Google The Unplanned Homeschooler

Saturday, August 12, 2017

There are literally millions of ways to homeschool

If you live near a Sonic Drive-In, you probably already know that they are famous for their amazing array of drink combinations. In fact, according to a 2016 press release, Sonic's menu had reached an astonishing 1.3 million different drink combinations, up from the "more than 168,000" it had boasted in 2007. 

Now, that would be one heck of a menu if all the possible combinations were listed, but thankfully, they are not. Instead, there is a menu of possible choices, from which thirsty diners can pick and choose and customize the perfect drink for each member of the family.

If you think Sonic has a lot of choices on their drink menu, you should take a look around at all the different curriculum options available today. There are so many different choices, way more than there were a decade ago. 

Some folks still like to go with a boxed curriculum where the whole package is set up for them, much like the customers who order a plain Coke. That's okay if it works well for them, especially if they are new and might find the abundance of choices a bit overwhelming the first year.

But most of the experienced homeschoolers I know like to choose from all that's available: one option for math, another for language arts, something else for science and history. Mixing and matching they come up with a unique combination all their own. Instead of that basic Coke, maybe they have a cherry,vanilla, Dr. Pepper, or a grape, raspberry, frozen lemonade with sour candies mixed in. The variety is virtually endless.

And just like choosing your drinks at Sonic, you can choose something different for every member of your family, trying out different options until you find favorites, and then switching things up again when needs, or tastes, change. 

Don't feel like you have to homeschool the same way as your neighbor, your friend, or that really experienced homeschool mom at co-op. Yes, it's a great idea to gather opinions and thoughts on the different options available, but in the end, it's your school. You get to decide, from the literally millions of different curriculum combinations and make your homeschool work for you. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Get your copy of The Unplanner, 2017-2018 Edition today!

Back-to-school is in the air! Studies may have already resumed in your house, or the first day back may be coming up soon. Either way, it's not too late to visit my store and get your copy of this year's edition of The Unplanner. 

If you are not already familiar with The Unplanner, it's a different kind of organizer made just for those of us who are a bit overwhelmed by the planners with too many pages and way too many blanks. If you're the sort who is looking to do some light planning, and mostly keep track of what your kids have done through the year, this is the organizer for you!

With month-at-a-glance pages for keeping track of upcoming events and appointments, weekly pages for scheduling lessons, attendance sheets and pages for keeping track of the curriculum you use, the books your kids are reading and the learning adventures like field trips and experiments you will want to remember forever, The Unplanner has all the pages you want and none of the extras you don't.

And at just $7.99, this handy 6 x 9 inch, professionally bound book with a pretty floral cover is less expensive than many of the "free" printables you might place in a binder or have bound at the local printer. Treat yourself to a copy of The Unplanner today!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What comes after Algebra 1?

"What should my high school student take after Algebra 1?"

That's one of the most commonly asked questions among homeschoolers, and it's not so simple to answer. Where do you go next, into Algebra 2 or Geometry? Ask this question in any large homeschool group and you are sure to get a lot of debate.

When I was in school, most students enrolled in Geometry right after Algebra 1, but I chose to enroll in Algebra 2. It made more sense to me to cover that material immediately following Algebra 1, and I did well taking the courses in this order.

There is a strong argument to be made, however, for taking Geometry immediately after Algebra 1, because a student would have more exposure to those concepts before taking the PSAT, thus potentially raising their score.

As my twins were approaching the end of Algebra 1 this year, I realized it was time for our family to make this difficult decision. I had curriculum for both courses ready to go, and had reviewed the first several chapters of each. I just needed to pick which one we would do first.

After a lot of thought, I decided to try a different approach. We're going to do both Algebra 2 and Geometry simultaneously. Now, that doesn't mean I am doubling the workload on my kids. No, in fact, they will be maintaining the same weekly schedule as they did with Algebra 1. But instead of doing one full course and then the other, we are going to do one small section at a time, and switch back and forth between courses.

Some folks have called me crazy for trying this approach, and others have called me brilliant. I'll settle for a little of both, so long as the plan works well for my kids. We can always revert to doing one course at a time if the alternating schedule doesn't work out, but I think that my twins are bright enough to handle switching back and forth.

The best part of this plan is that both Algebra 2 and Geometry will be fresh in their minds when it is time to take their PSAT next fall. We do a year-round schedule with intermittent breaks, and they should be finished with most of both math courses by next October. If everything goes the way I hope it does, this will give them their best chance to score well, and hopefully earn some scholarship offers.

I'd love to hear what you have planned following Algebra 1, or if your students have already moved on through higher math, how they did using one approach or another.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Around and around we go

I love riding a Ferris wheel. Next year will mark 125 years since George W. Ferris built the first Ferris wheel in Chicago in 1893. Ever since then, thrilled riders have hung on as wheels around the world took them to new heights, showing them unique views of the world around them along the way.

My favorite part of riding the Ferris wheel is not the exhilarating, non-stop ride you enjoy once the cars are full and the wheel gets up to speed. It's actually the many stops along the way, each one at a different point on the wheel, as some riders get off and new ones get on. Every stop brings a new view, a new perspective to sit back and enjoy. Sometimes even the air seems different at a new stop. I love to just look around and take it all in, enjoying every moment before it passes, always too quickly, and the wheel starts moving again.

Life as a homeschooler is a lot like a ride on a Ferris wheel. Each year we go around and around again, sometimes letting one child off as they graduate and leave the home, other times bringing a brand new student on board as a little one joins the learning crew. And along the way there are stops, each at a new point with so much to discover.

It's a brand new school year, and as I sit here in my recliner, organizing the resources I will use for the classes my kids will be taking in the fall, my heart skips a beat. I feel like I am sitting on a Ferris wheel, near the top but not quite, my gondola swaying in the breeze as I look at my children. My twins are about to start 10th grade. How did they grow up so quickly? They'll start driving this year, and taking concurrent enrollment classes at the local university. Don't move, wheel. Not yet.

My youngest will be starting 5th grade this semester, a year ahead of where she would have been if she'd started kindergarten in public school at age five. She's excited for the changes this year will bring, as she joins a new co-op and maybe makes new friends.

I feel the wind change and I know that the ride is about to take off again. This year will be different than any of the ones before. After eight long years, I finally retired my post as leader of the local homeschool group, and going into this school year I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I laugh in anticipation of a fun year, thankful for the mom who took over my duties so I could change my focus. The view is different from here.

School starts back for us full time next week. The Ferris wheel is about to start spinning again. I take a deep breath and one last look around. I'm ready! How about you?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homeschooling when Mom is away

Last month I had to prepare my husband and my kids for a week without me, as I planned to spend my days at the hospital with my mom while she recovered from open heart surgery. Like most of the homeschooling moms I know, I spend the majority of my time with my kids, rarely getting away for more than an afternoon or evening at a time. And even if I do leave town for a couple of days, perhaps to attend a convention or fulfill a speaking obligation, I typically don't worry about keeping the kids' school schedule on track during my absence.

But knowing that I would be gone for nearly a week, or maybe more, and not wanting to burn time off that I would rather spend doing fun things this spring, I decided to keep my chindren homeschooling all throughout my time away.

Whether you have to be away for just a couple of days or an extended period, here are a few good ideas that may help you keep your homeschooling routine on track while you are gone. They helped me, and I was glad to come back from my week away and not find the kids a week behind in school.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Get four times the fun with this free worksheet

You may have seen the meme that the Facebook page, Math is Awesome, shared this week. Using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square roots, factorials and carefully placed parentheses, students can solve expressions using four fours to equal every number from 0 to 13.

I thought this would be a neat exercise to give my own homeschoolers, so they could see the good old order of operations in a creative way. With a little bit of work, and a refresher on how to type the division symbol, I turned the meme into a worksheet.

Click here to get a free copy of the worksheet you can use with your students. And just in case you don't remember everything from your algebra class, in the problems near the end, 4! means 4 factorial, which is 4x3x2x1. Have fun!

How a simplified homeschooling routine helps in difficult times

I don't know if folks who don't know me well in real life follow this blog closely enough to know when I take some time off from writing, but in case you did happen to miss me over the last couple of months, I wanted to take a moment to check in and confirm that yes, I am still here and still homeschooling!

I had to put my blog on the back burner over the holidays, as my family dealt with some difficult times. My mom had some pretty severe health issues, including being hospitalized with a stroke before Christmas, having surgery shortly after that to resolve a blocked renal artery and finding out she would have to have open heart surgery as soon as possible. In the middle of all that, my uncle on my mom's side passed away following an extended stay in the hospital. 

When it became clear that this school year was going to be complicated by difficult times, I realized I would need to simplify our homeschool routine in order to keep things running smoothly and keep the kids on track with their studies.

You may be homeschooling through difficult times as well, or find yourself doing so in the future. These are some of the things that have helped us to keep homeschooling in spite of the complications.

Reducing our obligations

From running our local homeschool group and writing this blog to taking the kids to extracurricular activities and events, I had several obligations outside of simply homeschooling and maintaining the house, which in itself is a full time job. One of the first things I did, when I realized we were in the middle of a difficult season, was pull back. 

It's not always easy to reduce your obligations, especially if you don't have others to pull up the slack for you. I am not a super-blogger with a virtual assistant on staff to keep things going when I need to step away, and I didn't have a reservoir of pre-written pieces I could just schedule to post in my absence. So stepping away meant letting the blog sit idle for a while, and being okay with that. 

Reducing my outside obligations in our local homeschool meant letting some things go, too. During a time when I would normally be busy planning activities and leading field trips, I have had to step back and hope others would take my place. 

Revising our schedule

The next thing I did when I realized we had weeks, and possibly months of work ahead of us helping my parents as my mom recovered was to revise our schedule. I knew that my twins would need help with things like learning new concepts in algebra, but they could easily handle studying world history on their own. So I changed our schedule to focus more heavily on math at the beginning of this semester, before the heart surgery, so we could get more of that done while I have more time at home.

As homeschoolers, our schedule is wonderfully flexible, in that we can move lessons and even full courses around to accommodate our family's needs. While I am spending time with my mom at the hospital, my twins will likely be working on history and literature, subjects they can do without supervision, and my youngest will be focused on reinforcing a few skills that need work before moving on to new concepts in the spring.

Reassigning our chores

Along with revising our school schedule, I realized quickly that I needed to use this time to reassign the household chores. As my kids have gotten older, their list of chores and household duties has not always kept up. Like many moms, I have found it easier to do things myself than to delegate the responsibilities that I should. But I needed help, and my kids are more than capable of doing extra work around the house. 

Of course, with more responsibilities come greater rewards, so in addition to increasing their basic chore list, we gave them lots of opportuinities to earn a few bucks by going above and beyond what was expected. In the coming months, there will be plenty of ways for them to earn both spending money and other rewards by helping with big jobs at our house and their grandparents'.

Renewing our  faith

There's nothing like hard times to remind you of your faith. Of course, we find ourselves praying a lot lately that my mom will be okay, but we also find ourselves feeling thankful for the little ways we see God moving in our lives day to day. It shouldn't take a crisis to bring us closer to Him, but there is nothing wrong with resting on God's promises and leaning on His grace and love during times of trouble. 

Letting difficult times put your homeschool routine in perspective can be a good thing. Yes, we're still focused on learning, and on getting through this year's material in a timely manner, but if that time ends up encompassing part of the summer, so be it. Even though a lot was added to our plates in the middle of this school year, simplifying our homeschool routing and adjusting our priorities has actually made the load seem lighter than it was before, and maybe by the time this rough patch is over, we'll be breathing that much easier.