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Homeschool Requires LOVE

As we are gearing up for a new homeschool year, I've been thinking A LOT about what homeschool REALLY requires.  This series is designed to give an honest picture of homeschool. It is designed to encourage, enlighten, and support you. 

If it challenges you -- all the better!  

Remember:  you cannot depend on a boxed curriculum, franchised community, or local co-op to give you a successful homeschool.  A successful homeschool requires commitment, love, courage, and consistency. 

I just LOVE what a Homegrown Learners Facebook fan said on the page this week:

I absolutely love ______________ (insert homeschool community), mainly because it is a tool to help us stay committed to homeschooling and to continue homeschooling well. But there are many such tools, any of which can become idols that hinder our homeschooling efforts. Thank you for this series!

This series gets us away from those "idols" and will help us examine ourselves.  

We've already explored the commitment homeschool requires.  

This installment of Homeschool Requires will delve into a sensitive area.  

Love.

Homeschool Requires Love: Part 2 in the straight talk series about homeschooling at Homegrown Learners

I often get so caught up in the nitty gritty details of homeschool that I forget to show to love my kiddos.  

Something as basic as showing love each and every day can make such a difference in our homeschool, but there have been days when it has eluded me. 

I love writing a blog because it forces me to take a long, hard look at MYSELF.  

Here is a challenge for all of us:  

What if we made it a priority this year to SHOW LOVE EXCESSIVELY to our children?  What if we put that ahead of mastering math facts, spelling tests, and science experiments? What if we showed love excessively on the worst days of our homeschool?  

What if SHOWING LOVE was our focus this year?


 I often forget to show love because I am so COMMITTED to homeschooling them well. I forget the most basic requirement of not only homeschooling - but motherhood in general, and that is to show my children LOVE unconditionally and often. 

Read The 5 Love Languages of Children. Have your children discover their own love language (a free online tool).  

I want to keep loving my kids front and center this year so I've created a list of 25 Ways to Show Love in Your Homeschool Day. Print this and put it in your planner, homeschool mom binder, or wherever else you might be forced to see it EVERY DAY.  

Scroll to the end of the post to download a FREE PRINTABLE of the bullet point version of this list.  (But, I do hope you read this post, because I expand on each of the 25 ways and include links, ideas, and lots more to get you motivated!)


25 Ways to Show Love in Your Homeschool Day

1. Give hugs  

It's easy to hug on our little ones, isn't it?  As our children age we need to keep pursuing them.  Physical touch is important to our teens. 

2. Smile a lot

Do you ever stop during the day and check your demeanor?  Do you smile enough? I know how much a smile from my kiddos warms my heart, so I can only imagine what a smile from mom does for them.  

3. Be silly

I don't know why I feel like I have to be the "strict teacher" during our homeschool day. Who says math can't be fun?  I remember pulling out every stuffed animal in my son's closet once to illustrate story problems. I gave them all different voices and personalities and we had the BEST time.  

(Being silly is super good for the homeschool mom's mental health, too.)

4. Give compliments

Do you compliment your children more than you criticize them? I am guilty of having impossibly high standards, and I've had to make an effort to compliment my children. Don't make the compliments hollow - be genuine.  You can ALWAYS find something good about what your children are doing.  

5. Show patience

This one is EXTRA HARD for me. When we are in the middle of an Algebra breakdown, the best thing I can do is hold my tongue, keep my patience, and breathe. My children need to know I love them regardless of their understanding of any academic subject, and showing patience is essential. 

6. Give them M&Ms

25 Ways to Show Love in Your Homeschool

Ok, maybe not M&Ms - just whatever food treat speaks to your child. My kids love M&Ms, and when I unexpectedly set down a muffin cup of M&Ms in front of them (during their hardest subject), it conveys a lot of LOVE. 

Tip:  Candy is a wonderful motivator for kids who don't like to do math drills - just sayin'.

7. Play games

Incorporate fun games into your homeschool day. Our children will remember a mom that made learning FUN. Even if you aren't a mom that enjoys playing games, you can make it through Yahtzee, UNO, or yes - even a game of Monopoly.  

Designate one entire school day as a game day. You'll be amazed at the fun you have.

8. Listen

Do we really LISTEN to how our children are feeling about something? Or, do we just continue on with the lesson plan even if it means our kids are miserable? 

If our children sit down for their school day with something bothering them, stop and LISTEN to them. We're homeschooling because we want to seize those important times with our children, and listening is the best way to do that.

9. Read Aloud

No matter their age, reading aloud signifies a mom's willingness to slow down and invest in her children. The cuddles and connections during read aloud time are so precious. 

We have made so many memories this way, and I am collecting quite a list of favorites, too! 

And yes, teens love to be read to, as well.  

10. Apologize

Nothing says "I love you" more strongly than apologizing to our children when we have wronged them. It's very simple, but not always so easy to do. 

11. Plan ahead

Stick with me on this one. Planning ahead allows for us to enjoy our homeschool days more. If we're not flying by the seat of our pants, we are smiling more, laughing more, and able to incorporate more fun things with our children because we know we've planned well and have the basics covered. 

This year I'm putting extra time into planning, knowing that it will pay off in spades throughout the school year. 

(I am using this great tool for homeschool moms and it's been so helpful.)

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner

12. Say "I love you."

Sounds obvious, right?  

Maybe not so much.  

I tell my children I love them a lot, but recently I've been making an effort to look them straight in the eye and say "I love you."  It's not a causal "I love you" as they are walking out the door, or sent via text (remember I am the mom of a teen), it's taking the time to connect and say the words with intention and feeling. 

13. Create special days

My son still remembers the day I woke him up and said, "No school today!  It's ANGRY BIRDS DAY!"   We did nothing but Angry Birds themed activities all day - and while it did take some planning on my part it was entirely worth it!

14. Speak your child's love language

My oldest child's love language is quality time.  Let me rephrase that.  Her love language is Starbucks time! 

Taking my daughter out for a fancy coffee, just the two of us, speaks her love language. 

My son's love language is physical touch, so lots of hugs and cuddles (even as he's getting older) mean a lot to him.   

If you haven't read Gary Chapman's book, you really should. 

15. Have a party for no reason

This is one straight from my own childhood.

I can vividly remember being 7 years old and very sad because my brother had gone away to college - which left me at home as an only child. One day I got off the bus and walked home, and when I arrived there was a huge sign on the front door that said, "Happy Birthday!"  It wasn't my birthday, nor was it anyone's birthday in my family. My mom had created an entire birthday party for my stuffed animals. 

She baked a cake, sewed a few of them little birthday outfits, and even got them "presents".  

I still remember this day - 37 years later. 

It was through little things like this  I just knew my mom loved me, and she showed it in so many special ways.  

So, when homeschool starts getting rough in the middle of the winter -- have a party for no reason! 

16. Read the Bible every day

Your children will know you love them because you are investing in the most important thing with them - knowing God's word. 

We've used the Charlotte Mason scripture memory system to hide God's word in our hearts. We've also enjoyed Jesus Calling and At The Table Family Devotions

17. Discipline

Deep down, children don't want to get away with bad things. They crave structure and discipline. 

Another post in this series will talk about homeschooling and CONSISTENCY... and we must discipline our children with love and consistency if we are to be successful parents.  

18. Bake with them

Some of our fondest memories have been created in the kitchen, baking together. It's a time when we can talk, be silly - and even LEARN a lot, too.  

We've had book dinners, which have required a lot of prep time in the kitchen. These dinners, which would usually center around our current Five in a Row book, not only were learning experiences, but experiences of our hearts, too. 

19. Get outside

Sometimes, when a homeschool day had spiraled downward quickly, getting outside and going for a nature walk was the best medicine. 

There's something about being surrounded by God's majesty that just made it EASIER for me to show my kids I loved them. Everyone was happier, the grumpiness was left inside the house, and our moods all changed. 

Please don't think there isn't time for nature walks and leisurely afternoons. Nothing could be further from the truth.

20. Forgive

Our children need to know we forgive them - for whatever they have done, no matter the severity.

Saying the words, "I forgive you" and then following up with a hug, smile, or listening ear are so very important. 

21. Do something your kids love (but you don't)

I don't really ENJOY playing LEGOS, but my son loves it when I ask him if I can build something with him. 

My daughter likes it when I just sit and read a book next to her while she is reading a book, too.  So simple, right?  

Our willingness to step out of ourselves for our children shows them we love them. (And, you might surprise yourself by trying something you didn't think you'd like.)

22. Do something unexpected

When things get rough in your homeschool, try something unexpected.

What if you brought home a gallon of double fudge ice cream, turned on a fun movie, and curled up on the sofa with your kids and some spoons? 

What if you hooked up the hose, put on your bathing suit, collected the water guns, and offered to play outside in the summer heat?

Whatever it is for you that would be unexpected, do it! 

23. Lavish praise

Do you remember to praise your kids?  This goes along with complimenting them.

Do you point out all of the good they are doing, or do you just nitpick what they AREN'T doing well?  

Once you find the good, reinforce it verbally.

Do you say "Good job", "I know you can do this", or "You amaze me"? 

 

24. Don't overcommit

Homeschool moms have a tendency to be generous and giving. 

Don't let this very good quality turn into your very worse quality. 

Limit your activities so you can focus on WHY you are homeschooling in the first place - your children. If you are too busy volunteering at church and helping every friend in need your own family will suffer .

The best way to show your children is to exercise restraint in your commitments and make homeschooling a priority.  

One day your children will be grown and you want to look back on the years you had with them and not have regrets. 

25 Ways to Show Love in Your Homeschool

(How did my own children get this big?)

25. Pray

Praying for you children is the ultimate way to show them you love them.  When we lift up our children and their needs to our Father we are showing our children the first line of defense in any problem.  

Don't ever forget to pray for your children.


Put it in a prominent place in your home. Place it in the front of your homeschool mom binder. Put it in your morning time basket.  We all LOVE our kids fiercely, but we need reminders to SHOW that love on a daily (and hourly!) basis.  


This post is the second in the series - Homeschool Requires. 

Click here to read part 1: Homeschool Requires Commitment

 

And now I'd love to hear from you!  Do you have creative ways to show love in your homeschool day?  Do you find it hard on certain days to show love. Do you just need to be reminded?  

 

 

 

 


Homeschool Requires Commitment

What does homeschooling REALLY require?  

The current trend seems to be hybrid schools, box programs, online schools, or homeschool communities that claim to be the "answer" to a successful homeschool experience. 

Granted, all of these things can be great HELPS in homeschooling. I have, however, seen some claim to be all you would need to homeschool your children.

I disagree.

A successful homeschool lies within the homeschooling family.  Never forget the HOME in homeschool. 

In this four part blog series we will delve into COMMITMENT, LOVE, CONSISTENCY, and COURAGE it takes to homeschool our children and homeschool them WELL. 

First and foremost, a successful homeschool requires COMMITMENT.

Homeschool Requires Commitment

When you decide to homeschool, and as you continue on your homeschooling journey you have to be solidly committed to your children's education. 

Approach homeschooling the same way you would approach running a business - because it is no less important!  (Of course, we're dealing with precious little souls so there will be some differences, but you know what I mean!)

5 Steps in Homeschool Commitment Include:

  Vision, Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation


Vision

WHY are you homeschooling?  

What do you hope to accomplish when you choose to keep your children at home to educate them?

I can share the three big things we pray to accomplish through our homeschool. Yours might be similar, or it might be very different.

  • Develop compassionate, caring children who want to serve God and follow their passions.
  • Maintain a high standard of academic excellence, without adhering to a traditional system of worksheets, dry textbooks, and standardized testing.
  • Create a close knit family - siblings that will be lifelong friends and supporters of each other.

I found it very helpful to write down our reasons for homeschooling, and to keep a written record of our good and bad days.  

Post your vision/goals prominently in your home and make sure that everything you do in your homeschool works to that end. 

This ensures your COMMITMENT TO HOMESCHOOL will remain focused and solid. 

I've written a short eBook, You CAN Homeschool: Encouragement for the Journey. It is a free download, and I know it will be helpful to you in creating and maintaining that homeschool vision. 

There will come days when you doubt your decision to homeschool - days when people will make comments or express doubts. There will come days when family members attack your decision to homeschool.

If you remain steadfast in your decision and can remind yourself WHY you started homeschooling in the first place it will be much easier to stave off the doubts that swirl around you.

(You might also want to read some advice I gave my younger homeschooling self - it rings very true!)


Research

Research is a HUGE part of being a successful homeschooler.

I spent many months researching homeschooling.  

It became my new part time job to learn about different homeschooling methods, curricular options, and so much more. 

I do not believe you can go into homeschooling unprepared. Research is a huge part of your COMMITMENT TO HOMESCHOOL. 

Do not think by joining a homeschool hybrid school, co-op, or franchised community that you can skip this important step in homeschooling.  When you homeschool YOU are responsible for your children's education, and it is negligent to let that responsibility fall to some homeschool group or "school". 

Trust me on this.  It becomes very important in the middle and upper grade years to stay very well informed! 

Never put all of your eggs in one basket. If you decide to join homeschool community XYZ because everyone is doing it, remember that community XYZ cannot be your savior. YOU are responsible for your children's education!

Over the years many books have been helpful to me.  And, there are 10 books in particular that I would recommend adding to your homeschool library right from the very start. 

Familiarize yourself with different methods, leaders in the homeschool field, and curriculums. 

You are now solely responsible for your children's education, and it is a job that will consume MUCH of your time. 

It's not impossible, but it is a big job.  You can do it.


Planning

Another huge part of your homeschool commitment is PLANNING for your homeschool year!

In the interest of 100% transparency, I am NOT a planner.  This has come back to bite me many times in the past eight years, and I'm finally learning my lesson now that my oldest is in high school. 

Find a planning system that works for you. Devote plenty of time for planning.

My friend Pam, at Ed Snapshots, recommends actual days of homeschool planning for moms. I'm also going to be using Pam's Plan Your Year this year - it's already helped me so much -- and (did I mention this?) I am NOT a planner!

Check out the FREE PLANNING PAGES which can get you off to a great start, too. 

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner

Here's briefly what planning looks like in our homeschool:

  • Start with prayer!  
  • Create goals. What are the goals for each of my children?  Consult with each child to go over their plan for the year.
  • Plan with friends? (This is something I just did this summer... I met with two friends who each have boys Grant's age. We know we have similar goals for our children. Spending a few hours together on a Saturday morning allowed us to exchange ideas, divide work, and encourage one another.  I highly recommend this if you have people like this in your life! 
  • Organize shelves for the coming year.
  • Create notebooks for subject areas  (Notebooking is a huge part of our homeschool!).
  • Finalize our calendar -- school start and end dates, holidays, etc...  always remaining FLEXIBLE!
  • Don't OVER PLAN!  Less is always more. You can always add subjects or activities if need be.

Effective planning requires COMMITMENT. 

I schedule a solid week of planning. Usually that entails my youngest being at a morning VBS or other camp, and my high schooler gone with our church on their annual mission trip.  If I can plan 2-3 hours each day to focus on homeschool things, my week is a success. 

Planning for Your Homeschool Year

I've heard of moms checking into a hotel for the weekend, shipping the kids to the grandparents, or taking several nights (leaving the kids home with dad) to plan. 

Whatever works for you. If you are COMMITTED TO HOMESCHOOL you will find a way to get your planning accomplished. 

 


Execution

The execution in our homeschool is that day to day work we do. 

To say this work requires COMMITMENT is an understatement. 

Don't be a GOOD BAD EXAMPLE of homeschooling.   

For me, this requires structure and discipline in our daily lives.  This is such a broad area, but a few tips for successful execution include:

  • Stick to a ROUTINE each day - a strict time schedule has never worked for us, but a routine is a must.
  • Begin each day with Morning Time.  Our simple morning basket is integral in our homeschool.
  • Put your most difficult subject first. Or, put the subject that you really want to focus on that year first.  For example, if you want math to be a priority for your year, put math first. If you want to conquer Latin this year, put Latin first. That way, you will have that one thing that has always gotten done, and gotten done well, and that does wonders for your homeschool psyche! 
  • Allow plenty of time to follow interests.  I leave large chunks of time for reading, LEGO robotics, piano, and other things that interest my kids. I want to cultivate wonder in our homeschool, and carving time out for interests is the best way to do that. 
  • Don't get too ambitious!  This goes back to over planning. A few things done well will be more beneficial to our children than many things done haphazardly.
  • Don't forget the WONDER! This becomes tricky as our children get older. Never forget the wonder involved in learning something new and try to provide as many varied experiences to cultivate that wonder in your children.

Evaluation

Constantly evaluating your homeschool is the final element of commitment in your homeschool.

After you have done all of the research, planning, and execution, it stands to reason that evaluating your homeschool is the next logical step. 

Do we ever stop long enough to ask ourselves if what we are doing is really working?  

Do we take a quiet evening with our spouse to evaluate how our children are doing that particular year? 

Are you required to test your children each year? While I'm not a fan of standardized tests, I do believe they can point to areas where our children may be weak or may be excelling. And, as our children enter the high school years, evaluation will become much more important. 

Each year of our homeschooling experience I have kept a Rubbermaid storage box for each child.  Pertinent school work goes in the box, along with test reports, and anything else I wanted to save from their year. 


At the end of the day your COMMITMENT to homeschool must be firm. 

It requires vision, research, planning, execution, and evaluation. 

You can't depend on a box curriculum, online or hybrid school, or the latest homeschool community to homeschool your children. 

ONLY YOU CAN DO THAT.

 

Talk to me about commitment and homeschooling.

 Do you have questions? Comments?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

In the next part of the Homeschool Requires series we'll explore LOVE - something a bit more nebulous, but perhaps THE MOST important ingredient to a successful homeschool! 

Don't miss a post in this series - sign up to receive updates in your email when I post a new installment!

Homeschool Requires Commitment - part 1 in a four part blog series about what it REALLY takes to homeschool your children

 

 

The Gift of a Father

Today I am glad I can be here in my hometown to spend Father's Day with my dad.

He's faced significant health challenges in the past few years and I am thankful I get another Father's Day to tell him thank you for always supporting me. Sitting with my dad in the hospital has given me a lot of time to reflect - I feel like that is God's gift to me.

The more years I live on this earth the more I realize we are ALL flawed. Accepting people for who they are is an ongoing goal for me! I certainly gave my dad a lot of gray hair, and he was always there for me when I needed him. 

I love this picture of my dad and me -- I think he was imparting some last bit of wisdom (or more likely asking me if everything was set for the reception!) before he walked me down the aisle.  I was the last of 4 children to be married. I imagine this day signified the end of a 40 year era of raising children for my dad. 

But really... he didn't stop raising me once I was married.

Ever since this picture was taken - 19 years ago - he's still been raising me.  {wink}

My Dad and Me


My dad has always affectionately referred to me as "the caboose" - I was quite a surprise to him at the age of 42! 

I can still see him cheering me on at swim meets -- my event record time book in his shirt pocket. He somehow would always manage to motivate me to swim just a little faster each time. If memory serves me correct he was given a special gift by the high school boys' swim team because he was a honorary dad/cheerleader to all of them.

(I learned just a few years ago that my dad learned to swim in a rock quarry during the Depression. As he was swimming with his grandkids at the age of 80 he told me how it gave him so much joy to watch them swimming in his pool.)

When I backed into his car at the age of 16 (while driving my mother's car) he was of course angry, but I remember not getting killed over that incident! He also somehow put up with my first semester freshman college year shenanigans (hello 1.7 GPA!) and gave me a second chance to pull my grades up before he "parked my butt at home!".

That tough love helped me become a confident, self sufficient adult. (While my dad got very close to graduating from college, he never finished, but he went on to have a successful career as a highway engineer. College was a big deal for him and he is so proud of all of his kids -- all four of us have college degrees, masters degrees, and more!)

When I was in college he drove my car from Florida to SMU - that was a LONG drive - while I flew back to school on the return trip of my plane ticket. He strapped my favorite stuffed monkey in the front seat and drove through the night to have my car there for me. He had packed the trunk so precisely (that engineer coming out) and used every available inch of space. He left to fly back home to Naples and I couldn't find any of my SHOES. He had packed them in the wheel well and had forgotten to tell me!

He has always been supportive of my dreams. Another mom at SMU (on move in day) asked me what I was majoring in -- when I replied "music" she asked my dad how he felt about paying "all that money for just a music degree". My dad's response to her? "I know it's going to be a great investment."

(I agree. It was a great investment, dad.)

When I would bring college friends home for spring break he would make sure everyone had their favorite foods on hand, and would make us all hamburgers and malts. All of my girlfriends loved him because he would tease and joke so much with them. 

I was on the phone with him when the second tower fell on 9/11 - my 2 month old in my arms. I remember my dad saying, "Our world is never going to be the same again."

And he was right. 

When I told him we were going to homeschool his exact words to me were, "Now what in the world are you and Hal thinking?" Guess who brags to everyone about his homeschooled grandkids now? That's right - my dad. He's our biggest homeschool supporter. 

He once told me that when he was a little boy (he was born in 1930) that he thought it would be a miracle if he lived to see the year 2000 and that each year after has been a bonus for him. He's seen a lot in his life and I can learn so much from him. That is not a gift I take lightly. 

As I flew to Florida a few days ago I was recalling the numerous times as an adult when I would call home (and there were several!) needing help from my parents. Whether it was the birth of a baby, a surgery, moving to a new house, or one time when I had a horrible struggle with depression --- my dad was always quick to jump into action, hop into the car and drive 12 hours with my mom to come to my aid. 

Now it's my turn to come to HIS aid and it is an honor to give back to someone who sacrificed so much (emotionally and financially) for me for so many years. 

If you have a dad, I hope you get a chance to tell him you love him this weekend. And, if Father's Day is a painful day for you, please know I'm praying for you.

I don't take the gift of my father lightly.