Five Most Important Things Every Homeschooler Should Know

These are the five most important things every homeschooler should know. It helps us to come back to these things often as a reminder!

You Probably Won’t Stick to “The Plan”

We homeschoolers have so many inspired ideas when we first begin! Who doesn’t love a new adventure, with a shiny new schedule to go along with it?I promise you, you will go “off course”. You will “follow a different path”. You will get “redirected”. It’s all okay. It’s necessary, and it leads to new adventures and new opportunities.

Consider this fictitious day. Does it resonate with you?

* 8:30 You and your children begin the day with stretching, exercise and/or prayer time. Everyone is smiling and well-rested. The bigger kids help make smoothie bowls for breakfast at 8:30 am while their younger siblings clean up their toys. Breakfast is followed by journal writing and free reading. Your group history lesson begins at 10:00 followed by a snack (which the kids prepare themselves) and a short free-play or free-time session for everyone until exactly 10:45, which leaves just enough time to fit in some handwriting practice before it’s time to involve the kids in preparing a healthy lunch.

* 11:30 Lunch We want to take advantage of all the teachable moments that we can, so involve the kids in every aspect of daily life. The children will take on the lunch prep, and the younger children are learning about knife skills. We are also going to have an opportunity to incorporate some math and reading into it!  Sometimes we plan to cook special ethnic dishes if they correlate to the learning of the week, however, today’s focus is on a Paleo-style menu.

* 1:00 Team-work clean up. After lunch everyone pitches in to help clean up. The dishes, counters, table chairs and floor is cleaned to shining. Household work for a homeschooling family is a family affair. Mom does not do it all. 

* 2:30 Read Aloud Time. Since the kitchen is now well-cleaned it’s time for everyone to help fold and put away the laundry that was started first thing this morning.  The favorite part of the day is now when the whole family snuggles together on the sofa to read aloud from a current favorite. Vocabulary is discussed, and the kids each do a retelling, so that mom can assess comprehension.

Remember: This is a Fictitious Schedule!

* 3:15 Art. We know that one way to help our kids internalize the learning that has taken place today is to have the kids work on a painting, sculpting, or other art activity related to the lessons of the day. This is all done in a neat and organized fashion. Art supplies are located in the bin with the pretty label, and the kids clean all of these up afterward and put them away themselves.

* 4:00 Math. By this time the clock is ticking ever-closer to dinner prep time, and our shiny new schedule tells us that math must be done.  Math lessons take place exactly from 4-4:50.  Mom works with each child individually for 15 minutes, and then the children continue with practice on their own.4:50-5:15 Mom does grading and planning for the next day while the kids have play time. Mom needs to check journals, handwriting, history and math so she sends the kids outside to play.

At this point, today, Mom is not finished with her grading, and has not even looked at plans for tomorrow, but the kids are already asking when dinner will be ready.  Mom doesn’t know, because she hasn’t planned for dinner and her day with her perfect, fictitious children has not gone as planned; the house is a mess, the kitchen tables and counters covered with paint and glue and glitter, and she can hear one child crying in the next room over her math lesson.

Mom sighs, feeling defeated.  How is this going to work? That evening she starts drafting a new plan.

Can You Relate?

Can anyone relate?  Personally, I have planned, and re-planned, typed up and handwritten, discussed, and prayed over, plans just like this until one day I realized:We probably won’t stick to the plan. And that’s okay. Your kids, too, will be okay.​ Read that again, homeschooling moms and dads! Send yourself a text with these words. Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Use this quote as your copy work for the day. Remember it. This is the number one most important thing for homeschoolers to know.

Following a Daily Rhythm is More Important Than Following a Daily Schedule

It is fine (and good!) to have a road map for your homeschool. Knowing your destination is important and necessary, and you can reach this destination even if you do miss a day, or weeks’ worth of math lessons for example.  Sit down and think about what types of things you want to accomplish for that particular month, quarter, or even year.  Write them down in broad ideas.

​For example:

My second grader will be able to read short chapter books and retell the story through writing.  He will have mastered double digit addition and subtraction.  ​

What is a Rhythm?

​A rhythm is like a schedule, in that following it helps everyone know what will come next.  It’s important for both the homeschool teachers and the students to know what comes next, however, you don’t have to be tied down to an exact schedule.  Remember, you decided to homeschool for a reason, and one of those reasons may have been that you wanted a different environment for your kids; including a different schedule.Having a rhythm helps you remember that as long as you have a broad sense of what you want to accomplish that day, week, month, or even year; but happen get off-course because someone got strep throat, or a sprained ankle at soccer practice, or you had company down from up North, you will be more likely to be able to go with the flow of whatever life throws at you.  And remember, on days when you feel like you can’t get it all done (or any of it done), simply sit down with your kids and read aloud.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

I’m just going to be blunt.  If you try to duplicate the public (or private) school system in your home, you (and your children), will burn out quickly and you will probably change your mind about homeschooling. I have seen it happen many times. Remember: you chose to homeschool for a reason.  You might want to write these reasons down and keep them where you can see them and be reminded regularly.  So often we lose sight of the reasons why we are educating our own children. If you are not sure anymore of the reasons why you chose this lifestyle, perhaps a homeschooling mission statement would help you clarify? 

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, because homeschooling families do not live like other families whose kids go to either public or private brick and mortar schools.

Generally, some of these differences include:

1. Homeschooled kids are exposed to “real life” situations earlier and more often than their non-homeschooled peers.  This is what homeschooling families call “real world learning” and isn’t this what our schools are trying to prepare kids for?

2. Homeschooled kids are often more mature in social situations and have a larger vocabulary than their peers who are not exposed to these real world situations.

3. Homeschooled kids spend more time with their families, and are exposed to, and participate more in the household activities. All these things and more, help prepare our children for the “real world”; a world that is made up of more than a group of same-age, often same-sex peers.

What About Doubt?

When you doubt yourself, please go back in time and remember all the reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.  Write them down.  Go back to your mission statement and remember what your homeschool goals are. If necessary, change them. Hold a family meeting and revise and revamp.  Talk with your core support group, or sign up for our low-cost mentoring program.  Get it out of your head, and move on with revitalized purpose, or with a new plan, but above all, talk about it! You are not alone.

It’s Important to Celebrate Success

You will also look back on each year and marvel at how much your kids have grown.  Also, you will notice the importance of not only academic growth, but social and emotional growth as well.  You will bear witness to your kids becoming amazing, empathic, self-assured people.  Each success, whether it be mastering the division of fractions, or providing a listening ear for a friend in need, will be a celebration of the success of the lifestyle you are living. Don’t discount these seemingly small successes! 

It’s Important to Celebrate Failures

On the other hand, your kids will fail too.  Failures are also reasons to celebrate. That sounds counter intuitive, right?  What I mean is, each time your child fails at something, it is a learning opportunity. We must let our kids fail at certain things, and not rescue them. For example, let’s say your high schooler has an important assessment coming up. This student has procrastinated and has not done his best work and now the time is running out.  Do you run to his aid? Or do you allow him to suffer the consequences of poor time management? Each lesson learned this way, is a success and a good prep for not only future college work, but for life in general.  Don’t discount failures! They are successes in disguise.

Please revisit this list of the most important things that homeschoolers should know often. It will re-inspire and sustain you. Share it with all of your friends. All of us fall into the homeschooling doldrums every know and then. Remember these things can help lift us up! 


Cat-Lovers Ultimate Gift

Calling All Cat Lovers – Here’s the Ultimate Gift!

When I saw this adorable hoodie on Amazon, I knew that it would be the ultimate gift for Leo, our cat, and Kate, our cat-lover. Leo is actually still a kitten at about seven months old, but he is getting close to full-grown. There is no doubt that he considers Kate his “mommy” because she has carried him around like a baby since he was the size of her muck boot, and he follows after her (and the rest of us) like a faithful dog.

Today, our weather was cool again, by Florida standards, and since it is quite possible for us to be wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts on Christmas Day, we decided to take advantage of the weather and gift Kate and Leo with this hoodie today. If you, too, have a cat who loves to snuggle and be held, or if you know someone who does, look no further. This is the gift you need!

This hoodie is extremely cute. The hood comes complete with little cat ears, paw prints on the front pocket, and pom pom tassels for your cat to play with. The sweatshirt itself is soft cotton material, not too thick, and the pocket is fleece-lined, which can be taken out in case your cat gets too hot. Kate immediately loved this when she opened it and put it on because the material is very soft and not too thick.

Here’s Leo’s first reaction to his new ultimate cat carrier/sweatshirt/kangaroo pocket.

The True Test

Leo seemed to like being carried around in this pocket while Kate walked around outside; in fact, he did not want to get out out of the pouch even after about an hour of riding around in it. Now it was time to really put this carrier to the test, or was she putting her easy-going cat to the test? Either way, Kate discovered that she could also do her outdoor chores while Leo watched and played from the pocket.

Leo’s Review

I suppose there isn’t much more to hear except the sound of purring. Listen closely after the buzzing of the bee goes away, and you will hear Leo’s purr of approval.

Kate’s Final Review

For over an hour Kate walked around outside with Leo in the pocket, she mucked Biscuit’s stall while Leo stayed in the pocket, and she rode around with me while we spread the mucked poop on one of our pastures. Leo will generally ride along with us anyway, but we think he enjoyed riding in the pocket even more than just sitting on the seat next to us in his cat-dog style. After this initial test, Leo had fun playing in this pocket on and off throughout the day, and I am just guessing that first thing tomorrow morning, when Kate goes out to feed her horse, that Leo will be purring loudly from his fleece-lined womb again.

Kate and Leo both love this hoodie so much, that Kate decided to give you her thoughts on this awesome, adorable, ultimate gift for cats and the owners who love them.

Additional Info

Kate is twelve-years-old and is a typical sized kid for her age. Meaning, that she wears size 12 pants and isn’t quite big enough for a ladies’ size small shirt or hoodie yet. The one we ordered her was a size small (they are only adult sizes) and after reading the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see that most people suggested buying a size up. I did notice that there are a few different sellers on Amazon selling these hoodies, but I am not sure if they are all from the same manufacturer. This one is perfect! It is called the Petgaroo Women’s Sweatshirt. I hope that information helps you!

If you have any questions, or if you purchase one of these adorable hoodies for your cat and your cat-lover please leave a comment below and let us know!

Homestead Maintenance – Fencing

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Every homestead will generally have a great deal of fencing. Fencing types range from four-board horse fencing to woven wire fencing for livestock, to poultry fencing for chickens and fowl. Whether it is designed to keep animals in or predators out, maintaining fencing is an important task that should be on every homesteader’s to-do list. One thing is for certain; a broken fence will not mend itself! Let’s take a look at the different fence types, what they are used for, and what you should keep on hand to make repairs.

 

Four-Board or Board Fencing

Four board or board fencing is typically used in pastures for horses and ponies. When first erected, this type of fence is pleasing to the eye and very safe for the animals. Board fencing is usually erected using four to six-inch round, treated wooden fence posts or treated 4×4 or 6×6 timbers and 1x6x16-foot fence boards nailed to the posts.

Due to the nature of the material, it is very common for the posts and timbers to twist over time and for the fence boards to warp, sag and buckle. As the fence begins to age, nails may pop out of the posts and the boards may become weak and broken. Nail pops can be a hazard to the animals in the field, especially horses that enjoy scratching themselves on the posts. Broken boards are an invitation for your animals to get out and do a bit of exploring to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.

Paint the top of the wooden fence posts or timbers with a good heavy barn paint or roofing tar to keep water from wicking into the post and rotting prematurely.

Now, pop in a CD of Desperado by the Eagles and get out there and ride (or walk) your fences to inspect for wear and damage. Bring along a good hammer and some nails just in case you find a board that needs some help getting reattached to its post. A spool of baling wire is also helpful to make expedient repairs to any broken boards you may come across until you can get back and replace it.

 

Woven Wire Field Fencing

Wire field fencing is probably the most common type of fence used on the homestead. There are many different types with varying spacing between the wires and thickness of the wire itself. Let me just say this, buy the best fence you can afford. Cheaply made fencing will become brittle and rust quickly . You will spend more time and money in the long run repairing and replacing it than if you had bought the good stuff in the beginning.

Wire fence is typically nailed to wooden posts or timbers using galvanized metal staples. These are great fun to install, especially if you like to smash your fingers. One of the problems with wire fencing is that it loses the tension and becomes loose. This usually happens when horses or cattle lean against the fence or push on it trying to get to beautiful green grass in your neighbors field. Once a wire fence becomes loose, it is now a potential hazard for horses to get their hooves entangled in, and it is much easier for coyotes or foxes to dig under a loose fence.

Walk your fence at least once a month with a good fencing tool. and a pocket full of staples. We use a Channellock 10.5 inch fencing tool. Inspect the fence for breaks in the wire and tie some surveyor’s flagging around those spots as a marker for future replacement. Make sure there are not any loose wires sticking errantly out of the fence as you can be certain a horse will find it and scratch itself on it. Or worse yet, poke it in the eye. You don’t want to be putting your vet’s kid through college. Ask us how we know.

 

Poultry Wire Fencing

Chicken wire or poultry fencing is without a doubt the most aggravating type of fence to work with  In addition to being hard to work with, it is generally very thin wire and does not last for decades as do the other types of woven wire fences. But let’ s face it, it’s cheap and it does the trick to keep our beloved chickens corralled. This is what we use. 

Inspect your chicken wire daily and very carefully. Chickens and fowl are a tremendous asset to any homestead and they are also on the menu for many predators. Coyote, fox, raccoon, possum, snakes and hawks will all be more than happy to dine on your hens if given easy access to the chicken yard.

Keep a roll of wire and a wire cutter at the chicken coop so you can make repairs while you are there collecting eggs. We can’t tell you how many times we have noticed a rip in the fence and tell ourselves that we’ll get to it later, and later finds us repairing something else on the homestead we forgot to repair before!

Your homestead fencing represents a huge investment in money and time. Protect your investment by taking time today to gather the supplies you’ll need so you’ll have them on hand when it’s time to do your maintenance checks.

Gifts You Should Purchase for Your Homeschool

Keep It Simple – Say NO to Junk

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Let’s face it. We all have those relatives that just won’t listen when we ask them to send our homeschooled kids educational toys for the holidays. There have been years when we thought about banning our parents from sending gifts and instead asking them to simply send gift cards or better yet, Amazon cards, so that we could spend the money ourselves. But we didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So we didn’t. And now we have more junk than we really want. Add to that the fact that we moved into a much smaller house a few years ago and now we just want to shout, “please send the good stuff!”

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Five Ways to Get Your Kids to Love Doing Chores

There is always something to be done around the homestead, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day for The Parents (aka The Working Parents) to get it all done! Ever since our girls were little and we began to homeschool, I have always also worked part-time (and for a few years full-time.) Talk about needing some extra hands to help out!

1. Start Early

As soon as the girls were old enough to use them, we bought them their own tools: hoes, rakes, gloves, hammers, nails, drills, screws, paintbrushes, paint and small pieces of wood. They created at will, and what they made was often times messy, but always awesome. Since we involved our girls in most everything we did around the homestead, they watched and learned. Even when we thought they weren’t watching, they were; and not only were they watching, they were remembering.

Kate getting her garden row ready. She’s about five years old here.

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Make Your Own Sauerkraut With These 4 Simple Steps

Add cranberry for a great holiday twist!

Sauerkraut is one of our super foods! Fermented foods contain beneficial probiotics which help with digestion, and overall immune support.

Unfortunately, you don’t get the same benefits from sauerkraut that you buy at the grocery store; it just doesn’t have time to ferment properly before being packaged and sold, and the fermenting process is what creates all those good-for-you probiotics!

Making sauerkraut is simple and easy and is one of the best recipes to start with if you are new to fermenting foods. I’ll tell you how I got started fermenting foods. Years ago, I read the book Nourishing Traditions and began learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. The first thing I tried to ferment was shredded carrots in a mason jar, covered with cheesecloth. I followed all the steps and watched my carrots religiously, however, nothing really seemed to happen. I tried making kimchi once after that and that, too, was a disappointment.

Fast forward a few years to the day I went to a fermenting class with a friend. It was an “aha!” moment for me when they showed us a tiny little gadget called an airlock. Where had this been al my life? This simple gadget is the key to making safe, delicious fermented foods.

This tiny gadget is the key to making safe fermented foods

You can purchase a pre-made five-gallon bucket (or larger!) that will come with the grommet and the airlock, or you can make your own. Simply drill a hole, place the grommet inside, but be certain it is tight-fitting, and insert the airlock. Voila’! You are ready to make sauerkraut.

Now it’s time to get to work. Gather the following items and sanitize everything before you begin:

  • food-grade five-gallon bucket with lid, grommet and airlock
  • about 5-7 pounds of shredded cabbage
  • non-iodized salt (2 teaspoons per pound of veggies)
  • water
  • spoon, stamper or something else to submerge the cabbage (or use your hands!)

Step 1. Shred your cabbage. Use green or red cabbage or a mixture of both, add shredded carrots, shredded apple, or whatever your heart desires. Toss in some aromatics like juniper berries, or even cranberries for the holidays. Mix it up. You can’t go wrong!

Step 2. Transfer cabbage (and other veggies or aromatics) into your bucket, add salt, add enough water to cover the vegetables and mix well. I put rubber gloves on and get right in there with my hands. It is very important to use non-iodized salt. sometimes known as “cheese salt”. Iodized salt does not allow fermentation to occur.

Step 3: Weight your veggies. I place a medium-sized ceramic bowl in a ziplock bag and place this over the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. You can also purchase weights for this purpose, but I have never found them necessary.

Step 4: Place the cover on the bucket and let the magic happen!

Check every other day or so to make sure your vegetables are submerged in the brine. Active fermentation will cause them to rise up. Be sure to check for mold. You cannot see or smell mold, but you will feel it, and it means that oxygen got in. If you feel a slimy film over your vegetables, throw it out. It is okay to see a film over your veggies, but that film should not be slimy! Remember: when in doubt, throw it out!

The longer your sauerkraut ferments, the stronger the flavor will be. Test it every day and remove it when it is perfect for you. We like our sauerkraut fairly mild, so we usually remove ours after about 7-10 days, but you can leave yours fermenting for up to 30 days.

After you transfer your sauerkraut to mason jars or containers, if you have leftover juice, be sure to save it! This juice is wonderful for gargling with if you have a sore throat.

Strain and save your leftover juice!

Store your sauerkraut in the refrigerator or water-bath can, which is what we do!

 

 

Free Homeschool Curriculum for Hurricane Victims

Hurricane Harvey victims who use Seton Homeschool materials or Our Father’s World materials can contact these companies for free replacement materials. Our Father’s World will send free curriculum to anyone who lost ANY curriculum, from ANY publisher!

Please share this with anyone you know who needs this information.

If you would like to donate any of your used curriculum to help hurricane victims, you can also contact the Home School Foundation here. 

The Best Reason to Visit Kentucky

This past July we took a trip to Kentucky, fueled by our eleven-year old’s enthusiasm for all things Breyer. She had wanted to go to the Breyer Horse Festival for years. We figured, why not? We left in July, during the worst heat-wave of the year, and headed north. Our trip consisted of stopping to see the girls’ aunt and uncle in Atlanta on the way, and seeing The Ark Encounter.  On the way back we made a stop in Asheville, and, finally back home again. But this post will be about the Kentucky Horse Park and Old Friends Farm.

We knew we’d have an amazing trip, because this is what we saw before we left.

We left early on Thursday en route to Atlanta to see Aunt M and Uncle B along the way. We stayed the night in Atlanta and left the next morning, headed for Georgetown, KY!

Seeing this sign brought back so many memories for me! I went to college and graduate school not far from Saratoga Raceway, and lived there for ten years before moving to Florida. Every summer you’d find me standing by the rail, watching the horses race. I didn’t bet much, (what college student can afford it?) but I absolutely loved  going up to the track at dawn and having breakfast while watching the exercise jockeys work the horses. I can’t even say how many famous horses I saw run there.

Here we are at the Kentucky Horse Park!

We made it to the Kentucky Horse Park and the Breyer Festival 2016. We followed many cars and minivans in decorated with “Breyer Fest or Bust”. We were excited!

The Breyer Fest was a bit of a disappointment for us. I guess we were expecting more activities, and less spending opportunities, especially since the tickets to get in were not cheap. To this practical-minded mom, I saw it as a big outdoor Breyer store. My girls enjoyed browsing the shopping area, but we could have done that anywhere (or at home online!) The part that we enjoyed most was seeing the retired racehorses. And this led us to visit Old Friends Farm, which, lucky for us, was right down the road!

The sweet boy, Silver Charm

Old Friends Farm is a thoroughbred retirement home and is a beautiful place with a serene and happy energy. We called ahead to book our tour and when we arrived found that our group was very small (they keep them small so that visitors have an intimate experience with the horses). Our tour guide, Laura, was terrific and to our surprise we were joined by Michael, the owner and founder of the farm. The tour took about an hour and a half and we didn’t want it to end (even though we were in a once-in-every-few-decades-heat wave!)

Please read more about Michael Blowen here. If you ever wanted to support an organization, this would be the one!  The information we learned about each horse was incredible and I wish I had kept better records of who we saw, who we got to pet and love and feed. I know I saw some of these guys race at Saratoga years before.

I tried to keep up by making notes on my phone about each horse, but being the horse lover that I am, that quickly feel by the wayside; I didn’t want to miss a moment with these amazing animals, and I was right up front ready to stroke and feed and whisper sweet-nothings to these beauties.

Genuine Reward

Wallenda

Michael and Silver Charm

It was really fun for us to hear Michael’s story about how he got started rescuing these horses, and his love for them was palpable. I think if we lived in Kentucky, we’d definitely volunteer here!

We loved this farm and can’t wait to go back again.

Not Back to School Summit

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Diane from the HECOA puts this on every year and it is fantastic! It is an online summit which includes speakers on topics such as teaching fractions, finding scholarships for your college-bound students and much more. Plus it’s FREE! The dates this year are September 6-20. 
Go here to sign up.

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