10 Fun Additions to Your Homeschool Schedule

10 Fun Additions to Your Homeschool Schedule

One of the many blessings of homeschooling is getting to spend quality time with your children all throughout the day, but every stay-at-home parent knows that sometimes, you just need a break.

Our daily routines can get so repetitive and seem to “drag on.” If this sounds like your current situation, you’re not alone. Keep reading for several creative tips to add more fun into this new school year. Many of these ideas will leave you feeling much more refreshed, too!

10 Fun Additions To Your Homeschool Schedule

Math & Science

One way to make math more exciting for your students is by using different types of media as teaching tools. Incorporate games, fun videos, and catchy math songs into your curriculum and your child will become more motivated to learn.

For science, get some fresh air and go on a nature walk in the great outdoors. Plan out activities beforehand, such as identifying different types of plants or bird watching. Another fun way to learn about the environment, and get some exercise, is to take a trip to the nearest zoo.

The Arts

Engage the senses by taking your child to a kid’s museum, inviting a music teacher over in the afternoons, or practicing cooking skills prior to lunch. Music lessons are ideal because they allow you to take a much-needed break at least once or twice a week.

Any of these ideas would make an excellent addition to your routine this year. Check out the infographic below from TakeLessons for more ideas for your daily homeschool schedule.

What are your ideas for adding fun to your homeschool schedule?

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How to Encourage Mental Toughness in Your Children

How to Encourage Mental Toughness in Your Children

How can we encourage mental toughness in our children and why does it matter?

How can we encourage mental toughness in our children? #christianparenting

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First let’s define mental toughness. For our purposes mental toughness is being able to cope with and adapt to the challenges of life. We already know from the Bible that we will have trouble. So we are preparing our children for the inevitable. We want our kids to be strong in the Lord. We don’t want them to crumble at the first sign of adversity. I say that we can encourage mental toughness because I don’t believe this is a formal subject for which a curriculum or even a lecture is appropriate. Instead we have to encourage it as we live.How can we do that?

Allow children to experience natural consequences

I believe the first way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions. As tenderhearted mothers, we often cringe at the potential for our children to suffer. We don’t want them to know the pain of their choices and would prefer to give them second and third and fourth chances. The problem, of course, is that children will never learn to make better choices if we shield them from the natural consequences.

I have an example for you. On multiple occasions my children have signed up to participate in things by their own choice. Later on, this same child of mine has decided that they didn’t feel like continuing to participate or participating on a certain day. They weren’t concerned that their teammates and coach or activity organizer was depending on them. The natural consequence is that I refused to shield them from was having to do something that they no longer wanted to do. Of course, as I allowed my kids to experience this type of natural consequence, I was also teaching them Christian character. They learn loyalty and faithfulness and commitment.

Anytime our children make a choice, there will be consequences, both positive and negative. It’s important that we refuse to protect them from the negative consequences unless they are truly destructive. You will have to pray and use your parental discernment about which natural consequences your child should have to endure. Our decision should always be loving and never abusive. But always keep in mind that the difficult consequences your children face will make them stronger.

Encourage children to take responsibility

The second way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is by insisting they take personal responsibility. A refusal to take responsibility for our own choices and mistakes goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We shouldn’t panic if our child has a propensity to shift blame to others, because it is the human condition. However, we should not allow our children to shift blame without rebuke. Even when someone else’s choice or the circumstances were a contributor, our children need to take responsibility for their part in a bad situation. Did your child participate in the appearance of evil? Did your child stand by as someone else did something wrong?

Encouraging your child to take personal responsibility is an easy thing to do when it comes to team sports. If your child has the habit of blaming other players, the coach, or the conditions for their errors, ask your child to own up to their mistakes. At the same time, it’s important to teach children that admitting to mistakes does not mean they are unloved or without value. Some children believe that if they admit to doing wrong, it means they are worthless. In fact, some adults believe this as well and it explains why many people refuse to apologize. Instead, remind your child that everyone makes mistakes. And not just mistakes, but sinful choices. God has already offered us the solution for this. Our sins do not keep us out of fellowship with him or out of fellowship with one another if we admit them and ask for forgiveness. This is likely a lesson that will need to be repeated multiple times.

Teach children to feel the fear and do it anyway

The third way we can encourage mental toughness is to teach our kids to feel the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety is very uncomfortable. It makes sense that we as parents don’t want our kids to feel uncomfortable. This is particularly the case if we have our own anxieties. But keeping our kids from feeling the fear and doing it anyway will make the fear grow bigger. You may want to listen to the episode I did on anxious homeschoolers.

[LISTEN TO HELP FOR ANXIOUS HOMESCHOOLERS]

Anxiety that isn’t challenged will spread to more and more situations. You may think that it is better not to have your child do the public speaking assignments for your co-op. But soon your child will be balking at other assignments that tap into his social anxiety. You will be doing your child a great service to encourage your child to feel the fear and do it anyway.

In order to do that, we have to give our kids the tools they need to cope with anxiety. Those tools will likely include meditation on Scripture that relates to trusting God, taking deep breaths, relaxation training, and mental imagery in which your child practices relaxation. Our kids need to know that avoiding anxiety will make it worse.

Teach children how to control their thoughts

Related to encouraging our kids to confront their fears is the truth that we are capable of controlling our thoughts. As parents, we want to discuss with our children the importance of taking thoughts captive. Many thoughts will come to us briefly that are not within our control. But once we have the thought, we are capable of controlling it. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive and to bring it into obedience to Christ. We can do this or we wouldn’t be given this directive. We can also renew our minds. I encourage you to read about my post on the topic.

[HOW TO RENEW YOUR MIND THROUGH TRUTH JOURNALING]

We do not have to accept the thoughts we have that are lies. Sometimes writing those thoughts down enables us to combat them with the truth more easily. The mental battle our children will have when dealing with challenging circumstances is the most important one. When our child believes a lie about her circumstances she is likely to respond with a negative emotion, which will in turn affect her behavior. Mental toughness is developed by being a disciplined thinker. For more on controlling thinking, read about black-and-white thinking in your homeschool.

[BLACK-AND-WHITE THINKING IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL]

Model mental toughness

The fifth important way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to model it. If we refuse to accept the natural consequences of our choices, if we refuse to accept personal responsibility for our behavior, if we refuse to feel the fear and do it anyway, and if we persist in thinking and meditating on lies, our children will not develop the mental toughness that will be such an asset to them in the future. We must work on our own mental toughness in this regard. Furthermore, we have to be talking with our children about the challenges we are dealing with. Talk with them about the situation with as much detail as is appropriate for your children’s ages, and then talk about the strategies you are using to cope. Modeling is incredibly powerful. So many people will share examples of their parents’ mental toughness once they are adults and are reminiscing on their lives. We want them to have plenty of examples of mental toughness to hold onto.

Provide your children with mental toughness role models

Along with modeling, we want to give our children access to other role models. This suggestion is one that we can easily incorporate into our formal homeschooling. I love exposing my children to missionary biographies and Christian historical biographies that demonstrate mental toughness. Reading about men and women who suffer unjustly, rely on their God, and bravely serve despite trying times will instill a desire for mental toughness and a framework for pursuing it for our kids. I love YWAM biographies for this purpose, but books about Esther Kim, Samuel Morris, and Winston Churchill are more of my favorites for giving kids mental toughness role models.

Conclusion

To conclude, I want to give you a picture of the importance of mental toughness. You’ve likely heard the story of the person who wanted to help a butterfly that was struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. The person removed the chrysalis and the butterfly died. The struggle to emerge from the chrysalis is what provides the butterfly with the strength to live. In the same way, we do not want to prematurely remove the struggle from our children’s lives. Our kids are going to be dealing with difficult circumstances, challenging people, and injustice in the future. Like arrows in our quiver, we want them to be sharp enough to wage battle against the enemy in the years to come.

How do you encourage mental toughness in your kids?

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How to Be a Proverbs 31 Homeschool Mom, Part 1

How to Be a Proverbs 31 Homeschool Mom, Part 1

Have you ever wondered as I have what God expects of you as a homeschooling mom? One place we can find answers to that question is in Proverbs 31. She isn’t the unrealistic role model so many say she is. Join me for the first part of a study of this woman and how she can help us grow in our roles as homeschool moms.

Listen to the podcast  The Proverbs 31 Homeschool Mom, Part 1 #homeschool #biblestudy

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Grab your Bible and your printable study below and let’s walk through the Scriptures together.

In verse 10 we read, “A wife of noble character can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”

One of the ways I have struggled as a homeschooling mom is in recognizing my value. Some of my friends work part-time or full-time instead of homeschooling and generate an income for their families. One even supplies college scholarship money because she works for a university. Our worth certainly does not depend on income generation. But the tasks that we perform in our roles as homeschooling mothers are very valuable. I have saved thousands in private school tuition over the years. My one-on-one tutoring of my children has helped them to earn college scholarships with their test performance and grades. My children and I are home to keep our house clean, meaning that I do not have to pay for housekeeper. I am not as rushed, so we can enjoy less expensive and healthier meals at home on a regular basis. I don’t have to have a more expensive work wardrobe and nothing I own needs to be dry-cleaned.

True value, however, is in being at home for our children. If we are married, we are also available to support our spouses. If you work part-time or full-time in addition to homeschooling, don’t think that I am taking anything away from your value as a homeschooling mom. The extra time you spend reading to and talking with your children has proven dividends.

Verse 11 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband has full confidence in her and he lacks nothing of value.

I want to seek to educate and parent my children in such a way that my husband isn’t worried about our decision to homeschool. I can give him that confidence by bringing my very best to my role. Sometimes that means I have to educate myself about the best approach to teaching and parenting. Notice that it says the Proverbs 31 husband lacks nothing of value. It does not say lacks nothing. We gift our husbands with everything we can and are not responsible for gifting those things which we have not been given. At one time my husband asked me to learn to cut our children’s hair. Doing so would save us a tremendous amount of money and time. I was honestly reluctant to do this, but I purchased a book on how to cut hair at a used book sale, gave haircutting my best shot, and I have now been doing it for years. I cannot, however, offer everything that might be of value to my husband. We do what we can.

Verse 12 says she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

I have heard many sad stories of wives who spend freely and foolishly. I have heard other stories of women who refuse to cook, clean, or even be intimate with their husbands. Such women bring harm to their husbands. Those of us who are married want to bring our husbands good.

Verse 13 says she selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

If you’re like me, at this point you’re thinking, “Woah, Nellie! I don’t spin thread.“ Neither do I. I don’t have the skill of spinning, and it’s just as well, because that skill is not of greatest value to my husband and family. We each do, however, have skills that are of value. What strikes me in this verse is her attitude about her work. She works with eager hands. She is diligent and not slow. She is ready to accomplish valuable work. Whatever our specific abilities are, we can approach our work eagerly.

The next verse tells us she is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

Have you ever ordered special foods for your family? I used to belong to an organic food co-op that required me to place my order well in advance and drive to pick it up. I was being like a merchant ship that was gathering the best food. Grocery shopping, even at your local Aldi’s, which is where I shop to save money, is gathering food from afar.

Verse 15 says she gets up while it is still night.

She is an early riser. Some of you may be bristling at that. I was not always an early riser, but I have come to love it. However, when I had babies getting me up in the middle of the night, I was not an early riser. The Proverbs 31 woman described here does not appear to be nursing an infant. The principle, however, is this. If we can begin our day early, however early is defined for our season of life, we can achieve the work God has given us to do. The later I get up, the less I get done. If you’re a late riser, consider gradually rising earlier and note any improvement in your days.

Verse 15 continues to say that she provides food for her family.

The benefits of eating at home are not limited to health and financial benefits. Meals prepared and served at home have numerous social and emotional benefits for families. The Proverbs 31 homeschool mom does what she can to provide meals for her family at home. This does not mean that we can never enjoy a meal out. But eating the majority of our meals at home is probably best for our families.

The verse goes on to say that she provides portions for her servants as well.

This is where you want to pull back on the reigns once again. Servants? Are you kidding me? No wonder she could do so much! She had help and you have none. I used to feel this way as well. But now I believe that I have many more servants than the Proverbs 31 woman had. I have a servant in the form of indoor plumbing that brings running water into my home. I do not have to send anyone for it. I have a servant that does all of my laundry, other than putting it away. My washing machine and dryer would’ve been an incredible blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman. I have convection and microwave ovens that greatly reduce my time spent cooking. I have a gas grill that turns on at the flip of a switch, a fireplace also. I have a servant that heats our home and one that cools us. I have a servant that takes me anywhere I want to go in the form of a vehicle. I don’t need a stable hand to care for my horses. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman had to provide portions for her servants. In the same way, our modern servants require maintenance as well. The sacrifice is so little when you think of it that way.

Verse 16 says that she considers a field and buys it. From her earnings, she plants a vineyard.

The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t a 1950s homemaker. She is a real estate mogul and entrepreneur. Having started my own business, I have enormous respect for women who courageously venture into the world of self-employment. There is so much to know. It is so easy to be taken advantage of and to lose money with foolish purchases. Obviously, the Proverbs 31 woman had done her research. She knew land that was best for beginning a vineyard. She had obviously made good investments or income in the past because she used her earnings to plant a vineyard. She had to have researched this process a great deal. Homeschooling moms sacrifice at least potential income that they could otherwise made staying in the traditional workforce. But we do have the opportunity to make money even as we homeschool our children. We can not only make an income, but we can live the dream of hanging out our own shingle or beginning our own business venture. The skill required to become a homeschooling parent serves us well in this area. We know how to study a topic and we have already made the leap into what for many is the terrifying prospect of homeschooling. If you would like to find a way to add to your household income, I highly recommend the book, Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine.

I am going to end our study of the Proverbs 31 Homeschooling Mom here for today. We have enough to think about, don’t we? We want to consider our value as homeschooling moms, how we can bring good and not harm to our husbands, and how we may add to our family’s income. Work through the questions in the free printable I’ve provided for subscribers below. Then join me next week for Part 2 of our study.

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Black and White Thinking in Your Homeschool

Black and White Thinking in Your Homeschool

If there was a simple way to turn your homeschool around, would you try it? It isn’t a new curriculum, a new teaching approach, or an organizing product. It’s a change in thinking.

Black and white thinking in your homeschool #homeschool

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“Are you having a good day?”

That question we throw around all the time invites black-and-white thinking. We are challenged to consider whether our day has been good or bad. Thinking in terms of black and white or in dichotomies or extremes is the definition of black-and-white thinking.

Why is black-and-white thinking a problem?

Black-and-white thinking ignores the large gray areas in our lives and homeschools. It is a common habit that our children easily pick up. I want to give you plenty of examples of black-and-white thinking that can play a role in our homeschools, but first I want to talk about the dangers of black-and-white thinking.

Black-and-white thinking depresses our mood. This is so because in thinking in extremes, we tend to gravitate toward the negative. Our thinking, when it is chronically negative, can lead to changes in brain chemistry. Depression, in turn, is a condition that must be addressed or it can have serious consequences for us and our families.

Black-and-white thinking is definitely something we want to change so we can model healthy thinking for our kids.

How black-and-white thinking affects our homeschools and how to change it

The first way black-and-white thinking can affect our homeschools is how we evaluate things. We evaluate our day. If we decide we are having a good day, we are likely to treat everyone around us well. We are likely to get a lot accomplished. But if we decide we are having a bad day, we may make everyone around us miserable and in a self fulfilling prophecy, we will behave in such a way that things go wrong. You get nothing done.

Black-and-white thinking leads us to evaluate not just our day but homeschooling in general. Rather than consider progress that we have made or the positive aspects mixed with the more challenging aspects, we are tempted to give homeschooling a good or bad rating. If we consistently give homeschooling a bad rating, we are very likely to consider quitting. Our children’s bad rating of homeschooling can contribute to that.

Black-and-white thinking also comes into play when evaluating curriculum and classes. We often ask our kids whether they like a curriculum or class instead of asking them what aspects of it they enjoy. In this type of questioning, we are leading our children into black-and-white thinking. We want to emphasize to our kids that every type of education, every class, and every curriculum has its pros and cons.

If you have already made the mistake of modeling black-and-white thinking for your kids, you can stop today. Ask your child what the best parts of homeschooling are. Ask what they enjoy most about a class or curriculum you are using. The change in attitude can be dramatic as a result of letting go of black-and-white thinking.

The next way in which black-and-white thinking plays a role in our homeschooling is in our assessments of ourselves. I have often heard homeschoolers say, “I’m not good at math. I can’t write.” These types of statements are rife with black-and-white thinking. It is not true that even my most math-phobic friend cannot do math. My friend may have struggled with some aspects of algebra. But that does not mean she is incapable of doing mathematics. In the same way when I have made the mistake of saying I’m not artistic in the past, the truth is that I can draw at a basic level. I will not be winning awards for my arts, nor will I be teaching an art class anytime soon. But to compare myself to professional artists or those who are gifted in arts and to pronounce myself incapable is not how we want to model for our kids.

Most abilities, we know from research, can be developed. We are each born with a range of potential. Homeschooling is our opportunity to help our kids reach the upper limits of that potential. For example, you may have a child who seems naturally musically gifted. Perhaps they can play by ear. You may have another child for whom music requires a great deal of concentration and practice. This does not mean that your child who works at music is not musical. This is especially something to watch for when it comes to sibling relationships. Children often believe that if one child is gifted in an area, that area is no longer available to them. Make sure you tell your kids that every one of them can be the smart one, the athletic one, the musical one, the spiritual one. That, in fact, is why you homeschool. To give your kids the opportunity to reach their potential.

In order to discourage black-and-white thinking in your homeschool, first and foremost refuse to make black-and-white statements about yourself. If you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do public speaking,” correct yourself and say, “Public speaking has been challenging for me in the past but if I work on it I can improve.”

When you hear your children making black-and-white statements about their day, homeschooling, or their own abilities, challenge them. Ask them to consider the gray areas. Use humor. Ask them if it is the case that every single thing has gone wrong in their day. Your child will most likely admit that no, not every single thing has gone wrong that day. Ask your child to consider the positive and negative aspects of all forms of education. Ask your child to consider what he or she has learned in a particular subject area. Make sure to challenge the notion that your child has not learned anything in a subject that is more challenging for them. At the same time that you challenge your children’s black-and-white thinking, invite them to challenge yours. Black-and-white thinking is very insidious. It will show up when you aren’t paying attention. We have to hold one another accountable. You have my permission to challenge my black and white thinking as well.

With time and attention, we can combat black-and-white thinking in our homeschools. As a result we can feel happier, our children can be more confident, and our homeschools can be more pleasant overall.

 

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How to Homeschool a Middle Schooler

How to Homeschool a Middle Schooler

If you began homeschooling in the early elementary years, chances are good that you found your groove. When you see middle school up ahead, it’s easy to start getting nervous. With these suggestions, you can continue homeschooling your middle schooler like a pro.


How to Homeschool a Middle Schooler #homeschooling @middleschool

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#1 Encourage independent learning

When I think of teaching medical middle school students, the first thing that occurs to me is to encourage independent learning.  Before my oldest child reached middle school, we did the majority of our schooling together as a family. Once he was a seventh grader, (and yes I know that sixth-grade and even fifth-grade can be considered middle school), I knew he would enjoy having more independent work time. Even if he hadn’t enjoyed it, I knew it was important for him to learn to do work on his own. I wanted him to learn time management skills. I wanted him to have the freedom to choose when to do his work. I wanted him to have quiet time to do his own reading and writing, with me there as an advisor.

All of my middle schoolers since then have greatly valued their independent learning time. In fact, they’ve valued it so much that they have often tried to reduce their family learning time, something I have resisted. We do want our middle schoolers to learn to be independent in their studying, but we also want them connected to the family. This is the case even if they are asking for complete independence. Most 11 to 14-year-olds aren’t quite ready to be completely on their own. And the connection that we experience in reading and learning together is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling. So I have not wanted to give that up for my middle school students.

To encourage independence, consider giving your students a planner. Apologia makes student planners that I enjoy using. But I have also enjoyed using the record keeping forms that I have created myself. Get your record keeping forms here. I have also used Trello as a digital alternative to student planners and liked it. Regardless of what you use as a student planner, your middle school student needs to know your expectations of him or her. This will allow your child to work confidently without you.

Middle school is also an excellent time to consider enrolling your child in an outside course, whether that is an online course like the Mr. D math courses my kids have taken, or a class in your local learning center. Middle school is a good time to let your child experience the expectations of another teacher. As much as possible, encourage your child to be responsible for submitting homework on time.

#2 Teach Study Skills

My second suggestion for homeschooling middle schoolers is related to the first and that is to teach your child study skills. I mentioned in a previous podcast episode that Apologia’s science curriculum has been enormously beneficial to my kids in teaching them study skills. An outside course or even a course that you teach that involves taking quizzes or tests can be a great introduction to learning to study. If you are interested in course on study skills, your local co-op may offer a class that could be beneficial. There are also resources that you can use at home for this purpose. 

The middle school years offer you the opportunity to see your child’s approach to dealing with long-term to-do’s. Does your child put off studying and assignments until the last minute? Come alongside your middle schooler and offer your support. I have also mentioned my experience in suggesting to my middle schooler to give me a list of assignments and chores that he had to do on a given day. I then helped him create a reasonable schedule for his day. I also helped to keep my child on track by timing each subject. Offer as much support as needed but no more. Praise your students for becoming more independent and more responsible. You may wish to set shorter deadlines than your student has for a class so that you can review the work and make sure your child isn’t procrastinating. The Everything Guide to Study Skills and the Middle School Student’s Guide to Ruling the World are study skills curricula worth checking out.

#3 Teach Social Skills

If you are having your child participate in church activities or outside classes for the first time, middle school is an excellent time to focus on teaching social skills. We all remember middle school, don’t we? It seems to be the beginning of the worst behavior in young people. Your child may encounter some of this bad behavior and will need your help in learning how to rrespond. It is not unusual for a middle school child to be reluctant to engage in a number of social activities. This is a time when appearance begins to become more of a focus. Children are often harshly judged for not conforming to the rules of the group. I discussed social skills training in an episode I did on video game alternatives. In it, I provided you with a link to excellent, free curriculum for teaching social skills

If your child is reluctant to engage with others socially, find out why. Your child may have a very good reason for being reluctant. You may be able to find alternative social outlets for your child or you may be able to help your child feel comfortable in social settings he or she is already in. That may involve you chaperoning or your child inviting a trusted friend to attend.

In addition, it’s important that we don’t shame our child. But we do want to point out behaviors we see that won’t be accepted by peers. It’s much better that we point out these behaviors than a mean-spirited middle schooler.

Middle school is an important time to talk about social media. Even if your child doesn’t have a cell phone or popular social media accounts, talk about the positive and negative aspects of using social media. It’s important not to take a one-sided stance. People continue to use social media because it’s rewarding. Remind them not only of the risks, but explain how to manage those risks. Every social media platform allows blocking, for example. Be sure to communicate that if your child has a problem with social media, even if they haven’t obeyed you, that you will help them without condemnation. Children at this age can have difficulty seeing solutions to their problems and may feel hopeless.

#4 Teach About Puberty

My next suggestion is to talk to your child about puberty. If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to talk with your child about proper hygiene. You may need to come up with a way to remind your child to wear deodorant. Shower frequency may need to be increased. It may also be a time when your child wants to adopt a new look. As long as the look your child likes will not get your child a lot of negative attention or doesn’t conflict with your family’s rules, consider it. Some children who already feel uncomfortable socially want to adopt a style that is very different. The reason for this is so your child has a handy explanation for why he is being mistreated. In other words, your middle schooler can tell himself that he isn’t being rejected because he is overweight or has acne, but because he has a blue mohawk. It’s an attempt at preserving self-esteem, but it is not a good pattern to establish for adulthood.

In addition to talking about menstruation and sexual development, you also want to talk with your child about the hormonal changes he or she may experience. I did an episode on homeschooling through hormones. If you see some behavior or emotion that you believe is tied to hormones, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your child. Even if you’ve had a conversation about hormones in the past, your child has likely forgotten and may be wondering if something is really wrong with her. Hormones can be so confusing even to us moms.

Middle school is a time to affirm your child’s development. Talk about positive changes you see. Remind them that acne is a universal plague. Share your own middle school awkward memories. Chat about your views on dating and relationships. Avoid coming across as legalistic. Emphasize that you want your child to build friendships with people of the opposite sex as friendship is a good foundation.

#5 Teach Apologetics

As your middle schooler begins to develop a mind of her own, she may have more pointed questions about faith. This is particularly the case when your middle schooler is an advanced for gifted learner. The worst thing we can do in this situation is to panic. I once had a friend who was an atheist tell me that he was thankful I was willing to answer his challenging questions about my faith. He told me that he had relatives who weren’t even willing to discuss it with him. I responded that I could answer his questions because I was so confident in my faith. If we become anxious and defensive when our child begins to ask challenging questions, they may come away with the same reaction my friend had. I think this is a time in your child’s life when it’s important to involve other Christians in your child’s faith education. That can be done through classes on apologetics or worldview. It can also be done through your church with a pastor, youth leader, or other mentor. Someone you engage to help you with your child should be very confident in his faith and accustomed to young people’s challenges. TrueU is an excellent video series from Focus on the Family designed for college-bound students that you could also go through with your middle schoolers. It addresses the questions your middle schooler is likely to have.

We always want to be praying for our children but when our children reach middle school, we have to step up our efforts in praying for their hearts. We also want to model Christ’s love for them as they entered this new season.

#6 Earn Your Child’s Buy-in to Homeschooling

Middle school is a time when children who have been homeschooled may begin to talk about going to a traditional school. If that is an issue in your home, listen to the episode I did on what to do if your child wants to go to school. My personal opinion is that middle school is not the best time for a homeschooled child to go to a traditional school. You shouldn’t be surprised that is my opinion, given so many of the changes that a child is going through and the behavioral problems that are characteristic of this age group. That being said, I have known students who have previously attended school who went back in the middle school years and there was no problem. 

Whether or not your child is interested in going to school, the middle school years are important years to earn your child’s interest in homeschooling. When our kids were younger they believed us without question that homeschooling was the best option for them. Now that they have been developing their own opinions, they may question whether homeschooling is really the best choice. You may want to revisit with them why you chose to homeschool in the first place. Consider taking them with you to listen to speakers at a conference who are explaining why homeschooling is such a fantastic option.

But beyond explaining our reasons to homeschool, we have to make homeschooling appealing for our young people. This means that we help our kids discover what their talents are, what their interests are, and at the same time engage them in being willing to take some risks. Middle schoolers are socially risk averse. They do not want to do things that could make them look foolish. To combat your child’s reluctance, do what you have to do to reward your child for trying a new social event, class, or activity. I have offered a child money (and I’m not ashamed of it), the chance to engage in a preferred activity, and the option to bring a friend in order to get him to try something. Your children are highly unlikely to say that we were right in encouraging them to try something new, but they will be learning an important lesson that they can take with them into life. I think it’s a good idea to talk about our expectations and the way we talk about future events and activities as well. I explain to my kids that I have no idea whether something is going to be lame or not. But I explain that either way it will be an experience we can talk about and learn from.

Just because our students are getting older, we don’t want school to be all work and no play. We want to make sure middle schoolers have plenty of time to do the things they enjoy doing. We want to continue to have a balanced approach to education, including things like field trips and hands-on activities. Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers has a list of hands-on activities to do with your middle schooler. I also like to remind my middle schoolers of the advantages of homeschooling when they sleep in or do something fun with our family that their traditional school counterparts could not do.

Finally, it’s important to remember that middle schoolers are still children. They still need affection, attention, and lots of love and affirmation. I believe when you encourage independent learning, teach study skills, teach social skills, teach about puberty, teach apologetics, earn your child’s homeschool buy-in, and cover everything in prayer, we can love homeschooling middle school students.

Which of these suggestions are you most interested in implementing with your middle schooler? Comment and let me know.

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Gaps in Your Homeschool Education: Should You Be Worried?

Gaps in Your Homeschool Education: Should You Be Worried?

You started off with one math curriculum and switched. You taught history using unit studies and then switched to a chronoligical approach. You’ve been studying some science topics in depth and others you haven’t touched on. Should you be worried?

Gaps in your homeschool: should you be concerned?

Listen to the podcast

That is the subject of my podcast interview with Charlene Notgrass this week. She convinced me that you and I don’t need to worry about gaps. Here’s why:

Every education has gaps.

It isn’t possible to learn every aspect of every subject, regardless of how your child is being educated. Public school students have gaps, private school students have gaps, and homeschool students have gaps.

There is some information you won’t teach your child even if you use the best curriculum you can find. It just isn’t possible. Because that’s true, we have to decide what we will teach our children and what we won’t.

[Read Curriculum Paralysis: How to Decide What to Use This Year]

Gaps mean studying some subjects in depth.

Charlene discusses an amazing example of how her daughter invested enormous amounts of hours into a passion of hers. That passion continues to be an important part of her daughter’s life today. Had Charlene insisted on studying everything with a light touch, her daughter would have missed the life-changing opportunity that homeschooling allowed her.

That in-depth study should be directed to our children’s natural talent or bent. That means if our child is crazy about computers, we can spend an inordinate amount of time on this subject and less on reading classic books this child doesn’t enjoy.

[Read Teaching to Your Child’s Talent]

God fills the gaps.

Our children’s learning won’t end when they graduate from high school. They have time to keep learning. If we use our homeschooling years to instill a love of learning and teach our kids how to teach themselves, God will fill the gaps that He chooses to fill.

That doesn’t mean we want to send our children to college or a trade or even to homemaking without the skills they need. We must do our best to teach our kids to read, write, and calculate. If they struggle, we must get help for them, just as we would get help if they had a physical impairment.

[Read How to Work with Professionals as a Homeschooler]

Christian homeschoolers also need to be taught the faith. I believe an education in Bible (including memorization), theology, and apologetics are essential.

The responsibility for educating a child is daunting. That’s why we depend on God to fill the gaps. Throughout history, we see examples of men and women who didn’t have the education to be world changers and yet they were. After all, God used uneducated fisherman to change the world.

I have seen Him fill the gaps in my life as well. I hadn’t taken a course in world history in all my educational years. It was a gap that God filled gloriously with homeschooling. I have so loved learning history with my children. I didn’t take any courses in teaching, yet I have taught preschool through the college level in the past 21 years.  I don’t have a degree in English, yet I’ve worked as a freelance writer and have written language arts curriculum.

In the same way, God is faithful to fill the gaps in your child’s education, too. Cover your educational choices in prayer. Be diligent. Then trust God to do the rest.

What gaps in your own education has God filled in your life? Let me know in the comments.

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