Everything You Need to Know Before Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Everything You Need to Know Before Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops are very popular among many homeschoolers and they can be wonderful avenues to make friends, receive support and even expand your child’s academic horizons. Co-ops (cooperatives) are groups generally created by a number of families working together for the benefit of all who want to join. A couple of questions I get asked often are, “How can you join one and how do they work? 

Let’s explore a few things you need to know before joining a homeschool co-op. 

Benefits of Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops vary in what they offer. Some co-ops are designed to support homeschooling families by working together to organize play dates and field trips. There are many of these types of co-ops in Florida, and if you are brand new to homeschooling, these casual meet-ups can be a wonderful way to meet others and to get support. 

Such homeschool co-ops often organize and offer things like a yearly prom, regular weekly park days, field trips to various places around the state, sports teams and a yearbook to members. 

Academics

Co-ops can also be more academic in nature and more structured in the way that they are run. These types of co-ops generally require parents to pitch in somehow; either by teaching a class, assisting in a class, or providing clean up or lunch help during the day. (more…)

4 Essential Tips to Help When Your Partner Doesn’t Want You to Homeschool

what to do when your partner doesn't want you to homeschool

Your partner may not share your enthusiasm on homeschooling, and this could be a possible confrontation avenue. In most cases, the men are skeptical on whether the whole homeschooling concept will work. Before you go crazy on them, it would be important to note that they also have the best interests of your kids in their heart. As such, you have to try and understand their concerns and peacefully address these issues. The following tips will come in handy when your partner doesn’t want you to homeschool.

Stay calm and peaceful 

It does not help to get angry and frustrated because you think your partner is irrational about this subject. By staying calm, he will be able to understand that emotions are not blinding you and you are approaching the topic with a clear head. He will be forced to recognize and respect your reasons for homeschooling. Looping in the kids at this point would be essential. They will most likely have an opinion on this. Let them know how this would change their lives and evaluate if they are ready for the change.

Write down the concerns about homeschooling

Write down the concerns they have with homeschooling. Is it that they have no confidence in your ability to teach? Is it about money? Is it about time? Note down everything they come up with and understand completely why they are hesitant to come on board.

After you write down the concerns they have about homeschooling, it is your time to write down the concerns you have about having your kids schooled in an institution (public or private) somewhere. Let them understand why you decided that homeschooling would be better for your children compared to have them go to a school out there.

Homeschooling allows a deeper connection with the kids

After you have done this, make a rational analysis of these concerns and fears, and this will help you reach a solution quickly. To assist on that, you can let them know that by homeschooling, you will have the chance to experience a deeper connection with your children. This is very important, particularly in their formative years. See our blog series titled, “30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between” for the truth about homeschooling and what it might look like for your family. Discuss these things with your partner. Let him know that you’ve been doing your research.

Look at your finances and time you can spend on homeschooling

Homeschooling can have a toll on your finances if it is not done right. You need to plan and know how much time you have to do this and how much money you can afford to make this a success. You do not want to start and feel overwhelmed down the line. 

Do a lot of research to understand how much the material and curriculum will cost you and what you will need in the future. Connect with other families and learn from them. You will find a lot of support from different people and institutions who understand the concept of homeschooling well.

Talk to Everyone You Know Who Homeschools

Gather information. Ask everyone you know what homeschooling is like for them. Ask questions such as these:

  • how has it changed your lives
  • how have your kids benefited
  • what kind of time is involved
  • do they work AND homeschool
  • how much money do they spend on curriculum each year
  • what types of support groups are there in your area
  • what are the most important things they think you should know

Discuss all this with your partner.

Consider Working From Home

Perhaps your partner’s biggest concern is money. And perhaps you have already thought of this. There are plenty of ways to make money from home, you just have to be a little creative, a little flexible, and know where to look. Start a blog, search for WFH jobs using these tips, or come up with your own ideas. It CAN be done!

The decision you make should be for the benefit of the kids. It is important to have your partner’s help when doing this as it makes it all easier. If I can help with any of this, please contact me for a one-on-one coaching session. See my Testimonials Page to see how I’ve helped others make their homeschooling dreams come true.

10 Hacks for Family Fun at the Beach

10 Hacks for Family Fun at the Beach

A trip to the beach should be tons of fun, but the reality is that going to the beach with kids is a lot of work! You have to pack a ton of gear to be comfortable, snacks and drinks are a must, and then there’s the sand, which gets on everything and is impossible to remove. Luckily for you, I have some great beach hacks that will make your next family trip a breeze! (more…)

Five Simple Things You Should Know to Help Your Young Child Become an Amazing Writer

help your young child become an amazing writer
​I am often asked the question, How can I teach my child to write?  Since reading and writing go hand in hand, the best way to start “teaching” writing is by reading.  Teaching a love of writing at this early age is so important for future successes a writer. There are a few things you should know to help your young child become an amazing writer.

Scribbles Are Important

Early writing really begins with drawing or scribbling. These random marks on the page are very important beginnings to the writing process. If you watch your child, you will see that these “scribbles” soon turn into long wavy lines resembling writing. This usually happens between the ages of 2 and 4.Next in the development of writing at this age, you’ll likely see your child making letter-like markings. These won’t really be true letters, but representations of them.

Recognize Letter Strings

Around age 4 or 5 you’ll start to see real letters in strings on the page. They may or may not make real words.  More often than not, they are simply the letters your child enjoys making in non-phonetic blocks and lines. Don’t be alarmed if many of these are backward. This is totally normal.

Inventive Spelling is “Real” Spelling

When inventive spelling emerges on the page, (usually around age 5 or 6,) the fun begins! Now your child is using his or her own spelling according to how he or she makes the letter-sound correspondence.  This is my very favorite stage of writing and children are so excited to be able to put their sounds to paper and have others decipher it! One thing you can do to celebrate this success is read your child’s stories aloud. I promise, the more you read this inventive spelling, the better you will get at being able to decipher it. Hint: “speak” it as your child speaks; try to talk like your child. When my daughter was young, she had trouble with the “bl” blend and her writing at this stage reflected this.

Have Your Child Share Their Work

Children love to share their writing. Ask you child to be an author and sit in an “author’s chair” – a special chair designed for the sharing of the written word. Ask your child to sit in this chair (or wear a special hat, or other special thing to signify author’s time).  Be an active listener.  Invite the whole family. Ask questions about the story. Comment on what you enjoyed about it.

What Not To Do

It is very important not to correct a child’s spelling or grammar right now. Let them enjoy the free flowing feeling of writing without worry whether it is “right” or not. Spelling is one of those skills that is best acquired over time and does not come by rote memorization, constant correction or practice writing words correctly over and over again. (I’ll have much more to say on this subject in later posts.)

Later On

Around age 7 is when children begin to use more and more conventional spelling in their writing and spells most words correctly. Now is the time to teach simple grammar rules, which we’ll talk more about later on. All of these seemingly small things are your child’s way of showing you that they are on their way to becoming an amazing writer!

Useful Books:

This is an oldie but a goodie. It is hard to get a hold of, but if you can find it, it is gold:
Using Word Walls to Strengthen Student Reading and Writing at the Emergent Level

​Playful Writing: 150 Open-Ended Explorations in Emergent Literacy

Literacy-Building Play in Preschool: Lit Kits, Prop Boxes, and Other Easy-to-Make Tools to Boost Emergent

Reading and Writing Skills Through Dramatic Play

The following books are excellent books for teachers and are a must-have when you are teaching little ones during these early years:

Soaring with Reading and Writing: a highly effective emergent literacy program 

Teaching Beginning Writers

Curriculum We Recommend

All About Spelling

If you have an older child who is struggling with writing, we recommend our How to Write the Perfect 5-Paragraph Essay course. At Life Learning Academy, we believe that learning should be fun!

Helpful Websites

Get Ready to Read (GRTR)

International Reading Association (IRA)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL)

Reading is Fundamental (RIF)

Reading Rockets

How To Prove Your Identity As a Homeschooler: And Why You’d Want To!


Can You Prove That You Are a Homeschooler?

Has anyone ever asked you to prove that you are a homeschooler? Sometimes merchants will ask, but more often, you will be the one to ask for special perks and discounts for homeschoolers. Proving your identify as a homeschooler by having your own official homeschool ID card can save you money on homeschool supplies, admission to parks and hotels and more.

Teacher – Homeschool ID Cards

Teachers can get discounts at places like Office Depot and Barnes & Noble, so why not homeschool teachers? Well now you can prove your identity as a homeschooling family! I scoured the Internet looking for a decent, professional-looking and FREE homeschool ID template and I’ve found one here.

How to Create a Homeschool ID Card

Find some good headshots of your children. Think “passport photo” type pics. Choose a name for your homeschool and create it!

I printed our cards this on heavy card stock and laminated them with clear contact paper.  They came out great!

The template is very user-friendly, and only took me a few minutes to print cards for our whole family. You’ll use these homeschool identification cards many times, I promise!

This site is well worth browsing as it offers many other homeschooling freebies and discounts as well.

Enjoy!

Q & A With the Author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Kids Outside the Conventional Classroom

homeschool in Florida
If you’ve been homeschooling long enough, you’ve likely come across the term “unschooling.” Unschooling is one of those terms that often has the homeschooling community at odds with one another, as if there are only black and white approaches to educating our children. Many homeschooling families, chose to educate their kids at home so that they can educate kids outside the box: unschooling is just one way of (as the title reads), raising curious, well-educated kids outside the conventional classroom.

As a homeschool consultant and evaluator, I have had the pleasure of working with many unschooling families over the years. To schedule a homeschool portfolio evaluation with me click here.

To learn what you need to know before scheduling that homeschool portfolio evaluation, read this.

To join my Homeschool Helpline and get ongoing support for your homeschool life, click here. 

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge proponent of child-led learning. I have a deep respect for successful unschooling families.

When I came across the book, Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald, I knew I had to have it. (more…)

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

homeschool in florida

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me.

This is what I say to new clients who ask about my homeschool portfolio evaluation services.

A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their portfolio evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction: WHY?!

During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to their state laws, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above for the states of Florida and Virginia, where the bulk of my clients reside.

Always check your state’s requirements.

We are so fortunate as homeschoolers across the country to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article.

The portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do homeschool portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing does have its place. I have had my girls test in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. ​

About Portfolios

Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare.

Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Alternatives to an Annual Portfolio Review

Many families opt to homeschool under a private umbrella school, rather than sign up with their county school board. When you register with a private umbrella school, you do not need to show any type of proof of progress at the end of the school year. The only thing you have to show is that you have met the mandatory 180 day attendance requirement. Our umbrella school, Life Learning Academy, may be the right choice for your family. Life Learning Academy is a private school which allows you to remain in control of your child’s education. You can choose the curriculum you’d like to use, you can choose to test (or not test) your kids, and you do not have to send the county any proof of progress at the end of your school year. Of course, you may choose to assess your children yourself as you go along so that you can see how they’re progressing. Read on to find out how.

Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.

Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.

What to Expect During Your Homeschool Portfolio Review

During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the law in my state ask me to.

I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly state will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test.

As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

I offer convenient, stress-free, distance portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers in Florida, Virginia as a way for families to prove progress. I also offer portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers worldwide as an assessment tool for parent’s peace of mind.

Learn more about the benefits of distance evaluations here.

I invite you to become a part of my Homeschool Helpline group. In this small group setting you have access to my experience and expertise in a multitude of ways, which will bring you all the confidence and the peace you need for a successful homeschool.

You can read more about Life Learning Academy, our private umbrella school for homeschoolers here. Our private school, Life Learning Academy offers support for your entire homeschool family: parents, students and younger siblings. Life Learning Academy offers a wide support staff if and when you might need them including an expert on ESE students (dyslexia, giftedness and more); a speech/language pathologist and an expert on schooling kids on the Autism spectrum.

Top Three Things to Help Avoid Homeschool Burnout

top three things to help avoid homeschool burnout

I don’t know about you, but I need all the tips I can get for how to avoid homeschool burnout. By the end of December, and again around the beginning of May, you can stick me with a fork because I’m done.

I’m tired.

I’m worn out from all the curricular AND extracurricular activities. I’m barely hanging on, and the words you’ll hear most often from my mouth those days are, “just skip it!” My homeschooling mojo has left the building. My inspiration lies wet and soggy somewhere underneath a pile of once shiny-new ideas.

I need a pick-me-up, and a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with almond milk just won’t do. I’m experiencing homeschool burnout.

I’ve been through this before. Many times. And I can help you get through your own version of homeschool burnout

Here are three things that have helped me most: (in order)

Stop Feeling Guilty

I know you feel it. You can’t deny it. We homeschool moms are the ones who begin each year with our polished new ideas, mission statements, clean schedules, new resolutions and high hopes. When we get to May and are reminded of all the ways in which our ideas didn’t pan out, we feel awful. It’s to be expected. But guilt (or remorse or regret) just don’t serve us. Throw those feelings away and replace them with a mind open to learning why those ideas didn’t pan out. For me, it’s usually because of one of these three things: (more…)

Running a Business While Homeschooling: Making it Work for You

Running a business while homeschooling

As a homeschool parent, a huge portion of your time is tied up teaching your kids, and so running a business and earning money can be tricky. However, thanks to the internet, no longer is it impossible and there are actually lots of ways to earn an income in a flexible way, right from your own home. However, there are some things you’ll need to consider, here’s how to make running a business while homeschooling successful for you.

Find a place to work from

When you’re working from home as a freelancer, or running your blogging business, it’s easy to assume that you can sit at your dining table, on your sofa or even work from your bed in your pajamas! (more…)

How to Homeschool Multiple Children

The question of how to homeschool multiple children is one of the top questions I get when I work with homeschooling families. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why homeschooling moms book consulting appointments with me.

When I was an educator working in the elementary brick and mortar classrooms, I taught in what we called then multi-age classrooms. I had kindergarten, first and second graders together for several years and then third, fourth and fifth graders after that. As a passionate educator who had a wonderful and diverse education in the art and science of educating, teaching in multi-age classrooms was a dream.

When I decided to homeschool my own children, I followed what I knew worked in my classrooms, and I even ran a small cottage school out of my home for a while consisting of students of multiple ages. These days were some of my girls’ fondest homeschool memories.

Here are some things that I learned along the way that can help you homeschool multiple children in your own homeschool. We’ll start with the very important and less “academic” things. (more…)

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