My husband and I will be married for 25 years this July. I consider a happy marriage to be a major factor in the success of our homeschool. I wanted to share six secrets for a successful homeschool marriage.
Marriage takes two. I would love for you to listen to the podcast or YouTube interview I did with my husband using the buttons above. I thought he had great tips to share.
We hear the importance of communication so much that it becomes meaningless. Communication in a homeschooling marriage requires time. Often we are so busy working, teaching, and parenting that we don’t have time to talk with our spouse. We have to have time set aside for this purpose instead of hoping it will happen by default. The time my husband and I have together has changed as the seasons of our family have, but currently we have the most consistent time to talk over breakfast in the morning. The kids aren’t up. Experiment until you can find a time that works much of the time.
The second key factor in good marital communication is honesty. I have been shocked by the number of couples who don’t discuss problems that are obvious — problems with money, kids, the relationship. The hope in staying silent is that the problem will disappear. It usually gets much worse. If you need to be honest about a problem and you’re afraid to talk about it, pray. Ask God to give you the courage. Ask Christian friends to pray. They don’t need details. Choose a good time. Don’t talk when the kids or something else is distracting you or when you’re tired, hungry, or particularly stressed. Then use the I feel…when…and I need. For example, if you are worried about your finances, begin by saying something like “I feel anxious when I hear you talk about changing jobs. I need more details about that possibility. Can we talk about it?” The key is not placing blame and focusing on how you feel. Read Communication: Key to Your Marriage by H. Norman Wright.
#2 Understand your spouse’s personality
I used to think my husband was just trying to drive me nuts with his occasional controlling ways. Now I understand that control is a primary need for him. When something happens in another area of his life that makes him feel out of control, he will try to exercise more control in our family. If I can get him to identify the problem and talk to me about it, the need for control usually dissipates.
Not understanding my husband’s love language caused me a lot of grief early on in our marriage. My love languages are meaningful words and gifts. My husband’s is acts of service. We both tried to give the other what we wanted with not good results. My husband doesn’t care about gifts at all and took almost everything I bought him back to the store. That wasn’t personal; he takes almost everything he buys back, too! I was hoping my husband would spend a lot of time choosing gifts for me; instead he once scribbled a gift I could purchase on a piece of notebook paper and handed it to me.
I now understand that my husband doesn’t feel loved if I have no idea what’s for dinner and if I haven’t made our physical relationship a priority. He understands that if he is being critical and not complimenting me that I won’t feel loved. We compromised on gifts. I only give him very personal gifts like scrapbooks and he allows me to purchase my own gifts. I’m a lot more generous with myself than he would be, so it’s a win! Read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman to learn more.
#4 Keep your spouse informed of what’s happening in your homeschool
Occasionally, my husband has been worried about how the kids are doing in school. Because he doesn’t teach or even help me choose curriculum, he doesn’t know if they’re doing as well as they should be. It’s important to talk with each other about challenges and successes and to get advice. My husband will be less worried when I tell him how the kids are improving in areas and he can offer me support for areas that are weaker.
My husband and I have different concerns with the kids’ education. He wants them to be very physically active and to spend little time on the computer. He also wants them to spend time with other homeschooled kids, but he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money to make that happen. It needs to be a priority for me to explain how I address his concerns while also addressing mine. He usually scores love language points after these talks by telling me what a great teacher I am.
#5 Give your spouse a break
My husband has always been willing to play with the kids when he is done working and give me a much-needed break. Even if the primary teacher can’t give respite during the week, it’s important to do that on the weekend whenever possible. My husband usually doesn’t work long hours and isn’t exhausted in the afternoon. If your husband is tired when he gets home, consider relying on him for a break after he has recuperated. Of course, if your roles are reversed or you’re both tired from working, find ways to give one another breaks to avoid resentment.
Breaks don’t just come from taking over childcare. I wouldn’t have been able to keep homeschooling six kids if my husband hadn’t been willing to stay with the kids so I could go out with friends on a fairly regular basis. We both spend time in separate hobbies and even occasionally take independent trips. These absences from one another have made our marriage stronger.
#6 Make your marriage the priority
I love homeschooling, but I love my husband more. If our marriage fails, homeschooling would be very, very difficult for me. In my podcast interview with him, my husband said something I had never considered. He said that if a huband feels like homeschooling takes all his wife’s time and there’s nothing left for him, he won’t be supportive of it. Fortunately, I don’t think my husband has felt this way or he would have said so. In fact, homeschooling has made it possible for our whole family to spend more time together.
But, there have been times when homeschooling, parenting six kids, and my writing and speaking responsibilities have left me depleted. It’s been tempting to skip time alone with my husband or the exercise that gives me the energy and confidence I need to be intimate. Fortunately, my husband has never let me get away with neglecting him for long. But not every spouse is vocal about their needs. Have a conversation with your spouse today about whether the marriage is a priority. If it isn’t, take steps to put it back in its rightful place. If you need help making intimacy a priority, read Sheet Music by Kevin Leman.
What other suggestions do you have for keeping a homeschooling marriage strong? Comment and let me know.
When your homeschooled child enters or will soon enter high school, their happiness becomes critical to ensuring the success of your homeschooling. Obviously, we can’t base all our choices on what will make our kids happy. But doing what we can to make the high school years enjoyable is an important way of expressing love for our children. Here are my top tips.
I don’t mean to do science; I mean to teach your child to have an experimental attitude about their education. Many older homeschoolers are ready to give up homeschooling because they’re dissatisfied with some aspect of the home education. It’s possible that going to school is the right choice for them. if you wonder, listen to the episode of The Homeschool Sanity Show on this topic. But it’s also possible that some experimenting is in order.
Would a different schedule help? Try it and have your student record their findings. How does the new schedule affect their mood, productivity, and feelings about homeschooling? My kids have a later rise time as a result of this experiment and I’m constantly pointing out that they would be getting up at 6 if they went to school.
Another experiment to try is a new format for learning. Have your student try independent study, learning along with you, online learning, a co-op, or outside classes. Last year my son did an online course that went very well for him. My boys have enjoyed taking dual enrollment classes, especially doing so with a homeschooled friend the same age. Next year we are going to use more independent study and we’ll try outside classes through a new homeschool co-op.
Experiment with new activities. Consider youth group, a homeschool sport/activity, a non-homeschool sport or activity, or a part-time job. One son began attending youth group and another started a part-time job last year and both have made them happier in their homeschooling. Though she is not in high school, my daughter enjoyed playing volleyball with junior high and high school homeschooled girls last year. This summer she will be on a local swim team.
Finally, experiment with studying new subjects. Choose an elective of interest, for example. The 7 Sisters Human Development course will be of great interest to my daughter and would be perfect to do with a group. I taught developmental psychology at the university and it was a packed course. (For a limited time, use code SANITY to take 20% off your purchase. Comment on or share this Facebook Live review for a chance to win a 7 Sisters course until June 6th, 2017.)
If you’re stuck for ideas, review a high school or college course catalog. Ask your student what he thinks sounds interesting and pursue a course on the topic.
The key to experimenting is to give the experiment a decent trial period. One or two days of curricula, class, or an activity isn’t a fair trial. Attitudes can change. I insist on a semester for most things. Even if my student is right that she hates a curriculum and that doesn’t change, we help our students develop character in the process. Relationships, jobs, and new endeavors often get off to a rocky start, but turn out to be a blessing. Students will also learn how to adjust to less than desirable circumstances. They can choose a positive attitude and learn to focus on what they like and ignore what they don’t. They can learn to make friends who make the experience more pleasant. They can learn to push themselves to a new level of achievement, despite not liking the instructor (hopefully that instructor isn’t you!). They can learn how to deal effectively with difficult people. They can learn to entertain themselves when bored.
Teaching your child to experiment with all of these variables in their homeschooling because it’s a critical life skill.
#2 Give appropriate freedom and responsibility
The second approach for keeping high schoolers happy is to give appropriate freedom and responsibility. Kids aren’t happy when they’re hemmed in too closely. As long as your child isn’t violating your trust with poor choices, you shouldn’t use your fear as an excuse to limit your child. One reason we’re afraid to give freedom is because we know what we did as teeens or what our spouse or friends did at this age. But your child isn’t you or your friends. He or she has had the benefit of being homeschooled by you. If your child has earned the right to attend a well-chaperoned party or dance, to take a dual-enrollment class, or to get a part-time job, let your child have the experience.
When I began homeschooling, the thought was we wanted to limit our teens’ exposure to these things, but I think that teaching was misguided. I think it’s important to have our kids try and potentially fail while we are still there to guide them. This is what leads to success in college and life. That doesn’t mean we don’t have discernment in choosing the freedoms and responsibilities we give. We should choose those opportunities that will encourage our child in his faith walk and expose him to people who share his values while also allowing him to meet those who don’t.
Provide plenty of coaching before giving more freedom and responsibility. Ask your daughter how she will respond if she witnesses underage drinking or drug use. What will she do if she makes a poor choice in this area? Does she know that you will not punish her if she calls you to come get her? It’s critical to communicate this. If she reports underage drinking, she has to know that you won’t keep her from attending all functions in the future. She has to know that if she does drink that you will come get her immediately to keep her safe. Of course, these discussions should also include the many natural consequences of poor choices. The more real-world examples you can provide, the better.
Talk with your child about the kinds of people he will meet in the workplace. Share your own experience. Talk about temptations. Discuss what you believe about dating. If your son or daughter is interested in dating, what will you say? What situations do you want your child to avoid and why? As you talk, affirm your child and your confidence in his ability to make good choices. Remind him of examples of his good decision making in the past.
To keep your homeschooler happy, teach them to experiment with their homeschooling and activities, give them freedom and responsibility within a coaching framework, and assess your child’s mental health. Does your high schooler seem happy most of the time? If not, talk with your child about what they think is influencing their mood. Always consider hormones as a factor. Next, consider social skills. Students who social skills are lacking may suffer from loneliness and develop too much of a desire to play video games.
If you think your child may be depressed because they’re sleeping too much (or have insomnia), eating too much (or not enough), are unusually sad or irritable, or express hopelessness or significant negative self-esteem, seek a professional’s help. If you’re worried about attitudes toward your homeschooling, listen to the episode on working with professionals as a homeschooler. Even if you’re nervous, you owe it to your child to get help.
#4 Invest in the relationship.
Finally, to keep your high schooler happy, invest in the relationship. As your children get older, you will find you can spend less time actually teaching. You may find that you have even more time to yourself because your child is gone more. But this is not the time to let the realationship wither. Plan time to do a devotion together, enjoy a hobby together, or get coffee together. Let your child choose the activity. Chat with your high schooler the way you would with a good friend. Ask them how things are going, what they’re learning, what they’re interested in. Then reciprocate. Just as you know less about their lives, they know less about yours. You are building the foundation for a good relationship with your children when they are in college and adults living away from home.
Affirm your child. Praise her for the maturity you see. Envision a positive future for her. Tell her you can see that she’ll be a great mother, a caring teacher, or whatever will mean the most to her.
Make it clear that you are there to help your child overcome challenges. Explain that you will be there to help them deal with the dyslexia in college, to deal with difficult relationships, to manage money — whatever is a struggle for your child.
Pray for your child. Pray with him. Tell your children you’re praying for them. Ask for specific prayer requests. Give them a Scripture that applies to their circumstances. Of course, if you’re married, it’s important for both you and your spouse to invest in the relationship with your homeschooled high schooler.
It is possible to keep your homeschooler happy in high school. Even if you and your child decide that enrolling in high school is the best choice, many of these tips will be helpful.
Do you have other tips for keeping homeschoolers happy? Comment here or on Facebook.
There are a number of problems homeschoolers have in using digital curriculum. I’ve had them myself! But now that I have the solutions, I’m excited about using digital curriculum again. I can’t wait to share the solutions I’ve discovered.
Before I share the solutions to the challenge of digital curriculum, I want to share the advantages of it.
#1 It’s less expensive.
Digital curriculum is generally less expensive than print and even if it isn’t, you don’t have to pay for shipping. Digital curriculum is really less expensive when you are able to make copies for more than one student. For example, two print mission manuals for Grammar Galaxy are $60 while one digital copy is just $25.
#2 It takes up less space.
Bookshelf space is at a premium in a homeschooling home. Digital curriculum is perfect for homeschooling in small spaces or just because you cannot buy one more bookshelf.
#3 It’s easier to use with multiple students at once.
Digital curriculum is perfect for morning/family/circle time because you can display the text on a large screen for all to see and read. It’s also ideal for homeschool co-ops, even if the co-op is just you and another family. You do want to make sure you are complying with the publishers’ rules for use before using curriculum with a co-op, however.
#4 It may include multimedia for many learning styles.
Some digital curriculum includes audio or video which is perfect for auditory or visual learners. Multimedia can help expand your students’ attention span and increase motivation.
#5 Digital curricula may permit your student to use digital tools and create digital projects.
I interviewed Beth Napoli about cool webtools for students. You’ll want to listen to that episode if you haven’t already. Beth’s online unit studies direct students to create digital projects — in the process, teaching them valuable skills. Other curricula allows students to type on pages rather than hand write on them — something my boys have always appreciated.
Problems with Digital Curriculum
These advantages of digital curricula sound great, don’t they? But there are problems in using digital curriculum, too.
#1 Digital curricula can be expensive to print.
This is especially true if you are printing color pages or have to use a printing service. You may need to purchase binders or a hole punch to prepare your curricula for use.
#2 Digital curricula can be time-consuming to print.
The more pages to print and hole punch or bind, the more time it will take you to prepare the lessons. If you do not have a two-sided printer, it can be challenging to get your printer to print all of the pages in order. Paper jams inevitably occur. Finding time to go to the print shop can be a problem. I’ve even been hassled by a print shop about the copyright of a curriculum that clearly gave me permission to make copies for my family.
#3 Digital curricula can be difficult to organize.
You think you bought a digital math curriculum, but now you can’t find it. Maybe it was on the computer that died. What website did you buy it from? Can you download it again? What was it even called so you can search for it on your computer or in your email? Maybe you give up on finding it and buy something else. Can you tell that I’ve had these issues?
Solutions for Using Digital Curriculum
Thankfully, there are solutions to these challenges.
Print curriculum using the right tools.
First, if your curriculum needs to be printed, purchase a laser printer that prints on both sides of the page. These printers like the black-and-white and the color laser printers I have from Brother are extremely economical to use even though they require an initial investment. The toner has to be replaced very infrequently. I buy off-brand toner that saves me even more money. Click the images below for pricing.
A laser printer will also save you time by printing faster and eliminating the need to go to the print shop. Purchase a 3-hole punch that goes through a stack of pages. If you’re printing digital curriculum, the time-savings are worth the negligible cost.
Don’t print curriculum.
You can also save time and money by not printing your curriculum. It doesn’t make sense to print curricula that includes lots of web links or that allows your student to type in fillable forms. Instead, consider opening your PDF curriculum on a laptop that is connected to your TV so everyone can see at once. You can also use a device like Apple TV to wirelessly display the curriculum on a large screen. If curriculum is to be read by an individual student, open it with or send it to your tablet. Here are instructions for opening a PDFs on a tablet.
What if your curriculum includes pages that require hand-written work? Open the curriculum on a tablet using the free Adobe Reader app. Your student can type or write with a finger or stylus anywhere on the page. No printing required.
You can use a combination of these approaches as well. If you want your student to read the text on a tablet but do the written work by hand, only print those pages that you think are critical. Remember that a lot of written work can be done orally as well. With Grammar Galaxy as an example, you could put the Mission Manual pages on the big screen and ask your kids the On Guard questions without having them use a highlighter. Or better yet, for squirmy learners, ask them to touch the correct answer on the screen.
How to Keep Your Digital Curriculum Organized
You may be thinking that this sounds great, but how do you find the curriculum you purchase and how can you keep track of it from now on?
Find the curriculum you already own.
My recommendation for storing these files permanently is to store them in the cloud using Dropbox or Google Drive. Then if your computer crashes, you’ll still have access to your digital curriculum. Create a folder for Dropbox or Google Drive labeled curriculum and add it to your favorite folders. (Click here for how to use Dropbox and here for how to use Google Drive). Next, open all the files on your computer and sort them by kind of file. You want to look at Adobe Acrobat files. Fortunately, those will already be near the top because they start with A. Look at each PDF file’s title. If you know it’s curriculum, drag it to your newly created Curriculum folder. If you don’t know what something is, hover over the title to reveal it in its entirety. If you still don’t know what something is, double click it to check. If you find a file you’re sure you no longer need, put it in your computer’s trash. My youngest will be a 6th grader, so when I did this and found first grade curriculum, into the trash it went.
If you have many files that go with the same curriculum, create a new folder for that curriculum within the Curriculum folder. Use the command key to click and highlight all these files. Drag them all to the specific folder.
Finding access to courses you’ve purchased is more challenging. Do a search of your email for the course name if you remember it. Search for the words course and receipt. Check your payment records. If you used PayPal, you can search for the company name or look through your activity.
Create a database of your curriculum.
The next step is to create a database listing all your curriculum. I would not put regular ebooks in this table, but would reserve it for other homeschooling materials. The easiest database for me to use is Airtable. I think you will love it. Set up an account. Once you have an account, you can make a copy of the database I’ve already created for you. Once you have copied the database, you can add your curriculum to it with its name, subject, grade level, format, password, and notes. I’ve already set up these options for you, so you can select them quickly. You have the option of attaching PDF curriculum directly to the database or of pasting the dropbox or Google drive URL where you have it saved. I recommend using the URL because the free version of Airtable only includes 2 GB of attachment space per database.
If that sounds like gobbledy gook, don’t worry. I’ll show you step by step what to do in this video.
If you’re still with me, here is what your Airtable database will allow you to do. You will now be able to see exactly what you already have for each subject and each grade level. And ta da, you’ll actually know where to find it! You’ll also be able to keep track of the new digital curriculum you purchase.
I have been going through this process myself and I can’t believe the valuable curriculum I haven’t used because I couldn’t find it. It was out of sight, out of mind. Now that I’ve found it, I’m so excited about using digital curriculum next year.
Digital curriculum can save you time, money, and your sanity when you use these approaches.
It’s almost summer and that means it’s time to plan for summer learning. Whether you homeschool year-round or need ways to keep your home education going during the lazy days of summer, I’ve got you covered.
You’re likely familiar with this option. Even if your child is already an avid reader, the variety of summer reading programs available can make reading even more fun. The first place to check for reading programs is your local library. My church has run a summer reading program for many years as well. Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Sylvan also have summer reading programs. But you’re not limited to formal programs. Create your own! You can make a list of reading requirements such as what’s in my Reading for Treasure Map and offer a reward for completing it. Click the button below to claim yours.
Zoos, science centers, museums, and even Home Depot offer free programs for kids in the summer. Check their websites or newsletters for details. You’ll want to Google summer kid or family activities 2017 for your area, too. There are many festivals, reenactments, and other opportunities that you wouldn’t think of otherwise.
#3 Park Events
Parks frequently offer nature programs for kids during the day and music events in the evening. Use these opportunities to expose your children to new musical genres. Our outdoor theater in the park allows standing attendees to watch musicals for free. Your local park service’s website and newsletter are important places to look for educational events. But park learning doesn’t have to be formal. One homeschool support group here has park play dates in the summer. Activities can include sports and crafts or just the chance to build friendships. If your support group doesn’t offer this, start your own play dates!
#4 Outdoor learning
Summer (especially in the cooler morning hours) is an ideal time to do nature study. Go for hikes, observe ants at work, study life in pond water, and more. If you’re going on vacation this summer, the opportunities for nature study expand. We’ve learned a lot about shells, sharks, crabs, alligators, sting rays, and jellyfish while at the beach.
It’s a wonderful time of year for enjoying a variety of sports like baseball, swimming, and tennis. We love playing four square and will be playing with our new pickleball set as well.
I’m also a big fan of doing messy art and science experiments outside in the summer. Whether the kids use traditional paints or paint with water or use sidewalk chalk outside, summer is a great time to learn art. I don’t think my kids will ever tire of the Mentos in cola experiment. It’s definitely one we want to do outside. Check out the Outdoor Science Lab for Kids.
If you have a comfortable area outside or can go to one, why not spend some time reading and doing tradiitional lessons there? There’s just something about a change of venue that makes learning more fun.
#5 Classes & Camps
Summer is also the time when traditionally educated students sign up for classes and summer camps. I used to be very wary of these classes because I didn’t know the students or teachers. Having my child attend with a friend made me more comfortable and we’ve had good experiences. You can find classes and camps on just about everything. Again, Google summer camps in your area for 2017 and you’ll probably be overwhelmed. You can limit your options by asking about your child’s interests first. You could ask for recommendations on Facebook as well.
Summer is a good time for your student to attend or help with VBS or church camps. If your church’s schedule doesn’t fit with yours, consider having your child attend or help at another church’s event.
#6 Coursework you didn’t have time for
Summer is the perfect time for getting caught up on subjects. Without all the regular school-year activities, your student can make quick work of the last lessons — that is, if you schedule time for it. Even though for many homeschoolers summer is a relaxed time, we still need dedicated time for reading, activities, and studying if that’s your plan. A mastery curriculum like Learn Math Fast (use code SANITY5 or SANITY10 for a discount) or Grammar Galaxy are a wonderful means of helping your student catch up this summer. The lessons are short and even fun!
Use codes SANITY5 / SANITY10
I love summer as an opportunity to complete the subjects or courses we didn’t even have time to start during the school year. We have cooking, music, videography, and coding classes to do. The best times for us to do these will be in the morning or on rainy days.
If you have a tween daughter, you’ve likely experienced an emotional storm or two. Anger, crying jags, or even uncontrolled giggling that makes no sense. What’s a mother to do?
I was asked to share for the parenting tweens blog party at Like Minded Musings and I’m so glad I did. I realized that there was more I could do to strengthen my relationship with my daughter, who is now 13. We’ve already had a conversation that we gleefully banned her dad from participating in. 🙂
If you have a tween girl or if you soon will, I hope you will read my post and the rest of the posts in the tweens blog party.
While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to Like Minded Musings. Lee is a lovely lady and has a heart to help Christian parents.
If you’re visiting from Like Minded Musings and you homeschool, I would love to have you listen to The Organized Homeschool Life podcast. You may enjoy this episode on Homeschooling Through the Hormones.
Driving students to lessons is time consuming for homeschool moms. Look for a teacher who can come to your home instead. Both Gena and I have used this approach successfully. If your instructor can’t come to you, Skype can make in-home lessons a possibility. YouTube is another great way for your student to take lessons at home. Raising DaVinci offers an online ukelele course your kids may be interested in. The ukelele is an inexpensive instrument for emerging musicians.
While you’re driving, listen to a classical music station. Or compare genres by listening to a variety of stations. You can also do this at home with Amazon Prime Music or Spotify which has premade playlists of various genres. Do double duty by listening to music while doing art projects.
You can also enroll in a music course. Squilt, Bright Ideas Press, Zezok, and NotebookingPages.com all have courses Gena recommends. I also highly recommend the courses at Learn.MusicInOurHomeschool.com. We have taken the 20th Century Music Appreciation Course in its eBook form. It’s now available along with other period studies at Learn.MusicInOurHomeschool.com. These complete courses can be learned independently if you can stand being left out and are a fantastic option for co-ops. Gena’s 15-Minute Music Lessons are another easy way to include music in your homeschool. All lessons include printables you’ll want to use with course.
I’m excited that Gena is offering my readers a $10 off coupon for any course (besides the homemaking and sampler courses) through May 15th, 2017 with code SANITY.