this perfect homeschooling family.  We are far from it.  I’m going to strive to be honest, and real with my readers.  So I’ve decided to create a “Let’s Get Real Wednesday” theme.  It won’t be every Wednesday, but occasionally.  That way I can both vent, and help show real life.  Because that’s healthy, right?

Anyway, the past 5 days have been pretty tough for me.  There wasn’t one big thing that happened, but a bunch of little things that have just whittled down my sanity.  I should preface this by saying, my husband is deployed at the moment.  So it’s just me and my boys, 24/7.  The boys miss him.  Especially Wesley (3).  So they act out a little more than normal to begin with.  We are also at that point in the deployment where my boys no longer hear my voice.  I’m repeating myself over and over when telling them to get dressed, or put their shoes on, or pick up toys, or, or, or….Every single time I have to repeat myself I hear my voice getting louder and louder, and my patience lessening more and more. I’d like to say I pray for patience each day. But really, I pray that I don’t lose my patience as often, and that somehow I will learn how to cope with any given situation.  It really is a struggle when I’m in the moment and it seems like the world is out to get me (and by world, I mean everything in my house…vacuum cleaner breaks, fragile items fall and shatter, the dog gets mud tracked through each room, craft glitter explodes, all within one hour).  It’s humorous now, looking back on it.  It’s commonly known as the Deployment Murphy’s Law.

So instead of blogging at night like I originally planned, I parked myself in my bed and started catching up on some TV shows I’ve been putting off watching. Each day is getting better and better.  I think by the time I figure it all out my husband will be home.  I’m just telling myself it’s all a learning experience.

Ok, enough venting.  Do you ever have those moments where nothing ever seems to go right?

 

 

Printables

{FREE Printable} Playdoh Mats- letters, numbers, & shapes

Free Playdoh Mats- Letters, numbers, shapes

Learning while playing, what could be better?

Number 20 Playdoh Mat

I am a big fan of play based learning.  Although I’ve “done school” with my kids since they were very small, it was never a strict sit-down type of learning.  It’s fun for the kids, and for me!

Preschooler playing with playdoh mats

Preschooler playing with playdoh mat

My boys love playdoh.  Homemade, store bought, food based, it doesn’t matter.  Playdoh mats were always one of my favorites to use when I first started totschool with both boys.  It’s so easy. Just print them out, laminate them (or place them in a plastic page protector), and you’re done! We also use them with dry erase markers (in the page protectors), to work on fine motor writing skills, and sometimes my boys will just use crayons and markers to color them.

 

I’ve created 3 sets of {FREE} playdoh mats: letters, numbers, and shapes.  I hope you enjoy!

Playdoh Mats- Letters

Playdoh Mats- Numbers

Playdoh Mats- Shapes

 

 

Homeschool Basics

Homeschooling with Toddlers- 3 Helpful Tips

Child doing schoolwork with toddler playing with "Homeschooling with Toddlers Text"

Homeschooling can be hard and overwhelming on it’s own.  But add a toddler into the mix and it can become much more difficult.  At least in my case, it was.

Nap time!

Homeschooling with toddlers in the household is pretty distracting.  The very first tip I can give, from my own experience, is to try to plan school learning and activities during nap times.  Of course, this doesn’t always work.  When Wesley was younger, it took him forever to fall asleep, and stay asleep, for naps. And he didn’t nap every day.  But when he did, we were able to knock out a solid hour or two of school work and crafts.  (We were doing pre-K reading at the time, so it didn’t take long anyway)

All by myself boxes and sensory play, always a winner!

Sensory bin picture collage

During those days that Wesley did not sleep, I needed to try to distract him with other activities while Tanner and I did school work.  Sometimes I would put together an “All By Myself” box for him to play with.  In these boxes I would have a puzzle or two, flash cards, an activity game (like lacing cards, or color sorting manipulatives), a smaller box of sensory items (dry beans and lentils, colored dry rice and pasta, large buttons of various colors and shapes, dry oatmeal, seashells, rocks, etc…), and tools and cups. Sometimes I would add playdoh to the box instead of sensory items.  We would always do school work with Wesley and the box right next to us because a lot of the sensory items were small, and he obviously needed to be watched while playing.  The only issue with using these boxes, was that Tanner really wanted to join in, as well.  So it was a nice incentive for him to finish what he was working on, so he could play with the boxes.  Also, I’d like to add that you don’t have to go spending a ton of money on this.  The Dollar Tree has a lot of very good manipulatives and crafty trinkets.

Color sensory bin collage

All by myself sensory box picture collage

Begin fine motor learning.

As Wesley got a little older, we started doing a little more fine motor play.  I gave him a dry erase board to scribble on, a fun dry erase book, and of course, crayons and paper.  Another great activity for toddlers is do-a-dot learning pages.  I really like the do-a-dot markers because they are like paint and markers, but not nearly as messy!  Which is wonderful when you’re trying to teach another child at the same time.  Toddlers are awesome at creating messes in the smallest amount of time!

Toddler sorting shapes

These are some of the things that really helped me out when Wesley was a small toddler.  If everything else failed, I would put a movie on and hope it distracted him long enough for a little productive school time.  Things have totally changed for us now as Wesley is adamant on joining us every minute, to do his own school work.

 

Homeschool Basics

Where do you start? Beginning general homeschool topics

Books with "where do you start?" text

So, you want to homeschool, but where do you start?

(Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert.  I can just share tips from my own personal experience)

Laws.

The answer to this question can vary greatly between people.  But I recommend the very first thing you do is learn the homeschool laws in your state.  Some states have very relaxed laws.  Others are a little more strict.  In any case, knowing the laws for your state is a great way to start building the foundation for your homeschool. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is fantastic.  It is a non-profit organization that was created to defend the constitutional rights of homeschoolers.  Here you can search for your state’s laws.

Ask around.

Another good start is to find someone you know, maybe a family member, friend or someone at your church, who homeschools their children. I learned so much from the 3 people I spoke with about homeschooling.  Each person had a very different perspective on it so it really helped me see homeschooling from different angles.  I just recently found my notes I took when speaking to one veteran homeschooler.  There was such a wealth of information I learned from her, and I am so thankful to have had that opportunity to speak with her.  One big point to remember, when speaking with veteran homeschoolers, is that the best curriculum or co-op that they just couldn’t live without may not work at all for you.  That’s one of the joys and hardships when it comes to homeschooling.  It’s so individualized to your family, and sometimes, to your individual children.

 Read.

I really enjoyed reading Homeschooling 101: A guide to getting started by Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler. It’s a very easy read.  She also has a lot of information available on her blog and Youtube channel. There are also many books that have been recommended to me, that I have not had a chance to read yet.  Once I do, I’ll let you know how they are.  I learned a lot from online blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels.  Here is a small list of some of the websites I have personally used to learn more about homeschooling.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media.  Search on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.  Homeschooling is really booming right now.

Co-ops.

Homeschooling has changed drastically since the 90s.  I hear many people joke about barely ever homeschooling in their home.  They’re always on the go with different activities, trips, experiences, and co-ops.  Check your area for co-ops.  They can be very different from one another.  But basically, they are classes, activities, field trips and/or sports that homeschoolers can do together. The co-op (ours is called a community) we are joining actually gives families the option to sit in on a community day to see what it’s like.

Curriculum.

That can be a scary word.  It’s a scary word for me! There is just so much out there.  Individual subjects, box curriculum, online curriculum, religious based, and secular.  Cathy Duffy has been reviewing curriculum for decades. Her reviews are non-biased and can be very helpful when you’re torn between a few different choices.  You can find her reviews here.

You also don’t need to buy everything brand new.  Check to see if there is a local homeschool book swap on Facebook.  Homeschool Classifieds is also another place where you can find used curriculum.  Many of the local homeschool co-ops in my area have annual curriculum/book drives as well.

After you are slightly more familiar with homeschooling, you can learn about the different types of homeschooling.  I won’t go into detail in this post about that (I’ll save it for another day).  But once you figure that out, your choices for curriculum may change a bit.  You’ll use different materials for a “traditional homeschool” than you would for a “classical” or “Charlotte Mason” type of homeschool.

What is your ‘why’?

Why are you homeschooling?  What is it that is driving you?  Write it down, and put it somewhere you will see it often.  If you are having a stressful day, or having (the very normal) fears that you might not be doing everything right, look at your reason.  Remind yourself why you are doing this very hard but extremely rewarding thing for your family.  One of the hardest parts about homeschooling, is making the decision to do it.  Especially if homeschooling was never on your radar.

I hope this very basic, general list can help you figure out how to get started on this wonderful journey!

Framework

Why do we homeschool?

I can vividly remember the moment when I first seriously considered homeschooling my children.  I actually only had one child at the time.  Tanner was around a year old.  There were so many emotions filling my brain.  I was scared to go back to work, and leave my baby with someone I didn’t know.  I was looking to the future trying to figure out how we would handle certain situations.  Who would take our kids to their after school activities if I was working 12-13 hour shifts at the hospital and Nick was flying, or deployed?  Who would take care of the kids if they were sick, in those same situations?  As a nurse, I couldn’t just leave patients at the hospital to go get a sick kid from school.  Especially if we were short staffed.  My husband is in the Air Force.  We do not live near family, so asking parents to help just isn’t in the equation, either.  These were the reasons my Nick and I agreed that I would stay home with the kids until they were at least school aged.

While I was enjoying my time at home with Tanner, I started looking online for ideas of things to do with him during the day.  Fun activities that could help him learn his shapes and colors.  That’s when I found Carisa’s blog, 1+1+1=1, and learned all about tot-school.  I spent every nap time reading about tot-school; how to set it up, materials to use, and how long to spend working with your little one. The most important thing was to make sure it was all play based.  There is absolutely no need to do anything structured at such a young age.  I waited until Tanner was 1.5-2 years old to start.  It was during that time, as I was watching my son learn and grasp certain concepts, that I fell deeply in love with teaching him.  Maybe I could actually do this!

Toddler working on fine motor skills

Toddler with color sorting puzzle

That was the beginning reason for me.  I just loved being able to witness his learning, and tailoring activities better to how he learned.  It wasn’t until he got a little older, when we had Wesley, and moved to Florida that my reasons started changing.  I did not like the schools in our area, and I didn’t like how the public school system was changing into something unrecognizable, compared to back when I was in school. I could go into detail here, but if you are reading my blog and are considering homeschooling your own kids, I’m sure you have an idea of what I’m talking about.

A small, but very important reason why we homeschool is because we move a lot.  It would save us a lot of hassle pulling the boys out of school and reenrolling them into a new school every few years.  Who knows what they could miss in between moves, as well.

I also want my boys to grow up with a strong Christian background, and I love the fact that I can incorporate that into their everyday learning.  I can honestly say this is a calling from God.  There were several months where Nick and I were on the fence about homeschooling.  I had the fears that I wouldn’t be able to do it and that I would fail my children.  But I can remember three very distinct moments, where it was like God shook me and said, “You need to do this!”.  Once I realized this is what He wants me to do, my fears started melting away.  Of course, I still have quite a few fears, and worries, but I’m working on them.  I believe it’s absolutely normal to have those feelings.

Please understand that I know there are people out there who would trade anything to be able to stay home with their kids and do this, but can’t for any number of reasons.  I promise I don’t take this blessing lightly.  I thank God and my husband often for this opportunity.

Framework

The Boundless Homeschool and the purpose of this blog

When I hear, or read, the word boundless, the first thing that comes to my mind is the phrase, “anything is possible”.  The actual definition is, ‘having no boundaries’.  Endless, limitless, immeasurable…the list goes on.  That is exactly what I hope to teach my boys as I homeschool them; learning is infinite.  As their teacher, and especially as their mother, I want to support endless opportunities for my boys to learn about and engage the world around them.

That is my goal.  But I have an issue.  I’m not one of those established homeschool mom bloggers out there with years of experience and advise to share.  I only have a few years of tot-school and preschool experience.  That is exactly why I am starting this blog.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent researching and learning about homeschool.  I’ve been researching for years.  As I’ve been reading, blogs especially, it’s really hard to find where people shared their ‘newbie’ experiences.  What they did on their first day, or their feelings and thoughts as they were experiencing it.  Sometimes I was able to dig through a blog long enough to find the beginnings, but at that point much of the advice that was shared was outdated, and not relevant anymore.

So, here I am.  My oldest son is starting his first legal (read: notifying the county our family is homeschooling) year this fall, kindergarten.  My youngest is doing preschool work.  I am going to share with you what I know…but mostly, what I LEARN.  This blog will be for those of you who are just starting out on your homeschool journey, as well.  We can work together, and create a little community.  Homeschooling is hard, if I can help anyone in any little way, I will be thrilled.  I have big plans for this blog.  So stay tuned.