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What?! Your Kids Don’t WANT to Homeschool?

I was contacted this week by a beloved family member who, along with his really fantastic wife, has decided to pull his littles from public school this year and give this homeschooling thing a try. I am so thrilled and excited for him and his family and, as ever, pleased to have another family join our ranks.  Unfortunately, my congratulations were not what he was looking for.  He was seeking advice.

Because his kids are being… uncooperative.  And they won’t really tell him why.

Image from theharriedmom.com

Image from theharriedmom.com

I started homeschooling the Littles in their 1st and 3rd grade years of school, so they were close to the age of my family member’s kids.  What did I do to ensure my kids cooperated?  And what should you do if you find yourself at home with littles who aren’t so willing to be homeschooled?

The first thing we did with our littles was establish a clear line between when I was Mama and when I was Teacher.  Granted, we did this by having summer science for 7 weeks before we notified the school of their withdrawal (and so the tradition began).  We told them it was a trial run and if they could learn from me we would continue to homeschool.  But my Littles Wanted to be homeschooled.  So they cooperated. If you have already withdrawn your kiddos from public school and are facing this dilemma, I would try a couple of things.

Establish yourself

First, ask your littles what they like about school.  It can be public school, homeschool, imaginary school, college… Just find out what turns them on to learning. Try to get them to talk about what might be cool about homeschooling.  What do they think would Not Be cool about homeschooling?  Address their concerns.   This can be a conversation as short or long as you want it to be, but use it as a time to let your littles know that when the homeschooling parent says, “It’s time for school,” he or she is no longer Mama or Dada, but a teacher who expects the same respect as their public school teachers.  And don’t just talk, act.  As parents, decide what the consequences will be if your littles don’t show you that respect.  I have to be honest here, when we first started, I utilized the same colored-stick pulling rule as their school did.  Just the threat of being in trouble if they pulled 3 sticks was enough to keep them cooperative and well-behaved.

Also, start out slow.  You have a little time.  So spend a week only schooling for an hour a day, where you are mostly watching for signs of cooperation from your littles.  Let them test you.  Follow through on your consequences.  They will start to see this homeschooling thing is as serious as public school was.  Teach for an hour and a half or 2 hours the next week.  Same deal.  Most homeschool families only school for 3-5 hours a day, so it won’t take you long to build up to speed.

Make a plan

Another good way to garner cooperation is to set a firm schedule for a while and stick to it.  Five years in, the Littles are still up at 7:30 for farm chores and breakfast and in the classroom by 8.  We don’t really waver from that unless someone is really sick.  We have loosened up over the years as to what happens after 8, but that schedule helped them establish that ‘school’ still took place at a certain time.  For the time being, set a time that school is over.  If you are going to allow snack time, do that at a specific time, too.  Kids like structure, and part of their uncooperative-ness may stem from the sudden lack of it.  It’s hard to take it seriously when your mom is in her jammies and you might start school at 9 or 11 or 2, depending on everyone’s whim.

Make a ‘classroom.’ Even if it’s just your dining table or living room floor, designate an area that is for school.  And have school there every day for the amount of time you have set.

Trust me, you can ease up on all of this once you get them in a groove and get them appreciating how much More Awesome homeschool is than public school.

How do you get them to appreciate it?  Make school Fun.

Remember, we are Educating our children, not schooling them in the traditional sense.  We don’t have to teach them like a public school teacher does.  In fact, in some states (including my own), there Aren’t Any Tests homeschoolers have to take.  So we don’t have to teach rote memorization or testing skills the way they do in public school.  We can teach in unconventional ways.

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Make learning fun

Most public school teachers don’t have time for reading aloud with their classes, especially by 3rd or 4th grade.  So make part of your school day the sharing of a story.  And make it a story that will engage the littles You Have, not one that someone says all littles should read (even if that someone is me!).  If you lead with this, they will already be accustomed to listening to you and focusing on you before you move on to history or math.

Do tons of projects.  Reading from a book or doing worksheets or notebooking are good ways to help your littles retain information, but building a volcano is a whole lot more fun that writing about one.  Research has its place but–especially while they’re young–they will likely learn more if they are also getting their hands dirty.

Make a craft.  Every day.  Of course it helps with motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but it also gives your littles something tactile to hold onto and remind them of whatever lesson the craft is related to.  And it’s fun.  Way funner than filling out boring old worksheets.

Do experiments.  There are tons of free science experiment printables on the interweb and so many resources for different experiments your head will spin.  So ask your kids what kind of science interests them and Google experiments.  You could do 3 a day for their entire schooling and still never complete all the experiments you’ll find.

Cook together.  We often find recipes related to what we’re reading, studying in geography or history, or learning about in science and spend time in the kitchen learning math and life skills making them.  Then enjoying them.  It usually means trying something new for all of us, so it helps us remember to be open-minded, too.

Take nature walks every day.  Schedule them into the middle of your school time so your littles get that they are getting ‘out of class’ to learn.  Give them a sketchbook and a couple of colored pencils and ask them to record or draw at least 3 things they see on the walk.  It won’t even seem like learning to them.  When you get back to class, get out your books or magazines or tablets and look up their sightings in greater detail.  Have them record the information under their drawings.  You just had a whole class.

Take field trips.  Often.  Once you’ve established with your littles that this is a serious school, you can step away from the dining table and out into the world.  Go to the zoo, the museum, the park, the local historical site, the house of another homeschooling family.  There is only one Civil War site in our state and we were lucky during our American History year that it is only about 25 minutes away.  Take a field trip every week.  That will convince your littles homeschool is better.

What shouldn’t you do?

I think the worst thing you can do with uncooperative homeschool kids is stand over them with a set of textbooks and worksheets and fight them over what they will complete.  It’s a good way to make them hate school and resent you.  Ease them into it by implementing the above ideas, and keep using those ideas to keep school fresh and interesting for the littles.  Middle is in 7th grade.  We still do a craft and a project every day.  Because why not?  He still enjoys them.  Who told public school officials that 13 year olds only learn with strict reading and writing courses?  He or she was wrong from what my experience has shown me.

Don’t get in a rut.  Remember that schedule I mentioned?  Remember that I also said you can loosen up on it eventually?  That.  When math worksheets or books are getting boring, make games.  When attention is wandering, get active.  There is a terrific free resource over at iHomeschool Network to help you get out of that rut or keep from establishing one.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we have the opportunity to play with our kids while they learn.  We get to observe each of our children–see what excites them, what makes them tick, how their brains intake information–and we get to put all that together for a learning experience that is fun for all of us.  We aren’t sitting in desks in rows surrounded by 30 other kids who need to keep up or wait on us.  So be playful.  Be joyful.  Hopefully, they will follow suit.

For more advice on scheduling, look here.  If you need help dealing with your fears, check this out. For a bit more information on nature walks, this might interest you.  Here are some reasons to give your littles for why you homeschool.

Love wins,

KT

 

6 Ways to Have a Fabulous Fourth of July Celebration!

With Independence Day coming up, we took the day off from science today to prepare.  Following are some craft, lesson, and food ideas to get your littles involved in your July Fourth celebration and pretty it up a bit.

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We’ll start with crafts.  Here are two that are super simple to make and will add a little spark to any celebration.

Miniature American Flags

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These are so fun to make and can be used for various things.  We have used them for coasters, glued them to the front of jars to hold plastic ware on the food table, and attached them to sticks for the kiddos to wave around.

Materials:

IMG_20150702_112839655For each flag you will need

8 craft sticks

red, white, and blue tempera or craft paint

glue

Instructions:

1.  Cut or break one of your craft sticks in half, making sure the pieces are as equal in length as you can get them.  These are what you will attach the other sticks together with.  Set them aside.

2.  You will only be painting one side of the remaining craft sticks.  Paint 1/3 of 4 of the sticks blue.  I put the sticks together and mark them with a pencil so it’s all even.

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IMG_20150702_115539114Warning: If you’re using tempera paint, you will have to do 2 or more coats, especially on the white.

3.  Alternate painting the remaining 2/3 of those four sticks red and white.

IMG_20150702_1205389154.  Paint 2 of the remaining sticks red and the final one white.

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  1. Once the paint has dried, turn the sticks over, being sure that your blue field will be on the left-hand side and your top stick is blue and red.  Also, alternate the red and white sticks so you have a true-looking flag.  Line them up so that they’re straight at all edges.

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  1. Now it’s time for the stick you cut in half.  Run a line of glue along one side of one piece and place it about 1/2 inch in from the end.  Be sure it touches all 7 of the flag sticks.  Now glue the other piece the same distance from the other end.  It should look like this:

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7.  Now that you have assembled your flag, you can paint a white star in the center of your blue field, or make white dots to represent whatever number of stars you want to place on your flag.

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That’s it!  Cute and simple! (You can see that Littlest forgot to make sure he started at the top with a blue and red stick.  Make sure you don’t do that!)

Fireworks Pom Poms

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These are also really easy to make, though younger littles may need a bit of help with the scissors.  Also versatile, we’ve used them for centerpieces, individual decor, or twirly toys for kiddos to replace sparklers.  You can make a bunch of red, white, and blue pom poms, or you can mix up the colors for variety.  Also, you can make the pom poms a little fuller by adding another strip or two of crepe paper, but don’t use too much–they stop looking like fireworks and start resembling flowers.

IMG_20150702_121049559Materials:

Red, white, and blue crepe paper

Small dowel rods or kabob sticks

Scissors

Tape

(Cat is optional!)

Instructions:

1.  Cut a 6-inch strip of each color of crepe paper.

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  1. Stack them atop one another.

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  1. Fold the stacked crepe paper in half once.  Fold in half again.

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  1. With your scissors, cut thin strips on one long edge of the folded paper.  You should leave about a 1/2-inch strip along the bottom for attaching it to your dowel rod or kabob stick.

IMG_20150702_121930320It should look like this:

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5.  Place one end of the dowel rod or kabob stick onto the uncut edge of the paper.  Roll the paper up from the short edge, making sure your cut edges are above the stick, which you are rolling up in the paper.

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6.  Tape the bottom edge of the pom pom around the stick.

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7.  With your fingers, fluff the cut edges until they resemble a firework.

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Also simple and cute!

Learning About Independence Day

Adding a short lesson to your preparations helps your littles remember why we’re celebrating this particular day.  It’s not just fireworks and potluck suppers!  There is a great selection of Independence Day poetry here, including Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn and Henry Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride.  I remember memorizing Paul Revere’s Ride in the 5th grade, and it still pops into my head from time to time in quiet moments. It has amazing rhythm.  To save you some time, here is a great American poem by Walt Whitman that reminds us of the diversity of people who live in this country and how they contribute to its success.

I Hear America Singing
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Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, first published in the 1867 edition)
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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—
Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—
At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

That Whitman.  What a genius.

Product Details

There a several great children’s books to help littles understand more about the 4th of July.  Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong celebrates our independence and our diversity.  It’s about a Chinese-American girl who is disappointed that her family is being so Un-American as to make Chinese food for their 4th of July celebration.  But she learns her own lesson about what America is in the end.

Product DetailsThe Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence by Judith St. George is a brightly-colored, well-researched book about the many places that document has called home throughout our history.

The Signers: 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence by Dennis B. Fradin is good for older kids who want to learn more aboutProduct Details how the document came into being.  And because there is a story for each of the Declaration signers, your littles can pick and choose who they want to learn about.

If you would rather just read the Declaration with your littles and discuss it at your own pace, you can find an online copy of it here.  The site even has a printer-friendly version.

 

Food

Red White and Blue Tiramisu

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If you have a tiramisu dish, this red, white and blue yummy goodness is sure to make a beautiful smash!  I don’t have a finished pic for you because I’m not making it until Saturday, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.  This simple dish is a great way to sneak fresh fruit in on your littles if they don’t normally dive on it the minute you get home from the store like mine do.

Ingredients:

2 21 ounce cans cherry pie filling

2-3 cups fresh blueberries, to taste (and visual effect)

8 ounces fresh strawberries

2 5.25-ounce packages instant vanilla pudding

1 8-ounce tub cool whip

(Again, lazy cat optional.  Though I don’t recommend it for this particular project.)

Directions:

1.  Start by making the pudding according to package directions, then putting it in the fridge to thicken.

  1. Slice your strawberries and set aside.

3.  Spread both cans of cherry pie filling on the bottom of your dish.  Top with pudding.

4.  For your blue layer, add blueberries until they can be easily seen through the sides of the dish.

  1. Top with whole tub of cool whip.

  2. Arrange strawberries in any design you want atop the cool whip.

Easy, yummy and (somewhat) good for you, this dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

  Strawberry-Peach Shakes

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For a fun way to cool off from the July heat, make these shakes and watch the smiles break forth.

Ingredients:

14 ounce sliced peaches, undrained

8-12 ounces fresh strawberries

1/2 cup milk

1/2 to 3/4 of a 48 oz tub of vanilla ice cream, depending on desired thickness

Directions:

1.  Pour peaches with syrup into food processor or blender

  1. De-stem strawberries and add them to the peaches

  2. Add milk and ice cream

  3. Pulse until mixture is thick and creamy

That’s all there is to it!  My littles beg me daily to make these yummy shakes.  I hope you and your littles enjoy them as much as we do.

There you have it, beautiful readers.  My favorite ways to make the 4th of July amazing for all of us.  I hope there’s lots here you can use to enhance your celebrations.

Happy Independence Day!

Love wins,

KT

A Backyard Camping Trip to Celebrate Sweet Summer Time

Tips, tricks and activities to make backyard camping a blast

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

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15 Ways to Cure the Summer Blahs

Want to know something that both frustrates me and amuses me mightily?  During the school year I have to wake my Littles up at 7:30 to get chores done and breakfast ate so we can be in class by 8.  And sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes it’s downright improbable.  Middle is about to turn 13, after all, and his body is doing that weird teenager thing where he wants to sleep F-O-R-E-V-E-R once he finally gets in bed.

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During the summer?  I can’t even get my first cup of coffee down without those boys rolling out of bed and bounding into the living room sometime between 6 & 7.  Talking.  Immediately. Incessantly.  Ever seen me before my 1st cup of coffee?  It’s not pretty.  And you really don’t want to talk to me at all.  Because chances are my response will be something along the lines of, “Please stop talking.  For like half an hour.”

Not the best thing to say to your kids.  So I suck it up.  I let them talk, even though I would rather hit myself in the head with a rock.  I even try to respond.  Kindly, I swear.  I can’t help the way my tone sounds when I’m not fully awake!  But the one thing that gets me on a gorgeous summer morning when I’ve thrown the windows open to let in the smell of the woods and fields and the sunshine is just topping the trees and turning the yard golden and the birds are twittering happily outside and that is All I Want To Hear..:

“Mom, what can I do?  I don’t know what to do.  I’m bored.”

Um.  Can I finish my coffee before we have this conversation?  Pretty please???

Of course not.

It’s summer break.  You don’t have school.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do once your chores are done.  In fact, sometime today we will probably do something awesome.  But first… be very quiet and let me finish my coffee.

So I’ve come up with a list of responses to beat those summer blahs.  Because it is, actually, hard on a little to go from a structured day to one in which he has to fill the hours by himself.  And it’s not his fault daylight comes earlier and there’s no reason to try to steal an extra 15 minutes asleep.  (I mean, we won’t be skipping math or writing because of it during the summer.  Not that we do anyway, but I think they always hope.)

So here’s my list of things they can do on their own, without my input, so I can finish my coffee and they will (God willing) stop talking to me for half an hour.  Notice they are all unplugged things.  I live in the real world, but I just don’t feel right recommending they turn on a screen to combat boredom.  Especially not a 6 in the morning.  Where I might have to hear it.

1. Build a tent fort My Littles love nothing more than getting out the sheets and blankets and building a fort.  Especially if they can trap the dog in there with them.  I make them a deal that I will let them keep it up all day if they build it themselves.

2. Read your book When a kid is bored, this often sounds boring.  But if you can them started they will eventually get interested and forget they were ever bored to begin with.

3. Quiet time basket! I have extolled the virtues of the quiet time basket before, but it works as well for boredom as it quiet-time-basket.jpgdoes for diffusing tension.  If they are claiming boredom and I yell, “Quiet Time!” they obediently grab something from the basket and become absorbed.  I set the timer for half an hour.  And finish my coffee in peace.

4. Play a Bored (board) game We just picked up a like-new copy of the old game Scotland Yard for 50 cents at a yard sale.  The Littles Love It, which is awesome because I remember playing it with my family as a child and loving it as well.  But I usually mean Sorry or Checkers or Clue, something that works better with only 2 players

5. Finger paint Everybody loves to finger paint.  I keep a supply on hand, along with a roll of freezer paper for them to paint on.  Here’s a secret about freezer paper–it’s cheaper than butcher paper or any other roll you can buy that’s meant for school-age kids.  And it works just as well.  We use it for everything.  And it has that great waxed backing, so paints don’t soak through it.  Seriously, invest in some.

6. Get out the Mad Libs We love Mad Libs.  We use them to drive home grammar lessons during school, even have some that help with math, but mostly we just love getting them out and making funny stories.  Even that early in the morning, I’m down for a game of Mad Libs.  So I get to play, too.  Of course, most of the words end up being disgusting words and body parts, but They Are Boys.

7. Grab the Nature Walk bag, head outside, and see what you can discover.  For some reason, the clover is doing Very Well in our yard this year.  (Makes the deer and rabbits happy but somehow doesn’t keep them out of our garden.)  I tell the Littles to go find me a four-leaf clover, find a new flower in the garden, discover a bug, search out a skink.  Take the magnifying glass and look at one spot for several minutes.  Record what they see.

8. Go play basketball/baseball/football  Any sport they enjoy.  Sometimes just getting up and getting moving chases the boredom away and helps them figure out how they want to spend the rest of their day.

9. Tell me a story Sure, I need quiet first thing in the morning.  But if I can get them to tell me a story, they start using their imagination, practice their story-telling skills, and maybe suddenly say to each other, “Hey, this would make a great game!  Let’s go play.”

10. Pick an activity out of The Dangerous Book for Boys I love this book.  It’s full of fun, adventurous things for boys to do like making paper airplanes, tying knots, building a treehouse, juggling, building a workbench.  Sometimes they look through it for long enough that by the time they pick an activity I’m awake and ready to help them.

11. Draw/Do a craft Littlest likes to draw stories.  He will draw several hours’ worth of action on a single sheet of paper, then IMG_20150605_143011994come tell me what’s happening.  Both the Littles like to get out the gobs of craft paraphernalia and create.  Again, it often leads to a game they’ve made up together.

12. Build a Lego/block house for your action figures If you have boys and they’re anything like mine, your house is a haven for action figures of every sort–superheroes, Pokemon, Transformers, Walking Dead characters… I promise they can keep the house up all day if they build it themselves.  Suddenly they are entertained For Hours.  Because why build a house and not play with it?

13. Take your cars outside and create a race track/crash-up derby/monster truck rally The great thing about summer is you can take your toys outside, get to be out of the house, and have a whole new (and bigger) area to play in.  Make the most of it.  Take some water; make some mud.

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14. Get out your water guns Sometimes, filling up a bucket with water and sending them outside with a water gun is the only way to get them clean.

15. Make my breakfast Hey, if you’re that bored, chances are I haven’t eaten even though I’ve been up for a while.  The Littles love to work in the kitchen, so cutting me up some fruit or heating up some leftover rice is going to go a long way to improving my morning mood.  Which serves everyone.

If nothing on this list works and I am out of spur-of-the-moment ideas, I tell them it’s up to them to come up with something to do.  One of the wonders of boredom is that it makes us Try to think of something to do.  Littles need to learn how to counter boredom on their own, and often Middle and Littlest come up with things on their own that I would never think of.  And then the Real Adventure begins.

Know any other ways to chase off the summer blahs?  Please post them in the comments.  My pre-coffee brain needs them!

Love wins,

KT