Time Linking – A Technique to Stay on Track

I write much about schedules, templates and other ways I use to stay on track, not just with homeschooling but also with blogging. I have many fingers in many pies, it seems. But if there is one thing that has helped me to stay on task with these various activities I undertake, it is this: time linking.

It works because it uses associations.

Associations are powerful drivers of action and memory. Ever feel compelled to eat or cook just because you smell food? Who can’t recall an exact memory from years ago because of finding oneself in a childhood home?

This happens because that place, that time has developed strong connections in our mind with a specific thing. We can use that same strategy to stay on track in our homeschooling.

How to Use Time Linking

If you think about your day, chances are you are doing certain things at specific times. For me, I have to write in the mornings. I work best that way. I can’t, for instance, pick up a book and read at five in the morning and I cannot write at seven in the evening. In my mind, each of those time blocks are linked with specific actions.

It’s the same with homeschooling. The hours between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. are the hours when we deal with difficulties the children might be facing and move on to more involved work in science or history.

We don’t do anything else during those hours. If we want to watch something that is related to those subjects, I still prefer that we wait until after 11 a.m. to get it done. It doesn’t “feel” right to turn on the television before noon. In my mind (and in my children’s minds) that time block is linked strongly with sit down work.

Customizing Time Linking

It is best if time linking comes together organically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t impose any structure. Take your normal day and see how it unfolds naturally. Then see if you can tweak it a bit.

I will warn you against getting started too soon on this. Toddlers seem to march to the beat of their own drummer, so if you try to impose time linking on a toddler or preschooler, it could be rough. We don’t do formal sit down work until the child is ready, which is much later. Time linking for a toddler works for nap times and lunch/snack times. No more.

Customizing time linking to your schedule will get things done, but keep you from feeling like you have to be the one pushing your children to get things done. Instead, it will begin to feel habitual and incorporated into your lifestyle.

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I’m Planning Next Year’s Curriculum on Snapchat

Oh look, it happened – we’re out of things to do. Between the motivational chart and the burn out sessions and the readalouds – in the midst of life and whining and being bored, learning happened. We’re done.

We’ve exhausted all our planned, available resources. It’s happened sooner than I imagined. Not that I’m complaining.

So here I am scrambling to find more things to put on the agenda. Okay, okay, not scrambling exactly. While we’re enjoying the easy days of “just one sheet of math” and Minecraft broken in with some reading and writing, I’m beginning to start the search for next year’s (whatever that means!) curriculum. (whatever that means, right?)

In the upcoming weeks, I intend scouring the books/resources I have, checking off what I want them to learn in the upcoming months, gauging where they currently find themselves and working to engage them as much as possible in their education. As someone put it, homeschooling is of course “trying to work yourself out of a job.”

Only this time I’m doing it on Snapchat.

If you haven’t been on Snapchat, you should definitely check it out. The idea is that the content there only lasts for 24 hours. So come find me and watch the videos I put up. They can only be 10 seconds long, so I’ll try to make the most out of each snap.

I’ll provide you with a good idea of how to pull from many places depending on what you and your kids like. And you know I’m cheap, so I’ll do it frugally. If nothing else, you’ll come away from my snaps with your mind bursting full of ideas for your next curriculum planning session.

I’ll show you places I shop and what I buy and don’t buy. And also (to my great sadness) what I have bought in the past that was a complete disaster. And some curricula that looks nothing like curricula but teaches real life skills and even some – sigh – worksheets and flashcards. Because much to my disdain, I have one kid who likes them.

If I’m feeling really brave, I might even let you into the sit down work part of our day. Ten seconds at a time. Eep.

So come find me on Snapchat. Let’s have some real fun planning curriculum! Why should our kids have all the fun?

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A Homeschooling Mom’s Burnout Journal

I have been defeated, beaten by the clock.

I have been to bed the past few days out of exhaustion. Sleep has been quick and almost dreamless. The night passes like a flash and then the alarm sounds its four notes. My phone buzzes, the smell of coffee is filling the house. It’s time to be awake again.

It’s time to do the same things I did yesterday, in pretty much the same way and not get them all done. Again.

Who said “insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?” Because, you know what, on some days, I actually like the results I get. Some days, my schedule is just perfect. Things hum along, check marks abound on my little notepad where the to-do list sits.

It’s those in-between days that have the power to devastate me.

It’s those days when I forget to set out the meat to thaw in the morning as I had hoped to do, those days when my child seems to have forgotten her math tables and we have to go over them one more time for review; it’s the days I burn dinner, the days when no matter what I do, the toddler refuses to obey and it feels like all day long I’ve done nothing but correct and discipline and does that count as school?

Those days.

Those are the days I have run into lately. And I am exhausted.

Now please don’t get me wrong. We’ve have a wonderful January. I certainly do not need advice. We are actually doing really well in our homeschool. The children are learning far more than I ever teach, they are independent, self-assured learners, they are curious, creative creatures, everything I want them to be at this stage. So, no, we are not struggling homeschoolers.

It’s just this small string of days we’ve had with no sun, heavy gray clouds oppressing the horizon. They too shall pass but for now they’re here.

Do not jump in with advice.

The worst thing you can do right now is give me offhand advice. Because I know, I know – in my bones – that this is temporary, that it doesn’t require an overhaul of my time budget and it certainly doesn’t need to call my teaching or mothering skills into question. 

The best thing you can say is this: “Sometimes doing all you can means that some things don’t get done.”

Because you know it’s true. And I know you’ve been where I am.

It’s a truth every homeschooling mom has to admit at some point in her life. She’s not failing and neither is she asking for sympathy. She has just hit a rough spot. It will be different a week, a month from today. 

Ask her to see farther down the road; don’t ask her to pull over and check her map. Don’t tell her to put her kid in public school. She’s on the right track. Remind her that she’s working hard enough. That sometimes doing all you can means that some things don’t get done.

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Why Educating My Children Does Not Scare Me

A long, long time ago, back when I used to watch TV, there was a woman on one of the (very tame) reality shows of the time who had said that having lots of children did not bother her because she ran her household like a business. 

It was powerful to hear that said. It stuck with me.

Homeschooling is a lot like running a business, too. And that’s why it does not scare me.

David Allen, productivity consultant and author of Getting Things Done writes

You don’t actually do projects. You only complete the actions related to them.

Educating my children is just one of the projects I do. Just like making dinner, keeping a home running smoothly, writing this blog, writing a book.

Whether we realize or acknowledge it to be so or not, we are constantly making choices about what we consider to be the best use of our time on a daily basis. Sometimes, what we do is not so obvious, sometimes because we can break it down into smaller actionable steps in our heads, it is.

Think about it this way: you don’t actually have to educate your children, you just have to read to them, discuss important subjects with them, provide opportunities to learn, and help them be diligent with practicing. In other words, you have to complete some actions on a consistent basis.

If you have a reasonable sense of control, organization and time management skills and are good at communicating with a normal human being, you can educate your children.

I think a lot of fear comes in when people think of homeschooling because they’re seeing the entire “project” in their head and thinking, I could never do that. 

But you don’t have to.

You don’t actually do projects. You only complete the actions related to them.

See how simple that all makes it seem?

I’m not saying it’s easy; I’m saying it’s simple.

I recently came under fire on Reddit for saying that teaching was not much harder than opening a book and following instructions. I stand by my statement. It’s not much more complicated than that, even though we like to overcomplicate matters.

Of course educating my children is a huge task! It’s a project, a big one. But don’t look at the end result. Consider that is consists of small, daily actions.

If you focus on doing the actions that lead to the end result, it’s doable, and dare I say, simple?

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5 Reasons Facebook Makes You Miserable

We recently had a wonderful visit with family from out of state and one of the more interesting discussions centered around everyone’s frenemy Facebook.

Some refused to use it, some deleted their accounts and others were in favor of limiting their use, even removing them from their phones to do so.

I too in the past have been one of those people who deleted my account. I decided I would never come back to Facebook, that I would be happier (not to mention, productive!) without it. Clearly, I came back. (Follow me here!)

So what is it about this social media site that makes everyone love to hate it? I have a few guesses, five to be precise.

#1 It “Shoulds” All Over You

You really should put down your phone, you know, you should observe and watch your kids because, God forbid they ever look up at you for approval and you’re reading/checking your screen, or, you know, doing dishes or cooking. How dare you, mom? You should be watching them all day long with adoring eyes. (I hope the sarcasm is coming through. I’ll stop. I will, I promise.)

But the “shoulding” unfortunately doesn’t end with making you feel guilty about your screen time. There are other forms of shoulds so common on social media, we almost don’t even notice them.

You should be more loving, you should be eating ice-cream, no, wait, that’s not healthy. You should be eating healthier, you should be working out. It’s your birthday? It doesn’t matter that you want to stay home and read. You should be out having fun.

It’s not that anyone comes out and says it to you per se, of course. It’s just that social media in its highly selective (all your friends) and yet universal (all your friends from everywhere you’ve ever been) creates an environment that fools you into believing that all those opinions matter.

It shoulds all over you.

#2 It Creates a Community of Sufferers Suffering Together

How many times have you been so angry you had to go to your Facebook page to vent and later regretted it?

You’re not alone.

Unfortunately so.

Angry vents make up quite a bit of my personal newsfeed and I imagine yours as well. What does that do to your emotional state and how you respond to your world? After all, remember this experiment conducted by Facebook?

The researchers found that moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts.

Perhaps the worst thing that does is justifies your bad mood by commiseration. Now think about what would happen if you didn’t share that experience. You would probably brush it off. You would maybe even forget about it.

But now that you have five hundred of your closest friends commenting on it and discussing it days after it happened, you’ve prolonged your indignation.

#3 It Interrupts Your Day

Which leads to the next reason for my frenemiship with social media: interruptions.

I noticed that ever since I downgraded from a Samsung Note to a Motorola, (thanks to Republic Wireless for bringing down my phone bill to $10 a month!) my Facebook notifications are hit-or-miss. And you know what, I couldn’t be happier!

Turning off notifications meant I wasn’t interrupted throughout my day. As I have written in another blog post, I already deal with interruptions through my day and they have a way of draining me and leaving me with a feeling of not having accomplished anything through my day.

Social media notifications add one more interruption to the mix. It’s hard to ignore the flashing light when the children are doing their math drills or writing practice for the day. It’s easy to pay attention to the urgent and ignore the important.

Thankfully, this one is easily fixed. Turn off notifications.

#4 It Forces You To Think In Snap Decisions

If you’ve ever read historical letters, you would likely be struck by how well-argued they were. These were times when people sat down and thought through their theses, took pen (or quill!) to paper and – most importantly – formed a coherent opinion.

We all know about the “type Amen” or “Pass it on – God is watching” posts and, rightfully so, ignore them. But how many of us repost or hit the thumbs up “like” on things in a hurry in our newsfeed just because they agree with our knee-jerk response?

Worse, how many of us are found forced to form opinions in the midst of cooking dinner – or teaching reading – about big things like guns, life, death and the next Presidential Election and then trying to write about them on a small screen letter by painstaking letter?

We can only be passionate about a handful of things at a time and they’re probably all related. But they show up on our newsfeeds as a constant barrage. Write a book or a letter; avoid sharing them on social media. Just a thought.

#5 It Offers the Perfect Life

We all know about this one. We’ve all read the post about why yuppies are unhappy and how it relates to social media.

Of course no one puts pictures of sad things and things going wrong on Facebook and I would argue that doing so –  far from giving you a sense of balance – would seem equally glorifying of the lazy, ugly and unruly side we all possess.

Just the fact that something is on a screen and being watched gives it value in our minds. Just like putting something in a book gives it a certain respect. No matter what. (I don’t know if it’s years of media exposure or what, but changing what we put on the screen to reflect reality just does not work. Because ultimately in choosing one or the other, we edit, opine and otherwise stitch things together to present to an audience.)

And, honestly, I find it takes much less time to clean up a room than to take pictures of it and post it to show how “real” I’m keeping it.

Final Thoughts

All this to say, I still love Facebook and see it as an integral part of my day. But I try to remember that nothing is perfect and trying to keep the above five things in perspective helps me distance myself from much of what would otherwise be a small annoyance or probably just ruin my day completely.

How do you keep your sanity on Facebook? I’d love to hear!

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How Discipline Can Help You Predict the Future

Name one thing you can do today – for your self or your children that can predict the future. No? Okay, how about you name one thing that will make you happier tomorrow or a week from today?

The answer might surprise you – it’s discipline.

Discipline can help you predict the future happiness of your children as well as your self.

Whoever wrote discipline is freedom was definitely on to something.

I have written in the past about the necessity of a time budget and how to begin one. There are various articles online about how to do the same with money, but curiously not many talk about how these restrictions and rules instead of making us feel constrained and miserable as we think they will, actually make us happier. (Clearly, I have to write one.)

Mea Culpa

Remember when our family was flirting with the idea of unlimited screen time not too long ago? Yeah, well.

Let me put it this way. It didn’t work.

While I still am fairly liberal with our use of technology for school, I have come to the conclusion that I do have to limit its use in the morning to create a distraction-free environment in which the children learn.

In big ways and small, I have come to realize that Charlotte Mason was right. The habits of the child do produce the character of the man.

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” – Charlotte Mason.

It’s a sobering, sobering thought.

 Not Just For the Kids

Parents sometimes tend to make the mistake of thinking that discipline is only for the children. And as such, if they haven’t cultivated it in themselves (or have had a hard time doing so) they assume they will never be able to teach it to the children.

However, if you’re even remotely introspective, the very act of teaching it to the children will make you start to apply it yourself.

And if you think discipline is about being miserable all day, read this.

Discipline Can Predict Future Happiness

I had wrongly assumed that having a routine that we stuck with no matter what and having definite boundaries that even I wouldn’t cross (for example, no snacking until two hours after a meal, no more than one soda a day, no screens until 2 pm) were arbitrary rules we didn’t need, but I was wrong.

Just like a money budget gives you the freedom to spend on the things you have planned for, and a time budget helps you get through the day feeling accomplished but not constantly rushed, discipline predicts the amount of satisfaction you will experience with your given task. 

Without a plan, it is easy to get sidetracked, feel hurried or worse, waste time on trivialities. Learn to cultivate discipline, add some necessary, clear-cut guidelines and bring lasting freedom to your homeschool days.

Now, go make some rules.

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5 Ways Summer Can Energize Your Homeschool Year

Summer is here! Long days, tired, happy kids and homeschool moms planning the next year’s curriculum, right? But before you jump into it, remember to use this down time to energize your upcoming school year.

Here are 5 specific ways you can do that.

1. Watch your kids:

No one knows your children like you do. Especially if this is the first year you will be homeschooling, don’t jump into it immediately and definitely do not run out to buy curriculum just yet. Take some time to “de-school” them.

Let them be bored for a little while. Watch what they like. If you’re so inclined, do some informal, gentle testing of their abilities. What is the first thing they reach for after they’ve been doing nothing? You might learn something new about them and it could help your curriculum choices or schedule in the upcoming year.

2. Homeschool Conferences:

I intend attending at least a couple this year. Homeschool conferences are invaluable for families. They can keep you updated on laws and other situations that can affect you, they can make you aware of a different style of teaching, and most importantly, they can give you a support group.

Homeschooling can sometimes get lonely. Conferences help you find that group that’s just right for you so you don’t have to be.

3. Play with schedules:

Summer is a great time to play with different schedules. The days are longer, so you feel like you have more time. Also, you’re not trying to get through a specific plan. Use the warm months to think through how best to approach your time in the coming months.

If you need to, buy a planner, but don’t fill it up with a schedule. Instead, mark out the days you will take off in the upcoming year. Work backwards, with the end in mind.

Summer is also a great time to train the youngest member of the family. Many moms will potty train around this time of year, but it can also be helpful to reconsider sleep schedules, eating habits, play times, bath times. Play around with putting these in different parts of the day and see what works best. You might find that a change is necessary.

4. Read to the children:

I have written before about how we have only just now begun to enjoy reading aloud. If you have failed in the past, it may be time to revisit that goal. Reading to them could be another way to uncover interests you did not know they had.

5. Change one habit for each person, including yourself:

Habits are hard to break, but summer is a great time to do so. Take an inventory of each of your children and yourself to see which habits work and which no longer serve you (and them) well. Make a plan to change them. Just be sure to work on one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Summer can be a great time to energize your home, your homeschool and yourself. If you’ve been dragging the past few months, take some time to think about how to approach those problems in the coming year. “Spring cleaning” your schedule, your style, even your self, could make a world of a difference!

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A Step by Step Guide to Building Your Own Homeschool Curriculum [infographic]

Ever since I wrote about the 5 most common curriculum blunders homeschool moms make, I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a post specifically to address how to go about creating your own curriculum.

The problem with a lot of premade curriculum seems to be its rigidity. Every child is different, comes with different strengths, abilities, interests.

Each parent is different, too, and most homeschool moms have their own strengths and styles in which they teach best.

A pre-packaged curriculum addresses none of this.

While there may be advantages to buying one just to get started, I find that fitting it into your own family’s routine and personalities becomes its own chore.

I have always built my own curriculum. You can as well, by following the steps below.

Step 1: Assess the child’s abilities

One of the biggest reasons I recommend building your own curriculum is because a grade level doesn’t mean much to a homeschooler. Eventually, you find out that even though your six year old would technically be in first grade he is reading at third grade level or your daughter who is only nine is already working at sixth grade math.

But their abilities are not straight across the board.

Typically, you find out that one of your kids is a math whiz while the other is a reader. One can advance through the grades of history while another is interested in science.

In such a scenario, it is much easier to pick and pull and build a curriculum of your own rather than go by the rigid categories and limitations pre-packaged curricula offer.

It is best to assess their abilities through various online tests. I have found a few that are quick and free and will help you get an idea of where to begin.

Step 2: Consider their interests, your style, and how much time you have to homeschool

Some children learn to read by playing Minecraft. Some like to listen, some are musically inclined, others are not.

While pursuing a well-rounded or rigorous education, don’t forget to play to the children’s interests. If you have a child who loves to cook but isn’t interested the least bit in reading, there is no harm in giving her a cookbook and engaging her in reading from that angle.

There is no one size fits all. Homeschooling is all about thinking outside the box.

Not all school needs to be fun, but don’t completely throw away the freedom you have and insist that it’s in the curriculum, so it must get done.

Also, take into consideration your teaching style and how much time you have to devote to school in a given day. There are parents who work and still homeschool, there are parents with irregular schedules who homeschool. How much time you have is an important factor.

These will and should directly affect your curriculum choice.

To get an idea of what style of homeschooling suits you best, take this quiz.

Step 3: Browse scope and sequence or guidelines of various curricula through online catalogs

Okay, here’s where it gets to be fun.

If you’ve been poking around online, I’m sure you have come across online catalogs. You have probably also been mailed some to your home. Some of these catalogs will list titles of books for each grade level. Take some time to go through these.

Check out their Scope and Sequence page. In it, they will tell you exactly what specific skills they will be covering. If you want to take this a step further, you can check these against the scope and sequence of your specific state.

Now, align the scope and sequence with your child’s interests, your teaching style and voila. Any curriculum built this way will far superior than any boxed curriculum because it will be customized to your family.

Take some time doing this, though. This part will be perhaps the most time consuming part of all. But the work on the front end will pay off later in the year.

Step 4: Look Around You

Okay, you have a pretty good idea of what you want to teach your children and you know they’re going to love it and you’re going to enjoy teaching because it aligns with your style and the time you have. Great! At this point, take a break.

Yes, that’s right. Take a break from the planning and the thinking and the deciding.

As you take a break, you might just realize that you already have around you material that you have not considered “curriculum” because it didn’t come with “textbook” written all over it. Consider encyclopedia like Childcraft, (if you’ve ever been so fortunate as to pick up a few at a library or yard sale) story books, Netflix, even relatives and friends skilled in a task.

Read Six Ways to Save Money while Homeschooling to get a better idea about free or almost free resources you can use.

5. Shop!

And finally. Fill up the remainder of what you need and enjoy the rest of the summer. Of course some of us don’t take summers off, so in that case, well, have fun! It’s time to enter the new school year confident.

Enjoyed this post? Then you’ll love my book The Classical Unschooler’s Guide to Creating Your Own Curriculum coming this summer! Sign up below for updates, giveaways and details.


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Real Homeschool Schedules

It is perfectly normal to panic when you first begin homeschooling.

If some of you are thinking about starting this year, I wanted to bring you some cheer. Be inspired by these moms who are currently homeschooling. While I am not at liberty to reveal names, rest assured that these are real moms (and dads) who have made educating their children a part of their lives.

I am sharing these in the hope that you will see how homeschooling can be endlessly tailored to fit your family and your children’s personalities. There is no one-size-fits-all. And if you’re not normal, so be it. As I have said before, the fact that you cannot teach like a school, far from being a weakness, is a strength! Be inspired!

The original question was what time homeschool moms went to sleep and when they woke up and how it all worked with the kids.

“I get ready for the day while the kids have breakfast and enjoy free play. We start our school day around 10.”

I am up late – midnight or after. I get up with my husband at 6:30 get him off to work then try to get my AM flylady routine done before my youngest is awake. Then I do work for business. Kids get up anywhere from 530-1130. My daughter is an early riser and oldest son is a night owl. We get school work done mainly between 12-3. In my perfect world all my children we would be asleep by 10:30 but as it is 11:05 currently and no one is asleep yet you can guess how often that happens here.”

“Our house is full of night owls so we are all up until 10-11ish pm. I wake up no later than 8am to give me 2 hours to get my non-school stuff done. It’s me time! Wake kids by 9, and give them 1 hour for breakfast, morning chores, play time and whatever they want to do then start school around 10 and we usually do avg 2-3 hours 3-4 days a week year round.”

4.5 year old and 8 month old go to bed around 11:30, we are up naturally around 10/11, and start school at noon. I decided that we will start later, as I thought kids learned best when on a natural sleep schedule. I might also do school in the evenings later on and see if she absorbs more information that way. I’m just getting started, but I just figured I’d share what we’re doing right now. It might change, and that’s okay too.”

Well, it’s past midnight and I’m almost sleepy..DD/12 yrs, the one that is HS, is still up looking for her phone..dont judge please ( it doesnt have service,lol) I wake up kinda early around 8, DS/3 yrs, sleeps till 9ish, the oldest DD/18 yrs and hubs is already at work, HS DD wakes up between 10 – noon, eats breakfast, plays with her brother, makes a few messes, then does schoolwork. She likes to break it up. 2 hours in the afternoon,Then she does her chores and then gets to play with her friends. then 2 hours in the evening. Its easier for her to concentrate without her brother,lol. We are still new so this might change but for now, its working. No more fighting to get her up! Its heaven.”

I go to bed around 10:30 because I need a lot of sleep. My kids wake up at around 7/7:30, sometimes earlier or later. They have a list of things they can do on their own for school (they are 9, 8, 6, and 4, and most days they finish all of it before I even get up), and they can have a piece of bread if they are starving (or if I’m planning on making something that I know my oldest can make, like toast and a smoothie, or cereal, I just let her make breakfast for everyone), but I wake up around 8, take my time getting out of bed, and breakfast is at 9. After breakfast we do the part of our school that we do together, like history, science, grocery shopping, book reading, etc. Then we are completely done by 11, eating snack, and playing or off on an adventure.”

“I work over nights and when I get home my kids get breakfst and feed their dogs as I take a nap. When I wake up they have their books ready for me to look over and talk to them about what was not right and then redo but use another page to help them know. I sleep from 7am to 9am then 7pm to 9pm sometimes from 3pm to 4pm”

I’m up late and so is my son…he is on my schedule, work part time as nurse on 2nd shift. No fail I wake up with no alarm at 7 to 8 am in morning, no matter, if 2 hours sleep or 8 hours sleep. I let him sleep in till 10 usually to get 8 or 9 hours depending on what time he goes to bed. We eat breakfast/brunch and then do some fun stuff, play a game, getting his brain ready for work and then we do some work….than break, repeat till lunch. I read to him after lunch and then we are usually done at 2pm with breaks included. He homeschools year round, he is 11 yrs old.”

“My twins (4 yo) go to bed at 7:00. Then the baby (9 mo) usually stays up until 9:00. Then I get all my work done. I work from home for our business. Usually go to bed around midnight-1:00am. I sleep until they wake up, usually around 6:30-7:00am (several wake-ups in between). I get going just looking forward to and drinking my 2 cups of coffee while I make breakfast.”

Hubby and I go upstairs to our room around 9.30 and usually fall asleep watching tv. On nights that I work closing shift I don’t get home until 10.30, so a bit later on those nights. Hubby’s alarm goes off at 4 am. Sometimes I go ahead and get up after he leaves for work and that is my alone time, ‘cuz the kids won’t wake up until 6-7.30ish. But if I am not already up when the kids get up, one of them will usually test out their cooking skills on me and bring me breakfast in bed, with coffee. That’s a good motivator.”

I have 3 sons, 6,10 and 16. We are very regimented with our schooling. My sons do not function well otherwise. . I’ve tried several different time schedules and the one that works best for them is bed at 10pm, wake at 9am, do morning responsibilities; dressed, hair combed, teeth brushed, beds made, eat breakfast, one feeds the doggies and the other lets them out. Then I let them play until school starts at 11am sharp. I found that getting their energy drained a bit was very helpful for keeping them focused and sitting still. We do school from 11am-4pm including lunch and 2 snack breaks. If they finish before then they are free to play. If they do not finish by 4pm the work carries over into the next day and so on.

I have found that with 1 child who has a few disabilities and 1 who has a very high IQ, I had to meet both of their needs at once. So a very strict and structured time schedule which one son needs and a creative fun curriculum for my other son, the schedule allowed time for more fun and adventurous school lessons. When I tried the more relaxed time schedule and trying to teach them how empowering and fun knowledge was it was a disaster. I’ve tried it several ways and what I mentioned we do above has proven to be the most successful for us. Also something very hard to do, but very successful, was me not doing anything else during homeschool. I give them my undivided attention the entire time. Their education is their future so don’t take it lightly. I stopped all distractions as best as I could during school hours. I wasn’t doing any chores, laundry, no phone, dishes, etc…. All dogs were put into the bedrooms and the phone was put on silent. It was my hubby’s suggestion and it works great! Also as long as they stick to their time schedule they are allowed to wear a costume to class, LOL, and if they are naughty they have to take it off.”

And there you are. See, there’s no one size fits all! I told you so.

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Six Ways to Save Money Homeschooling

If you have read the previous post about the most common curriculum blunders homeschool moms make, you’re probably wondering about how to create a curriculum for the coming year without spending thousands of dollars. If you’re new to homeschooling, or just want some ideas to keep the children occupied this summer – also without spending large chunks of money – read on!

Here are some ideas that have worked best for our family.

#1. Sheet protectors

I’ll admit it. The first time someone suggested these to me, I thought the idea was cheap, and not in a good way. However, today, I see these as the most effective way of saving money while homeschooling. Worksheets and other consumables, especially when the children are younger, are the biggest expense in our homeschool year. If you’re homeschooling multiple children, that number goes up exponentially.

A simple fix is to use sheet protectors with dry erase markers. You don’t need anything fancy. A pack of 60 from the stationery store works just great. Slip it on to any workbook page, give the child a marker, and wipe it off when done with a paper towel to use again later.

You’ll get more use out of every sheet, more practice, and spend less money. 

#2. Coupons

Coupons come in extremely handy when shopping for school supplies. Late July and early August when all the back-to-school sales fill the stores, combine coupons with already low advertised prices to get the best deal on pens, pencils, erasers, and other stationery. 

Also, do not underestimate the power of coupons for saving you money on everyday meals. If you’re committed to a specific diet in your family, as many of my friends are, you can still clip coupons just one day a week by being extremely selective in what you clip. Toothpaste, shampoo, mustard, mayonnaise, laundry soap, dish soap and sausages seem to be my favorite for buying with coupons.

Again, be sure to combine coupons with store sales for the best price.

#3. Select online resources

Ambleside and Easy Peasy Homeschool are the two best websites I know for free curriculum. If your resources are limited, these are the best way to get a good education covering all the basic subjects without spending too much. We have used Easy Peasy and can attest that it is completely free and based on free websites. If you would like to buy the print version of the readers, however, you will have to pay to have them.

If you like to do lots of research (like me!) Pinterest can be invaluable for everything from preschool to high school. You could actually piece together a solid curriculum for each year with just the information found online. It can be done, but it will need some time and some resourcefulness.

#4. The county library

Speaking of resourcefulness, have you visited your local library yet? If you’re local to Sacramento, you can rent books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, as well as things like sewing machines, video games and musical instruments through their new program called Library of Things.

The local library also holds used book sales on a regular basis but mostly through the summers. Use these to stock up on books for the year. We are still reading books we picked up last summer, mostly because we’re finally over my daughter’s reticence to story time.

#5. Video games and free apps

I have found video games and apps invaluable in our homeschool. If you do not like to use these, feel free to leave them out but the sheer number of them and the willingness on the part of the children to learn with video games, websites and apps makes me want to provide them. I also like that in some regard the children are self-directed in this method of learning and I don’t have to lead them as much as I have to with all other forms.

Abcya is my go-to place for learning games, as is the online drills section of Math-U-See. You can also use Khan Academy, which is currently expanding and adding more subjects. Other apps we use regularly include Math Bingo, First Grade Math, Second Grade Math and Learn to Read. Poke around and you’re sure to find others. Some of my friends swear by Stack the States for geography, Field Trip for history (provided you drive, at least around your city), and Duolingo for foreign languages.

We also love, love, love Minecraft. Enough said.

#6. The odd ones

These are the ones no one talks about, but every homeschooler worth his salt has used in a pinch. Use comics in the Sunday newspaper to strengthen or teach reading and the newspaper to deal with social studies and current affairs. Want to teach math? Consider using basic pantry supplies like macaroni as manipulatives – I’ve done it. Fractions? Cook with the kids.

Art? History? Geography? Do a random search on Netflix through the streaming movies and see what comes up. I recently found this amazing resource for learning history through movies. I have also in the past subjected my daughter to (I mean enjoyed, haha) Ted Talks about bacteria when she was sick with the stomach flu. The longer you look, the more you realize all it takes to homeschool is time, effort and patience.

If you look and ask and hang out with other homeschoolers long enough, you will soon find a treasure trove of free or almost free resources.

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