How to Make Smooth Transitions in Your Homeschool

How to Make Smooth Transitions in Your Homeschool

I’m facing a number of transitions in my homeschool this year. My oldest son has graduated from college and is living at home while working his first career position. Deciding what his responsibilities will be and adjusting to his schedule is a transition. My third son graduated from high school and will be leaving home for college in August. I am losing my experienced drivers! My 16-year-old will be driving and attending community college for dual enrollment classes for the first time. He is also working his first job. My daughter will begin high school courses in the fall. And my youngest will be a true junior high student as he will begin seventh grade work. I have more transitions I could tell you about, but that’s enough to get us started on this topic.

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Why Homeschool Transitions Can Be Tough

I was in my homeschool space as directed by the “Homeschool Space Challenge” in The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner when the impact of many of these transitions hit me.

“I needed to let go of some homeschool materials.”

I have three kids whose records I no longer need to keep.My college-age son was studying for the LSAT and decided he did not want to go to law school. Those materials can go too. My younger kids’ books can move to different bookshelves.

I came across many books I hoped to use in my homeschool but didn’t. I realized that many of our science materials could be sold or given away because I won’t be teaching some labs at home in the future. I moved favorite children’s picture books from one storage location to another and found myself reminiscing about the days when I enjoyed reading them to my children. As a side note, I’m keeping them for my grandchildren. Lest you think I’m hoarding irresponsibly, these books fit on a single bookshelf.

I’m not going to lie. I was feeling sad. I was tempted to boo-hoo all over my schoolroom. But then I realized I needed to approach the transitions I’m facing in a different way. My focus on the past was making transitions difficult for me.I thought about all the things we’ve done before and told myself that homeschooling would never be that good again.Can you relate? It really doesn’t matter what kind of transition we’re making. If we focus on the past and tell ourselves that the past will always be better than the future, we will have a difficult time making a transition.

The second thing I did, that was causing me grief making transitions, was to focus on my failings. I thought about the curriculum I shouldn’t have purchased. I thought about the books I should have used. And I thought about the time I mismanaged. I was angry at myself and discouraged at the thought of going forward. I was stuck thinking only about what I hadn’t done to meet some high standard.

How to Make Homeschool Transitions Smooth

To make smooth transitions, whatever they are, stop focusing on the past and look to the future. I adored having little ones. I loved babyhood, some aspects of toddlerhood, the preschool years, and the elementary years. But the middle, high school, and adult years have blessed my socks off too. I love the people my children are and are becoming. I tell my kids it’s like the preschool them visited for a while and now they’re gone. I do miss them, but this young adult person who has taken up residence in my life is every bit as much a joy. I’m looking forward to seeing my oldest grow in his career. I’m looking forward to having two of my boys at the same college and watching my new freshman enjoy college life for the first time. I am excited to see my 16-year-old develop maturity by working and taking college classes on his own. I am looking forward to seeing my youngest two kids develop their own independence. I’m looking forward to coaching them in their education more than teaching them.

Focusing on the future positives of my transitions steered me away from tears and toward joy. Right now, consider what you have to look forward to with the changes in your life.

The next thing I did to cope with my transitions was to focus on what I have accomplished, rather than what I haven’t.  I realized that I have successfully brought three of my children through their K-12 years. They are great kids. Not once have they come to me and demanded to know why I haven’t used certain curriculum, taught a certain class, or kept a particular homeschool schedule. They are happy and doing well in their studies and work. Even if you feel you’ve been a failure you will be able to think of many ways you have succeeded. To make a smooth transition, stop focusing all of your attention on your weaknesses and begin focusing on your strengths. My weakness is trying to do too many things and then dropping some of them. I’m not going to worry about that going forward. Instead, I’m going to focus on my strengths, which is choosing and teaching important and fun lessons to teach my kids.

Thinking about my strengths helps me feel positive about this upcoming school year. Right now, consider your strengths and how to make the most of them in your homeschool.

[Read Why You’re Not Failing as a Homeschool Mom]

If you want to transition well this year, I have another suggestion for you. That is to trust God. I remember another transition I faced years ago. Would I put my oldest child into preschool? That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to have time to parent my toddler and baby and get my act together at home. I was sure if I put my kids in school that I would have the time to write and speak as I believed God was calling me to do. God had another plan. I did not see how it would work, but it obviously has. Homeschooling grew to be the work that met my deepest needs. I grew closer to my children, I got to teach, which unbeknownst to me is what I was made to do. And it led me to doing writing and speaking that have blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. When I consider that I didn’t want to homeschool, I feel like a fool. I should have trusted God. He loves me and He doesn’t want to harm me. He has a plan and a purpose for my life that is good. It is the same for you.

Thinking about God’s faithfulness to me through the years helps me to feel better about the transitions I’m facing. Right now, prayerfully commit yourself to trusting God with your transitions.

Conclusion

If you focus on the future, focus on your strengths as a homeschool mom, and focus on God’s faithfulness, you can make transitions in your homeschool be much smoother. As you work through the transitions, remember that your children are watching. Your kids are also facing transitions. Will we model for them how to focus on the future, focus on our strenghts, and focus on God? Our kids’ current transitions are just one step in their journey. They will face many transitions ahead, some of them a lot more challenging. Let’s show them how it’s done.

Comment and let me know what transitions you’re facing this year.

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Teaching Apologetics in Your Homeschool: An Interview with Dr. Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis

Teaching Apologetics in Your Homeschool: An Interview with Dr. Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis

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When I began homeschooling, I didn’t know what apologetics was. I didn’t know how important it was as part of my children’s Christian education. Learning apologetics myself grew my faith and changed my life and my homeschool for the better. If you’re new to homeschooling or to the faith, I have a treat for you! I interviewed Dr. Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis and she had so many helpful suggestions. As a fellow homeschooling mom, she is a fantastic resource. Listen to the podcast by clicking the button above, or read my summary of our interview below.

Dr. Georgia Purdom

Dr. Georgia Purdom earned her PhD in molecular genetics from The Ohio State University.  After teaching as a college biology professor for 6 years, she joined Answers in Genesis in 2006 where she serves as the Ministry Content Administrator in addition to being a speaker, writer, and researcher. She also directs AiG’s annual women’s conference, Answers for Women, bringing relevant apologetics teaching to women. Dr. Purdom and her husband Chris have been married for 21 years and have a 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Georgia enjoys homeschooling her daughter and serving in children’s ministry in her local church.

What is apologetics and why does it matter for Christian homeschoolers?

Apologetics is knowing what you believe and why you believe it. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you.” Science confirms what we believe. We have a reasoned faith.

The rest of the world is teaching apologetics too, but it doesn’t start with the Word of God. They teach evolution and millions of years — man’s ideas. These ideas can be very convincing. It isn’t enough to read the Bible to our kids and send them to Sunday school. We have to be quipped to respond to kids’ curiousity and to take advantage of teaching moments.

What’s the best way to begin teaching apologetics to young children?

First, don’t be intimidated. You aren’t teaching science. The world confirms what the Bible says. Teach them the 7 C’s of history. Genesis is the foundation for our faith.

What about teaching apologetics to older kids? What should we do when our child asks a hard question we don’t have the answer to?

Kids should understand the teachings of evolution. Be discerning about presenting materials that teach ideas contrary to the Bible. Discuss why these teachings are wrong. If you don’t have the answers, don’t panic. Be honest. Say, “I don’t know,” then find the answer and follow up. Use the Answers in Genesis website, our online bookstore. You can call customer service! Most importantly, trust that God’s Word is true.

What are the best resources for teaching apologetics in the homeschool?

Dr. Purdom’s Facebook page

Ken Ham’s Facebook page

Answers for Kids book set

Answers for Kids Bible curriculum

Answers Books for Teens

Four-Year Apologetics Curriculum

Apologetics Courses

Answers News

Creation Museum

Creation Museum Adventure

Ark Encounter

Conclusion

Apologetics in your homeschool is a powerful way of growing in your own faith. What resources have you used to teach apologetics? Let me know in the comments.

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Stop Worrying; Start Homeschooling – Part 2

Stop Worrying; Start Homeschooling – Part 2

Stop Worrying; Start Homeschooling - Part 2

Do you have worries that keep you from homeshooling? If so, you’ll want to listen to the first part of this article. Once you do, you’re ready to read worries 6-10.

#6 The kids won’t listen to you

That’s a real worry. If your kids won’t obey you, you’re in trouble. You won’t be able to get them to do schoolwork, chores, or the things that will keep them safe and healthy. So how can you homeschool if your kids won’t listen to you? If that’s your worry, homeschooling isn’t the issue. If you send the kids to school and they won’t obey you, how will you get them to do schoolwork, chores, or the things that will keep them safe and healthy?
At one time, school teachers were able to discipline students. That’s no longer the case. Teachers’ hands are often tied in even depriving students of privileges. If there are no consequences in the home either, kids may continue to be defiant and suffer the results of an undisciplined life. If you don’t discipline your child, no one else will.
If you worry that your kids won’t listen to you, you should worry! But only if you aren’t willing to change that immediately. Require obedience. If your kids openly refuse to do homework or chores, remove a privilege that matters. In the article I wrote on the top question parents ask me, I give you some ideas. But just to repeat, wait until your child asks for something — a snack, game time, a visit with a friend. The answer then is no. When your child asks why, explain that they didn’t obey. Let them pitch the biggest fit, but the answer is still no. You can switch the order for kids who aren’t openly defiant and refuse to grant privileges until the schoolwork or chore is done. Stop worrying that your kids won’t listen to you and start making discipine a key part of your homeschool today.

#7 My kids will be unhappy being homeschooled and will want to go to school

Let’s first discuss the worry that our children will be unhappy being homeschooled. I had this worry for years and it was completely unnecessary. Here’s why:
It’s normal for kids to be unhappy doing school. It’s normal like it is for adults to be unhappy going to work. Work is work! But kids and adults alike are unhappy in their free time too. We get bored doing the same things. It’s not as exciting as we would like it to be. But for some reason as homeschool moms we think our kids have to be Disney-World happy in their education all the time or we’re failing. Wrong.
My kids, like kids who go to public or private school, don’t like some aspects of school. They complain. They try to put it off. That makes them normal. It doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong. In fact, it means I’m doing something right. I am disciplining them in the habit of learning and studying. This is not to say that I don’t think learning should be fun. That’s a soap box for me and why I created Grammar Galaxy the way that I did. But discipline must accompany fun in a child’s education. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t like homeschooling. Ask children who go to traditional school if they like it. Most of them will look at you like you’re crazy and say no. You don’t have to frantically pursue fun classes and curriculum in an effort to make kids happy in their homeschooling. Most likely it won’t work anyway.
But what if the unhappiness gets so bad that your child wants to go to school? Listen to the podcast episode I did on this situation. I lived through my child wanting to go to school and actually attending public high school. I wrote about the unexpected positive results from that experience and interviewed my son for the podcast as well. He just graduated from college, by the way, and is starting his career in sales. We are so proud of him! My son’s desire to go to school was not because I failed in homeschooling him. In fact, he has said that he loved being homeschooled. It served him well until he needed the opportunities available to him in high school. None of my fears about him going to school were founded. That experience was one of my sons attending one school and I can’t generalize my experience to you. However, worry doesn’t serve any good purpose.
So my daughter, who will be a high school freshman, told me she was wanting to go to school. I dropped her off to shadow for the day and I wasn’t worried. I had had a good experience with the school with her brother. But I was sad. So much so that I prayed for peace. God gave that to me immediately. I felt at peace when my daughter said she had made the decision to start high school there in the fall. A few weeks ago, though, she told me she had changed her mind and wanted to continue homeschooling. I immediately realized what a waste my anxiety and upset would have been. No wonder the Lord immediately gave me peace. Stop worrying about your child being unhappy and start homeschooling.

#8 Your kids won’t have enough friends as homeschoolers

I have to admit that I’ve worried about this a lot. At the beginning of my homechool journey, all my homeschooling friends had girls and only girls while I had boys. I worried that they would have no male friends. Years later my homeschooling friends all had boys and there were few girls for my daughter to be friends with. I worried that we wouldn’t know where to make friends. Then a P.E. class led to friendships that led to a co-op in my home. Then those kids graduated, moved, or quit homeschooling, and I worried that my younger kids would have no friends. And I haven’t been alone in this worrying. My husband is an extreme extrovert and worries when the kids don’t have as many homeschooled friends as he thinks they should. He has wondered if the kids would be better off in school.

If you share this worry, let me share some things to reassure you. God knows our kids need friends. He promises to meet all their needs. If He is calling you to homeschool, He will provide your children with friends. These are some of the ways God has provided friends for my children: new neighbors with kids, Sunday school, youth group, sports, homeschool classes, reaching out to our local homeschool group, online friendships with my friends’ kids, and jobs.

If you’re saying BUT right now, I get it. I’ve been in a place where my kids hadn’t made friends in these ways, or more specifically what I considered to be enough friends. I’ve had the opportunity to see my adult introverted son’s friendships develop. Until he was a teen, he had very few friends of his own. Most of them were his brothers’ friends. Now that he is in college, I am amazed by the number of friends he has. What’s interesting is that he never once complained about having too few friends. Nor was he affected negatively because he didn’t have dozens of friends as a kid. If your child has a close friend or two and is happy, you do not have anything to worry about.

If your child wants more friends, I recommend praying together first. Then look for them in one of the ways I mentioned previously. Be patient. Friendships take time to develop. Stop worrying about your child’s friendships and start homeschooling.

#9 Your finances may not allow you to homeschool in the future

Worrying about what-ifs robs us of joy and opportunities now. Early in our marriage, my husband’s fellow sales reps told him that the company he worked for was on the verge of being sold, meaning he would be out of a job. We worried about it. If that happened, we worried about paying our mortgage and me not working. We worried about it for 15 years when the prediction finally came to fruition. The company was sold and my husband was out of a job. But within a week, he had another job that was far better than the one he’d worried about keeping all those years.

This is not to say that we won’t have a time that we have to work and homeschool or even give up our homeschooling because of finances. But worrying about it now will make homeschooling miserable. I know many homeschooling moms who have homeschooled their children on a modest, single income. They didn’t have all the luxuries we are told are musts, but they had the precious experience of teaching their children at home. Homeschooling can be very inexpensive and it is possible to earn an income while you teach. So stop worrying about finances and start homeschooling.

#10 Homeschool haters

The final worry I’ll discuss is about homeschool haters. I did a podcast episode on handling them that I recommend to you. If we worry about people who aren’t supportive of our homeschooling, we give them power. They feel emboldened to continue attacking our choice. Protect yourself legally. I recommend joining HSLDA. Follow your state’s law to the letter. Then kindly set boundaries with people who attempt to interfere with your family’s choice to homeschool.

If you persist in attempting to win a hater over, you’ll likely continue to worry. I have heard from my listeners about family members who continue to hate on homeschooling even after their children have graduated and are successful in a career. If our happiness in homeschooling depends on pleasing anyone else, our happiness won’t last for long. Appeal to the Lord for protection from those who would give you grief. Then stop worrying about homeschool haters and start homeschooling.

Conclusion

No good comes from worrying. Use the time and energy you are spending on worrying to get on with the business of homeschooling! If you need help with worry in general, listen to the podcast episode called Help for Anxious Homeschoolers.

Which of these five worries has been the biggest problem for you? Comment and let me know.

Stop worrying; start homeschooling

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Stop Worrying; Start Homeschooling – Part 1

Stop Worrying; Start Homeschooling – Part 1

If worrying is keeping you from homeschooling, I have help for you! We will put five common worries to rest so you can stop worrying and start homeschooling.

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Worry #1: I don’t have the patience to homeschool

One of the first things people say when they learn I am a homeschooler is that they would never have the patience for that. It’s a common and understandable worry. I wasn’t a patient mom at all. And homeschooling just my oldest as a preschooler taught me that. It drove me crazy when he didn’t answer questions I knew he knew or when he had his own ideas for what we should be doing. I often lost my temper and even when I didn’t, I was practically jumping out of my skin while waiting on him. I knew that I wasn’t the best teacher for my child because of my impatience. But I didn’t quit.

I eventually came to understand that patient mothers don’t homeschool. Instead, homeschooling mothers learn patience. They learn it, not from dealing with obedient, cherubic children, but from the aggravating, tiring, and difficult sort. If I had not homeschooled, I believe I may have stayed the same impatient woman I was 19 years ago. I would have remained short-tempered and would not enjoy the closer walk with the Lord and my family that I do today.

[LIsten to How to Be a Patient Homeschool Mom]

[Read Anger Lies Christian Parents Believe]

We tend to want patience right now! There isn’t a shortcut to this fruit of the Spirit, but there is a well-worn path. Homeschooling mothers before us have trod it and you can too.  Stop worrying about your impatience and start homeschooling.

Worry #2: I’m not organized enough to homeschool.

The next most common response I get to the announcement that I am a homeschooling mom is that the person speaking isn’t organized enough to homeschool. I have a hard time not laughing in response to that comment. I was a very disorganized person when I started homeschooling to the point that I felt I needed to quit. I would be neglecting my children’s education if I continued. Even though I was only homeschooling a preschooler, I did almost no teaching but also got nothing else done. I didn’t know what the problem was until I met a woman named FLYLady online. Her approach to developing routines and working in 15-minute segments changed my home. I wasn’t born organized, but I have developed routines and an approach that allows me to do everything that God has called me to do.

[Listen to the Power of Homeschool Routines with FLYLady]

[Listen to Homeschool FLYing]

FLYLady’s approach is the basis behind The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner. I applied the same principles of routines and 15-minute missions to organizing every area of my homeschooling life — prepping curriculum, arranging our homeschool spaces, early preparation for holidays and more. I am not IKEA-organized in my home. Many people assume I am. Instead, I am organized enough that I can homeschool, write curriculum, and run a business. My home is not a disaster. I no longer routinely forget appointments. I even have time left over to enjoy family time and participate in hobbies of scrapbooking and tennis. If I can do that, anyone can.

Worry #3: I won’t be fulfilled by homeschooling

Before I was obedient to God’s call on my life to homeschool, I was worried that homeschooling wouldn’t fulfill me. I had a degree in psychology and I’ve given up that career to stay home with my children while they were little. But I did not want to give up my dream of being a writer and speaker. I assumed there was no way I could do all three. Obviously, I was mistaken. I’m doing all three of those things today. But homeschooling has been the most fulfilling of these callings. I have often said that I would give up everything else before I gave up homeschooling. Teaching my own children has been my greatest joy. The family relationships we enjoy as a result are precious to me and my husband.

[Read Why I Wasted My Education]

[Read Homeschooling is the Most Fulfilling Career]

Homeschooling has also allowed me to use the talents God has given me and to fulfill my purpose as a teacher. Before I had my first child, I taught psychology at a local university. I absolutely loved it. God knew that teaching would give me the desires of my heart. I have taught my own children, my friend’s children, and now through Grammar Galaxy, children all over the world. My cup overflows. It is possible to homeschool and work or minister within your talents and your passions. I know women who are gifted in computers and engineering who teach courses for homeschooling students, for example. The same with those gifted in the arts. But whatever your passion, I’m proof that you can work or minister part-time while homeschooling and fulfill the other God-given desires of your heart. I did much less writing and speaking when I had babies. God has been faithful to give me just the amount of activity outside of homeschooling for my season. Use the scheduling worksheet in the post linked below to determine how much time you can devote to your passion in this season of your life.

[Read Scheduling Secrets]

God can fulfill you even as you homeschool. Stop worrying about being fulfilled and start homeschooling.

Worry #4: I’ll choose the wrong curriculum.

A fourth worry homeschoolers often have is choosing the wrong curriculum. We worry that our friends’ kids will get full-ride scholarships to Ivy League schools while our kids will and up being ditch diggers. And all because we chose one math curriculum over another. This fear can lead to curriculum addiction and such a collection of resources that our child is overwhelmed and stressed. An overwhelmed child is more likely to fail academically than one who is using a curriculum that isn’t the best of the best.

I used to have this fear. For example, I listened to people who said if you didn’t use more than one math or science curriculum, your student wouldn’t get into college. That wasn’t true. And while I do think there’s some truth to the notion that using the same math curriculum each year is a good idea, I’ve violated that policy and my kids have still done well. The fact is you teach your children. Curriculum is just a tool you use to teach your children. That is especially true if you tailor that curriculum to your child’s learning style and particular needs. You may need to add other resources and even tutoring, but nearly any curriculum will do when it comes to providing an education for your child.

[Read Curriculum Paralysis]

[Listen to Gaps in Your Homeschooling]

Many of us worry about gaps in our children’s education when we choose a particular curriculum or even a particular approach to teaching the subject. I had that concern about history when I was using a unit study approach to teaching my kids. We weren’t studying history chronologically, so I was concerned my kids weren’t going to master it. I’ve now used both approaches and saw no difference in my kids’ understanding of history. Gaps in a child’s education is not worthy of our worry. I direct you to the episode I did with Charlene Notgrass on the topic. I can tell you that most homeschool curriculum is far superior to that used in public and private school. A wrong homeschool choice is likely better than a traditional curriculum. Stop worrying about choosing the wrong curriculum and start homeschooling.

Worry #5: My child won’t be able to master a subject.

A fifth worry homeschoolers have is that their child won’t be able to master a subject. I was afraid I would not be able to teach my child to read. That fear stemmed from two sources. First, potty training had been a real struggle for me. I couldn’t teach my child that most basic of social skills, so I worried that reading would be a real struggle. The second source of fear was the fact that I didn’t know how to teach a child to read. No high school student is given a course in teaching reading. I wasn’t an education major, so I had no background in it whatsoever. I purchased an expensive phonics curriculum and hoped for the best. My oldest child, and advanced learner, took to reading at an early age. But just as with potty training, he wasn’t interested in it. I was so shellshocked from my potty training experience with him that I let it go. Lo and behold, he was interested in reading in his own time. My second and third kids learned to read on a later but average timetable. My fears that I would not be able to teach my kids were relieved once they knew how to read.

[Read What to Do When Phonics Doesn’t Work]

But then along came boy number four. I taught him using the same materials and the same approach I used with my older three boys, but no matter how many little tricks I added to my approach, he wasn’t getting it. That old fear reemerged. When our kids struggle to master a subject, we can worry that homeschooling isn’t best for our kids. While it is true that your child may need assistance with a learning disability, we should not worry about homeschooling a child with special needs. Here’s why. If your child were in public school, you would have to be your child’s advocate. I know many parents who have gone to great lengths to ensure that their children are receiving the special services they need to succeed in public school. In public school, your child is one of dozens of children. You will have to be your child’s advocate no matter which educational approach you use with your child. Homeschoolers can find the best professionals to assist them for their kids without dependence on a particular teacher or aide in a public school, who may not be the best fit for your child. Special needs children have the opportunity to flourish in an educational environment that supports their self-esteem and enables them to learn using the modality that is the best fit for them. With my son’s difficulty in reading, I consulted my neighbor who is a reading specialist. She explained that my son sounded like he needed to learn to read using whole language, which is another way of saying that he struggled to read phonetically. He wanted to memorize the words. I also consulted an expert at a homeschooling conference about my son’s approach to reading and was reassured that he would not have undue difficulty in reading using that approach. The expert has been proven correct. My son is an excellent reader, despite not learning to read phonetically as his brothers did. No one cares more about your child’s education than you. You’ll do whatever it takes to teach them. Stop worrying about your child not mastering a subject and start homeschooling.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve laid to rest five homeschool worries for you: lack of patience, organization, and fulfillment and fears of choosing the wrong curriculum or your child not mastering a subject. God doesn’t want us to worry. He wants us to get on with the business of homeschooling He’s called us to.  I hope you’ll subscribe below to be notified of five more worries we can put to rest.

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What is a Homeschool Portfolio and Why Would I Need One?

What is a Homeschool Portfolio and Why Would I Need One?

Homeschool portfolio

What is a homeschool portfolio and how can it save our sanity? Read on for inspiration.

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First, what is a homeschool portfolio?

A homeschool portfolio, in short, is a record of what your child is learning. It might be a digital or print record, often kept in a binder.

It can include information about your child for that school year — height, weight, likes, dislikes, and friends, for example. A picture of your child is often a part of this page.

A homeschool portfolio can include goals for that student for the year. These could be academic goals like mastering multiplication facts, life skill goals like learning to do laundry, or social goals like learning to manage conflict with siblings. I did two episodes on that topic, by the way.

A homeschool portfolio can also include information about your child’s complete course of study: school schedule, subjects being learned, texts and outside classes being utilized, extra-curricular activities, books being read, and field trips taken. It is not, generally speaking, a lesson plan book with notes on which pages were completed on which days.

Finally, a homeschool portfolio can serve as an evaluative record. It’s a place for recording attendance, noting progress using tests or work samples, and adding end-of-term grades. It can be used for you and your student to assess how she is doing.

How a Homeschool Portfolio Can Save Your Sanity

That’s what a homeschool portfolio is. Now why do you need one?

The first reason you need a homeschool portfolio is to provide evidence of work completed if you are required to meet with an evaluator. The key information is all in one place for each student, keeping your anxiety about these evaluations to a minimum. Your organization in keeping a portfolio is likely to impress the educator you’re working with or at the very least will present no red flags.

But do you need a portfolio if you aren’t required to have evaluations? You might. Many states’ homeschool requirements can be fulfilled with a homeschool portfolio. Tracking attendance with number of school days and documenting your student’s course of study with work samples may be legally required. A portfolio is an excellent and easy way of meeting that requirement.

So what if you aren’t legally required to maintain a portfolio in your state? You still might want to keep one. The first reason is because you may need to present the information should your circumstances change. If your homeschooling would ever be called into question, your portfolio would go a long way toward documenting your work and protecting yourself and your kids. Should you decide to send your child to school at a later date, your portfolio can help a guidance counselor determine which courses would be most appropriate for your child and may even prevent your student from having to retake classes.

The second reason you may want to keep a homeschool portfolio, even if you aren’t required to, is so you can see your child’s progress. Homeschooling is a long-term project. There are so many days when you feel like you’re getting nowhere fast. Reviewing your goals for your child is likely to remind you that you have had significant accomplishments, even if your progress isn’t perfect. Your child may also feel like she isn’t improving. A record of work done at the beginning of the year and even from previous years will help her to see that she is moving forward.

Finally, you may want to keep a homeschool portfolio, even if you aren’t required to, for sentimental reasons. My husband has many papers from his elementary years and it is a joy for all of us to look at them. I use my kids’ portfolio when I put their school years’ scrapbooks together as well. Their artwork and written work can be scanned and added to either a print or digital scrapbook and will be enjoyed for decades.

How Do I Start Keeping a Homeschool Portfolio?

If I’ve convinced you to keep a homeschool portfolio, how can you start?
First, choose a portfolio. This portfolio from Not Consumed is a great choice. Or print this free pack from Talking Mom 2 Mom.

The most common way of keeping a portfolio is to use a three-ring binder. Use your portfolio printables to organize your pages. The free download includes pages for dividing your binder by subject area. However, you could also set up your portfolio using hanging file folders. Each child could have a wide hanging file folder with smaller subfolders or his own crate with folders for each subject. Yet another way of creating a portfolio is digitally. Use a program like Dropbox or Google Drive to create a folder or set of subfolders for each child.

Whichever method you choose, set it up before the beginning of the school year. Get started on filling out your goals and curriculum choices for each student.

Then ask your child to complete information about himself when school begins. You could ask your child to add books to his books list as he reads them. You’ll mark attendance each day. Add any tests or evaluations done to your portfolio as soon as they are completed. You may wish to collect relevant work samples near the end of the term. I remove sample pages from the beginning, middle, and end of a child’s workbook, for example. At the end of the year, discuss progress on goals with your student and you and your child can note your thoughts in the portfolio.

Conclusion

The process of keeping a homeschool portfolio can be a rewarding one for you and your child, whether you are required to keep one or not. Choose a portfolio printable or digital approach and get started using your portfolio today.

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A Sane Approach to College-Prep Homeschooling

A Sane Approach to College-Prep Homeschooling

College Prep

Listen to the podcast

I am frequently asked about college-prep homeschooling. When some moms consider the high school years as preparation for college, they freak out. I get it. I was worried about high school too. But I shouldn’t have been. This May I will graduate my third high school student and will have my first college graduate. I don’t have all the answers, but my perspective has changed and I want to share my experiences that should calm your fears.

[Listen to Secrets to College Admission with Lee Binz]

Homeschool Graduates

Is it harder to teach college-prep homeschool?

A common question I have received is whether it is harder to homeschool high school, especially when you’re preparing a student for college. I know that question comes out of the idea that the subject matter is more complex and requires a more knowledgeable teacher. My answer to that question is in most cases it is easier to homeschool high school. Your students should be able to read and complete assignments with very little help from you. If your child is self-directed, you may only need to meet with your student to review work, administer tests, and grade papers. If the content is not something you are well-versed in, you can have your student use self-directed curriculum, getting help from other homeschooling parents as needed, have your child take a Learning Center class, or enroll your child in an AP or dual enrollment course. If you have a friend who is skilled in the subject that is weaker for you, trade responsibilities. As I’ve often mentioned, I have a friend who does my kids’ Apologia labs and grades and administers tests while I teach her kids literature and composition. You can do this!

What type of courses should be taught in a college-prep homeschool?

Another question I am often asked is about the types of courses high school students who want to attend college should be taking. Visit HSLDA.org to get a list of college-prep high school courses. Next, look at the requirements of a college your child may want to attend. My oldest had a large list of potential universities and he applied to many of them. He ended up choosing a state school. We were thrilled that he has been close to home and he has said that he is very happy with his choice. Our second two sons are also attending state schools and for financial and family reasons, we plan to send the rest of the kids to state schools. If you make a similar choice for your family, reviewing college course requirements becomes a lot simpler. I will say that you can take your high school student on college visits early on, but a lot of maturity happens in the junior and senior years that may have your student changing his mind.

Apologia science co-op

These are the course choices we have made in our college-prep homeschooling. We have included English studies every year of high school. I have like to alternate literature and composition courses every year and we have done these as part of our home based co-op. I find that my high school students enjoy literature and writing a lot more when they are able to discuss and share their writing with friends.

They have also done four years of math, though the levels of math have varied in the senior year depending on math ability. For science my students have used Apologia and have studied biology, chemistry, physics, and advanced chemistry. Science labs have been completed also in our home based co-op.

My high school students have taken a variety of other courses in high school including world history, American history, government, logic, health, Spanish, theology/worldviews, music, practical skills, and physical education. American history or government is a requirement for one college in our state.

[Read Teaching Pratical Skills in Your Homeschool]

How rigorous should college-prep homeschool courses be?

I am frequently asked about how rigorous high school courses should be. High school classes should be graded so those grades can be included on a high school transcript. I use assignments, participation, grading rubrics for papers, and tests that are included with curriculum in order to give my students an accurate grade. I find that some homeschool curricula requires more work (especially writing) than courses traditional schools require. I don’t like to require a paper a week for every subject, for example, because even college courses don’t require that much writing. On the other hand, to prepare your students for college, there should be increased expectations for evidence of your child’s learning. If there are no tests available with a curriculum you’re using, require your students to write a paper or create a project that demonstrates what your child has learned. Then you grade it.

How do I create a high school transcript?

That leads me to another question I frequently receive: how to create a transcript. There are free editable forms available for you to complete by adding the course name, the number of credits, and the grade. You will want to determine how course credits are typically calculated in your state. In mine, a full-year course is 1 credit. A semester course is .5 credits. You’ll want to choose a grading scale and use it consistently. I do not grade with A-‘s and B+’s, so I use 4 points for an A, 3 for a B, and so on. Keep the names of the courses simple like English Comp I or Spanish II so colleges can compare your child’s coursework to other students’. If you have higher expectations for a course or add enrichment activities to it such as the science lectures we had our students attend in addition to their Apologia coursework, you can label a course as Honors on a transcript (e.g., Spanish I Honors). Keep a record apart from the transcript of textbook used, course instructor’s name (if the class was completed at a learning center or online), and example work/tests should you be asked to present proof of course content.

Should I have my student take CLEP tests, AP courses, or dual enroll?

The next question I am often asked is about CLEP, AP courses, and dual enrollment. My oldest son took online AP courses through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. He then took the AP exams for those courses and did well in them. Depending on the score received, most colleges will accept those courses for college credit. When he later attended high school, he took enough AP courses with qualifying scores to become an AP Scholar. He had two years’ of college credit by the time he graduated from high school.

My second son took CLEP tests through College Prep Plus. He passed the tests, but when we decided he would attend college rather than complete the College Prep program, we learned that the tests he took would not qualify for credit at the state schools he wanted to attend. That is not to say that the CLEP tests wouldn’t have been valuable for a degree through College Plus. My son had an incredible experience working with a mentor through College Prep Plus and was motivated to attend college and set and complete goals because of the program.

Rather than AP or CLEP tests, my second and third sons took dual enrollment classes at our local community college. Getting college credit that way as opposed to the AP course and exam fee has been much less expensive for us and has been excellent college preparation. I have liked them taking the courses while I am still here to provide support. My fourth son will be taking courses at community college next year. My kids have taken American history, psychology, sociology, Spanish, and math.

I have been asked which option colleges prefer. Colleges aren’t as likely to accept CLEP exams for college credit. So do your research if you plan for your student to attent a traditional college. AP courses are excellent for students who want a competitive scholarship, but they aren’t required for the most common academic scholarships. Even though my oldest son had two years’ of college credits, he was admitted as a freshman and was given scholarships as though he were a freshman. College credits can reduce the amount you have to spend while your student is enrolled, but degree and scholarship requirements may limit the savings. My oldest is graduating in four years, for example.

How can I maximize my student’s chances of college admission and scholarships?

Now I want to answer questions I get on admissions and scholarships. Your student can earn free tuition from many universities with a high GPA and test score alone. Check the schools you are interested in for the requirements. You’ll be offered these scholarships automatically, regardless of your family’s income. You won’t need an impressive list of accomplishments and activities to get them. In fact, the admission form for our state schools doesn’t ask for this information. Their transcript and test scores were all that were required for admission and scholarships. If your student will apply for a competitive scholarship, that is when that list of accomplishments comes into play. If your student’s test scores aren’t high enough for admission, you may be able to use that list to gain admission as well. However, if your student doesn’t do well on tests but does well in the classroom, consider dual enrollment or full-time enrollment in a community college after high school. Your child can then transfer to a four-year college on GPA alone. There are fewer transfer scholarships, but there are some available.

Because the biggest scholarships are based on test scores, it’s important that your student do their very best on the ACT or SAT. Two of my students used workbooks exclusively to prepare for their exams because they’re visual learners.  Two of my sons have used Magoosh to prepare and I highly recommend it. It has short teaching videos and test questions that can be accessed from their phones any time they want to get a short practice session in.  I am considering enrolling my high school student in an ACT course as well because he’s an auditory learner. One strategy my kids have used that is excellent is to emulate the testing format during practice tests as closely as possible. So block out four hours of the day and take the exam in the same way that you will be on testing day. Have your students start studying early. If your student has learning challenges, arrange for testing accommodations. Contact your local homeschool support group for information about how to arrange that.

If you want more information about helping your child secure scholarships, listen to the podcast episode I did with Lee Binz. Investigate other scholarships that are available through the college or university that your child would consider attending. Many that are not based on GPA and test scores require leadership experience. Plan now for opportunities for your child to exercise leadership or gain the types of experience that the scholarship requires. Look for local, private scholarships as well. My dentist’s office offers a college scholarship, for example. Many smaller scholarships require letters of recommendation and if your child has someone who could write an excellent letter on his or her behalf, your child may have a good chance at earning the scholarship. Many smaller scholarships offered by colleges and universities require essays. If your child is a strong writer, you may be able to increase education funding by applying for those smaller scholarships. Of course, there are scholarships for sports ability and other extracurricular skills you should look into as well. Depending on your family’s income, you may qualify for grants to help defray the costs. One significant source of college funding that I had not considered before my second son attended college is serving as a resident assistant. My son was a resident assistant this year and will be next year as well. That position includes free room, board, books, and a small salary. That is a huge help to our family. Becoming a resident assistant does require good grades in college and good communication skills, but it is something to aim for to make college more affordable.

[Listen to Lessons Learned from Homeschooling High School]

Conclusion

Homeschooling high school can be a rewarding time in your relationship with your teen. While preparing your child for college can create anxiety, we can learn how to choose courses, prepare our kids for college entrance exams, and earn scholarship money. We can also trust God to help our kids do what is required to fulfill the plan He has for them. College-prep homeschooling has been much easier than I thought it would be. I hope I’ve reassured you!

Do you have any questions about college-prep homeschooling that I haven’t answered? Comment below.

College Prep Homeschooling

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