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. Get your organizing book for pennies at the Build Your Bundle sale and the planner from Grammar Galaxy Books (discounted this week only) and begin a more organized life today. Stop worrying about not being organized and start homeschooling.

Save BIG at the 2018 Build Your Bundle Sale!

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

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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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The Best Language Arts Curriculum for Every Grade

The Best Language Arts Curriculum for Every Grade

The best language arts curriculum

One of the most time-consuming tasks for homeschooling parents is researching curriculum. I’m not only going to tell you what I think are the best choices, but I’m also going to give you access to a free document with all the information in table format. I think you’re going to love it!

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Why choosing the best language arts curriculum matters

Right away I want to issue a disclaimer. I am only sharing the language arts curricula that teaches more than one subject. I will not be discussing curricula that strictly teaches literature, writing, spelling, or grammar. In the future I may do reviews of these curricula as well. For today, if a curriculum teaches more than one subject and I believe it is one of the best currently available, I am including it in my list. You may have a curriculum you love that does teach more than one subject that hasn’t made my list. I would love to hear about it in the comments.

The list I’ve created will be a huge help in making a decision this year, especially if you are looking for a complete language arts curriculum and not a standalone subject. Click the list image below to claim your copy for subscribers.

Best Language Arts Curriculum

I believe that language arts is the most important subject we teach in our homeschools after the faith. Yes, I think it’s more important than math because we have to read to learn math and certainly have to read word problems to calculate them. My belief is backed up by research which demonstrates that reading and most particularly vocabulary (which is developed by reading) is the best predictor of a student’s academic success and life happiness. Writing skills are important in getting a good job as employers evaluate what is written on a job application. Writing is also a big factor in grades for most other subjects studied in college.

Because language arts is so important, we want to find a curriculum that will encourage our kids to read and write well. One of the most important criteria should be a student’s enjoyment. The more your child enjoys reading and writing, the more your child’s skills will improve. We can certainly encourage our kids to read and write outside of a traditional curriculum. But teaching higher-level language arts skills at any grade level can be easier with a curriculum to serve as your spine. It also makes sense to teach the language arts together, rather than dividing them into subtopics. Having said that, I have taught stand-alone subjects many times over the course of my homeschooling.

The best language arts curricula for elementary students

Grammar Galaxy

I will begin with what I consider to be the best language arts complete curriculum for elementary students. Am I being completely objective in recommending Grammar Galaxy as one of the best options? No. I have had too much positive feedback from Grammar Galaxy families to remain objective. I hear over and over that reluctant readers and writers are now doing both and loving it! I have heard too many times that children beg to do Grammar Galaxy where other grammar and English curriculum left them groaning.

Writing Kids Love

I am excited about the launch of the third volume of Grammar Galaxy which teaches literature concepts, vocabulary and spelling strategies, grammar, and composition and speaking to fourth graders and up or those who have completed the Protostar level or its equivalent. The stories and including students in the story as guardians of Grammar Galaxy who have missions and not workbooks to complete seems to be the awesome sauce. As this podcast is being released, Yellow Star and any bundles it is a part of is 20% off with no coupon code required. Go to GrammarGalaxyBooks.com/shop to save before midnight April 8, 2018. This is the best price through the fall of 2018. Grammar Galaxy currently has levels available for beginning readers or first-graders through fourth-graders but complete levels are planned for fifth and sixth graders with individual subject books planned for junior high. I already have students in junior high using and loving Volumes 1 and 2, however.

Shurley English

For elementary students, I have also enjoyed Shurley English. While the jingles weren’t my kids’ favorites, I had not found another curriculum before I created Grammar Galaxy that did as well at teaching parts of speech. It honestly amazed me how quickly my kids learned parts of speech with Shurley English. It is otherwise a standard textbook approach that teaches grammar and composition.

Character Quality Language Arts

I have used and enjoyed Character Quality Language Arts. This program is daunting at first because of the size of the stack of hole-punched pages, but it teaches many clever ways of remembering grammar rules and spelling words. It is a Christian program that emphasizes character. It draws from the keyword approach to writing that is characteristic of Institute for Excellence in Writing. I am not including IEW in my list as I consider it a stand-alone writing program. CQLA also uses dictation, which I think is important. Some of the work, like defining vocabulary words, becomes repetitive, however.

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind

I have also used and enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained mind. This curriculum is short and scripted and was fun to use with my youngest. I liked that it is a gentle approach to language arts for young studients. I found that the recitation became a bit tedious for my guy over time, however.

All About Spelling

I have also used All About Spelling and I think it’s an excellent approach for students with dyslexia in particular. I found it wasn’t necessary for my students, but I highly recommend it for kids who struggle with reading and spelling.

Other recommended language arts curricula for elementary students

Other elementary curriculum I have not used but am including in my recommended elementary list include Logic of English, English for the Thoughtful Child, Sonlight, My Father’s World, Language Smarts from Timberdoodle, Language Lessons by Sandi Queen, Alpha Omega Lifepacs and Switched On Schoolhouse, Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Time for Learning, Easy Peasy, Abeka, Monarch, Writers in Residence, and Total Language Plus. In the download for this episode, you will find the grade levels for each curricula, pros, cons, difficulty, teacher involvement required, material requirements, costs, as well as top reviews. I can tell you that this list took a considerable amount of time to create, which will save you time.

[Read 6 Reasons Your Child Hates to Write and How to Fix It]

The best language arts curriculum for junior high students

Writers in Residence

For junior high, I did not use a complete language arts curriculum. I began using literature and composition-specific courses instead. The only complete junior high curriculum I’ve gotten to review closely is Writers in Residence from Apologia. Students are coached along the way to create meaningful writing. The curriculum also teaches literature and grammar. It’s an excellent choice.

Other language arts curriculum for junior high

Other options for you to consider for junior high include Alpha Omega Lifepacs & Switched On Schoolhouse, Time 4 Learning, Monarch, Life of Fred Language, Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Total Language Plus, Logic of English, and Language Lessons by Sandi Queen. If I were to choose a complete language arts curricula for my rising junior high student, I would consider Logic of English or Total Language Plus in addition to Writers in Residence. They have both been recommended by homeschoolers I know.

The best complete language arts curriculum for high school

Abeka

For high school, the only complete language arts curriculum I have used and recommend is Abeka. While I think it includes too many exercises, the instruction is thorough and straight to the point. It’s an excellent option.

Other language arts curriculum for high school

I am also including in the list for high school the following: Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Time 4 Learning, Monarch, Oak Meadow, Logic of English, BJU Press, Excellence in Literature, Language Lessons by Sandi Queen, Life of Fred Language, and Total Language Plus.

How to make a language arts curriculum decision

 My list will get you started in deciding on language arts curriculum for next school year. But if possible, I highly recommend that you look at your choices in person. I will be exhibiting at Great Homeschool Conventions in Cincinnati and St. Louis this year. I would love to have you take a look at Grammar Galaxy and the other curricula I’ve mentioned. It can help a lot to get your hands on it.
But there’s one more important thing to remember. Making the right curriculum choice is not do or die. I hate to tell you how many times I’ve purchased curriculum that didn’t work or that I just didn’t have time for. Usually it was the latter. Be sure to read how to decide which curriculum to use as well. That’s for my fellow curriculum hoarders. Look at the options, talk with your spouse and friends, ask in the HomeschoolScopes group on Facebook, pray about it, and choose. If it doesn’t work, in many cases you can return the curriculum within a certain timeframe or sell it used online. I have a thorough post on selling used curriculum for you in the show notes.
Blessings on your research and decision making on language arts curricula! Which options are you leaning toward for next school year?
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6 Reasons Your Child Hates to Write & How to Fix It

6 Reasons Your Child Hates to Write & How to Fix It

child hates writing

Hey, homeschoolers! If your child hates to write, you’re in the right place. My kids were the same until I learned why they hated writing and what to do about it. Listen to the podcast for the solution to reluctant writers.

Listen to the podcast

Writing Kids Love

Why Kids Hate to Write and How We Can Fix It

#1 Your child’s handwriting speed is too slow.

The first reason your child hates to write is because your child’s handwriting speed is too slow. You can finish reading a picture book by the time your child has formed the letter a. Your child may have learned to form the letters correctly but you may not have given him focused practice in becoming faster. If your child writes slowly, you’ll likely have a student who resists any written work. Her brain is working much faster than her fingers and it’s frustrating.

I learned that this was behind even my advanced student’s writing reluctance. It wasn’t that he couldn’t write; he just didn’t want to. Only my daughter didn’t complain about writing because she was the only one whose fine motor skills could keep up with her creativity. So what do you do if your child writes too slowly? Give your kids focused practice in writing faster–not so fast that their work is not legible–but with less of a focus on perfect formation. Faster handwriting is one of the lessons in the first volume of Grammar Galaxy: Nebula, but I have a treat for you. You can download the forms I use in the lesson right here. I'd like the free forms!

Work at increasing your child’s handwriting speed, but don’t stop there. You can help your child learn to enjoy writing by making the input easier. Allow your child to dictate to you. Write what your child says on a chalk or whiteboard so he can see what he is writing. Or write it in a notebook and then go over it together. The first two volumes of Grammar Galaxy encourage ample use of student dictation so your child will learn to love writing. Next, use dictation software. I love my Dragon Dictation app for the iPhone, but Macs also have built-in dictation software that works well. Dictating is a skill for the future. I frequently dictate so I can move while I write. Dictation is perfect for your kids with ADD too. Then teach your child to type. Learning to type faster is a lesson in Grammar Galaxy Protostar. The faster your child can write, whatever the medium, the more likely he is to enjoy writing.

#2 Writing assignments aren’t structured for your child’s level.

The second reason your child hates to write is because the writing assignments aren’t structured for your child’s level. We not only have a child who writes slowly,  but then we ask him to write about any topic. There are hordes of adult writers who are paralyzed by the thought of having to choose a topic, even within the broad scope of something personal, a famous person’s biography, or a science topic. Give kids a short list of specific topics to choose from instead, even if your curriculum doesn’t. Limiting choices actually increases creativity. Then provide as much support in completing the assignment as possible. It isn’t enough to tell a 2nd grader to write five sentences on her topic. Young writers need graphic organizers for their writing. These are forms that tell students exactly what to write for each part of their paper. They make the writing process seem easy. That’s why I include so many of them in Grammar Galaxy. The blank page is terrifying to all writers. Instead, young writers should have fill-in-the-blank pages or writing recipes that feel easy and fast to complete. And the younger the student, the shorter the assignment needs to be. Even more advanced writers prefer to have a short writing assignment, giving them the freedom to write more as they would like.

#3 You’re correcting instead of encouraging.

When your child’s handwriting speed has increased and the writing lesson is structured appropriately for your child’s level, your child is less likely to hate writing. But if you correct instead of encourage, your child is still likely to resist. No one likes to do something they aren’t good at. Most children see corrections and even suggestions for change to writing as a sign that they aren’t good writers. I have edited fellow adult writers’ materials and often see their discouragement upon seeing the changes I’ve made. I tell my students that every successful author is edited. Sometimes the edits are purely subjective and the author doesn’t like them. But most of the time, the edits make the work better. Writing isn’t like math where there’s one right answer. This is a truth we have to reinforce with our students frequently.

[Check out the Better Editor Game]

Before you regularly correct your children’s spelling or grammar, encourage their creativity. Express your joy in their writing, much as you would with their artwork. Be specific about what you love about it. Your child puts herself on paper and wants to hear that she is a delight. Explain that you aren’t worried about spelling or grammar mistakes. You just want your child to write. Once your child has begun to enjoy writing because you enjoy it too, you can begin to suggest a few changes. Work on just a couple of things at a time. Start with making sure each sentence begins with a capital letter and has an endmark. Make sure the word I is capitalized. If your child struggles with spelling, deemphasize it. Focus on vocabulary instead. Have your child replace weak vocabulary words like good and bad. This gentler approach to writing is one of the reasons students with dyslexia love Grammar Galaxy. But any student who resists writing because of constant correction is likely to blossom with this approach.

#4 Writing assignments are boring.

Being encouraged about something structured you’ve written with faster input is a great start. But boring assignments, reason number four, will keep your kids hating writing. Having your child constantly write out definitions to words may help them remember vocabulary, but it is not fun. I don’t want to do it. Do you? Notebooking is another writing assignment that can help your child remember what is studied but doesn’t ignite the writer within. When your aim is to teach your child to love writing, refrain from giving repetitive writing assignments. Give your kids funny writing prompts instead. Nothing has been more effective than humor in getting my kids excited about writing. Start with prompts that are already funny like the funny spring writing prompts you can subscribe to get by clicking the image below. Even better, allow your child to turn an ordinary writing prompt into a funny exercise. When your student feels freedom to use humor within appropriate limits, magic happens. In our house, I’ve had to make a rule about writing unkind things about others. But I’ve allowed my kids to use their siblings’ or friends’ names in their stories within that boundary.

funny spring writing prompts

Subscribers to the Grammar Galaxy newsletter receive a month’s worth of daily assignments, including fun, seasonal writing prompts. You won’t have to spend time looking for ideas on Pinterest because I’ve done the work for you.

#5 You’re anxious about your child’s writing.

You can be doing everything right with writing, but if you are doing this fifth thing, your child may still hate writing. If a homeschool parent is freaking out over their child’s homeschool progress, it’s likely to be about one of two things: slowness to read or what is perceived as poor writing skills. I know this fear. One of my children wasn’t able to learn to read using the phonetic approach that had worked with my others. I didn’t know what to do. And every time I read one of my elementary or junior high student’s papers, the spelling and grammar made me want to cry. I had failed and everyone would know. But then something amazing happened. By the time they were sophomores in high school, their writing improved significantly. Spelling improved for most of them automatically. I hadn’t used a formal spelling curriculum for them, but had corrected errors as we came to them. Grammar, which requires higher-level thinking, improved as my students developed. Most exciting was the fact that their personality, opinions, and creativity were expressed beautifully in their writing because they felt free to share it without fear. My honest appreciation for their work allowed them to continue to improve as they wrote.

[Listen to Help for Anxious Homeschoolers]

If you’re afraid your kids are terrible writers, they’ll know. Anxiety is as catchy as the common cold. Your child will be afraid she’s a terrible writer. Then she’ll resist writing because again, we all hate to do things we aren’t good at. They’ll procrastinate on every writing assignment and tell you they don’t care about writing. So relax. If you aren’t strong in writing, ask someone whose strength is writing to encourage your child and make suggestions. Believe that your child can become a competent writer who enjoys the process. As a bonus, work on your own writing while your child writes. Write your own responses to the funny writing prompts, for example. If you work to improve your writing, your confidence will carry over to your child.

#6 You don’t give your child a reason for writing.

The last reason your child hates to write is because he thinks it’s like higher-level math that he’ll never use. Your child needs a reason for writing. Show her the importance of writing in a future career she is eyeing or even better, show her how writing can help her reach her goals now. Writing is valuable in business, charity, and relationships. Writing a pitch to a business, a sign for a church event, or a status update on social media are all opportunities to practice writing that have the potential to pay off for kids.

Donations for Malaria blog

Next, use your child’s personality to provide a reason for writing. My kids are competitive and social. Writing competitions and group read alouds have given them a reason to write. Other kids can find emotional solace in writing or a way to connect with people they care about. Have your more introverted child keep a journal. Write to your child in a shared journal or ask your child to write letters to a relative who lives far from you.

Finally, point out the importance of good writing skills as you see examples. Good writing has the power to increase the status of the writer, while poor writing can make a writer look like a fool. In Grammar Galaxy, kids learn what happens when the Gremlin tampers with the English language. As fellow guardians of the galaxy, kids have to write to save it and stop the ensuing chaos. Kids are given a reason for writing.

Grammar Galaxy helps kids love writing.

Next week, I’ll announce the launch of Volume 3 of Grammar Galaxy, which is designed for fourth graders and up or those who have completed the equivalent of Protostar, Volume 2. If you have a student at this level or below, you’ll want to subscribe to hear about special pricing and bonuses that can get your kids writing and loving it.

If you want students who love to write, increase their handwriting speed or input, structure the assignment so it’s easy and quick to complete, encourage rather than correct, give fun assignments, relax about writing, and give your child a motivating reason to write. If you do these things, you may not be raising the next Longfellow, but you can have a child who enjoys writing. And that is half the battle.

Which of these approaches will you try first? Let me know in the comments.

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Morning Time Music in Your Homeschool

Morning Time Music in Your Homeschool

Music appreciation is a wonderful addition to your homeschool’s morning time. Music can soothe a cranky baby, get a restless student keeping the beat, and create a peaceful environment. Who doesn’t need that? Music in your morning time creates memories and can even change hearts. Substitute Christian music for Bible memory occasionally and your kids may remember even more Scripture. Music appreciation in your morning time also provides regular inspiration for your children’s music lessons and practice. You’re all reminded of the beauty that can be created when we stay focused on our music instruction. Morning time music is also a great adjunct to your history studies. We can picture the time period more readily with the appropriate music playing.

[Read why music education matters]

Including music appreciation in your morning time can be hard.

If you want to include historical music in your morning time, you will need to research which are the most important pieces to play. You will want to share some information about the piece and its artist, but you don’t have time to share a lot. So you’ll need to select the most important points and talk about them in a child-friendly way. Once you know which pieces you want to include, you’ll need to look for them at the library. You won’t know for sure how many you’ll get through, so chances are good you will have to keep renewing the pieces. Or you’ll look for the music online, having to spend time watching YouTube ads only to discover that the video wasn’t quite what you were looking for. If you want to take the learning deeper, you’ll need to look for or create some notebooking pages to go along with your studies. Are you tired yet? I am.

I am a fan of anything that makes my job as a homeschooling mom easier. Music appreciation courses do that. The material has already been prescreened by a Christian mother and the notebooking pages are done for me. The music appreciation courses from Music in Our Homeschool have been so enjoyable and enriching to our history studies. But if I’m being honest, something was missing from them. I didn’t notice it until the solution was right in front of me.

Morning time always includes holidays.

One of the things we do with our morning time is talk about current events and holidays. I read seasonal books, do seasonal devotions, and complete holiday unit studies. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about including holiday music appreciation in our morning time before. When I heard that Music in Our Homeschool was launching this course, I asked myself this question:

“What would holidays be like without music?”

Music makes holidays special. I can’t imagine Easter or Christmas or the 4th of July without the signature songs that inspire faith, joy, or patriotism. Yet I wasn’t including holiday music appreciation in our morning time. May I get real here? I teach music appreciation for me. I love it. I am passionate about music and hearing the stories behind the songs we all love. Music appreciation makes me happy. When I teach it in the morning, I am in a good mood all day. And when mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

How a Holiday Music Appreciation Course Saves Your Sanity

This course is hosted on Teachable, which is a beautiful, user-friendly platform. You’ll see at a glance which lessons you’ve done, so you don’t repeat even when the kids are yelling, “We’ve already done that one!” Maybe that only happens to me. You have unlimited access to the course, so you can pick up where you left off and just teach the holidays you want to teach. But you’re going to want to add the lessons to your Organized Homeschool Life planner, so you remember to do them all. I can’t wait for the Star Wars day lesson!

Holiday Music Appreciation Course

 

I love that the videos are embedded within the course. It’s a safe platform for your kids to work on your own. Assign one child to be in charge of making sure you do your holiday music appreciation in the mornings.

Printable copywork (so helpful in building good writing skills) and activity sheets are included with the lessons. Have your kids answer the short quiz at the end too. My kids love working together on these.

I did a short screen share video so you can see what the course looks like inside.

Launch pricing is a gift.

Save 40% with code HOLIDAY through 3/28 on this holiday music appreciation course.

Which songs make the holidays for you? Let me know in the comments.

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