College Prep, Punch Cards, Pinterest & More: What’s Hot in Homeschooling This Week

College Prep, Punch Cards, Pinterest & More: What’s Hot in Homeschooling This Week

Whats Hot in Homeschooling

Here’s what’s hot in homeschooling this week–at least according to me. And since it’s my blog I get the only vote. Love that!

But if you have something to add, I’d love to check it out. Share in the comments or contact me for inclusion in next week’s issue. Click on the orange links to read the articles and have a great homeschooling week!

8 Tasks for Now Before Sending Your Kid to College Later

I can’t believe I have a child who will be applying for college next year! You always hear that the time flies, but it really does. Belinda at The Blessed Heritage has some great ideas for what we can be doing well before the college admission process.

Finishes College in Less Than a Year

Speaking of college, this young man is an inspiration! It really is possible to complete a college degree in less than four years for not as much money. I tried to convince my oldest to go this route, but I think I overdid it with the homeschooling and he’ll be a student for life.

Reward Punch Cards for Kids

You know those reward punch cards you used to get at restaurants (you know, before the iPhone)? Joyce and Jeannine at Waddlee-ah-chaa have the great idea to use them as chore rewards. And they’re offering a free printable! (Many of you are clicking over right now; just make sure you come back!)

Homeschool Blogging is a Family Affair

Blogging is very popular among homeschoolers whether as a business, a writing platform, or a way to share homeschool adventures with family and friends. Jennifer Janes shares how to keep your family involved in what seems like a solitary pursuit.

Unusual Arts & Crafts

Chris of Campfires & Cleats made me smile by writing about making gingerbread houses in February. Why hadn’t I thought of that? We’re not bound by school schedules; we shouldn’t be bound by holiday craft schedules either. I also appreciated her link on finger knitting. I think this may be the only kind of knitting I’m suited for.

Using Pinterest as your only Curriculum

Do you love Pinterest like I do? I hope you’ll follow me if you haven’t already and I’ll return the favor. Following in His Footsteps shares her ideas for using Pinterest as her only curriculum. I have no doubt that with time, that will become even easier to do.

 

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Manage Your Expectations to Have More Fun

Manage Your Expectations to Have More Fun

The freedom to homeschool our children is a gift. But sometimes I’ve been disappointed with this gift. How about you?

I have been certain that my homeschooled children would:

  • Have no difficulty learning
  • Be motivated to complete school each day
  • Take pride in cleaning and caring for their belongings
  • Be ahead of their same-age peers academically
  • Have a strong faith
  • Not be peer dependent, but Christian leaders
  • Would get along
  • Agree with me and my husband politically and spiritually
  • Not engage in immoral behavior
  • Be respectful and first-time obedient, especially in others’ presence
  • Always want to be homeschooled
  • Not want to date until they were ready to get married
  • Be capable of adult responsibilities by age 12
  • Not want to go to a secular college far away

To summarize, I expected my children not to behave like “other children” and to make me look good. Go ahead and laugh. You already know that my expectations are ridiculous because we can always see the problem with others’ attitudes. Our own unreasonable expectations are another story.

After more than twelve years of homeschooling and the opportunity to witness the disappointment of many dedicated, godly homeschooling parents, I now know that our children aren’t the problem–our expectations are. Invariably, when new homeschoolers ask me about their children’s lack of motivation, I discover unreasonable expectations at the source of it.

When we lay our homeschool hopes and dreams on God’s altar, we discover that we love the gift God has given us in homeschooling. Little Johnny may not be the most focused student, but he is really, really funny. Teenage Susie may not see things the way you do, but she will not be brainwashed by anyone. The kids may not be making you look good in the world’s eyes, but God thinks they’re making you look a lot more like Jesus. And that’s exactly what I wanted. How about you?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

 

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High Score House Scores Well With Chores

High Score House Scores Well With Chores

I believe I have tried just about every chore system ever devised. My current system of having morning and evening chores that rotate daily has lasted the longest. But the kids and I seem to thrive on change. So when a friend sent me a link to High Score House, a free online chore manager, I thought I would give it a try.

I’ve tried computer or iPad-based chore systems before, but when you have six kids and one computer, it just creates computerized chaos. But we now have multiple computers and several Apple devices that can use the High Score House website or app. I’ve been having some difficulty with logins on other computers, so we still have some conflict over whose turn it is to check off chores, but I’ve alerted the site developer and I’m hopeful the problem will be resolved.

Here’s what I love about High Score House.

  • First, the website and apps are FREE! Their website mentions that they will have some paid add-ons in the future. But you’re only risking a little time in using it now.
  • Second, I have an easy way to check to see what’s supposed to be done. I look at the iPhone app and I can not only see which chores each child was supposed to do, but the school subjects as well. That has been a serious problem for me. Each child has his or her schedule of chores and homework to complete, but it entailed a lot of page flipping to see what was supposed to be done on a given day. Often, it was just too much trouble to check.
  • Third, the system takes very little time to use. With other systems, being late in approving chores was a big problem. That isn’t the case at all with High Score House. I can see “old tasks” for each child. I can also approve everything a child marked as complete with one click or touch.
  • Fourth, rewards can be added that appeal to every child. I added a number of rewards like stay up an hour later, get ice cream, and choose dinner that I knew they would like, but I’ve asked them for their ideas, too. They keep coming up with them. Kids can choose which rewards to work toward and can see their progress.
  • Finally, I love High Score House because the kids are motivated to do additional unscheduled tasks. In fact, the kids have been fighting for the chance to sharpen pencils and organize movies into cases! I have plans to add additional tasks like putting game pieces back into boxes and even scanning photos.

As of January, 2012 there are some changes I am hoping to see with the program, too.

  • First, I hope they add more chore icons. They have some good ones now, but more would be great.
  • Second, I would like the kids to be able to collect their star points with one click. They seem to have to collect them individually, which is somewhat rewarding for them, but creates a line at the computer.
  • Third, I hope some of the bugs get worked out. I need to be able to login without using a Facebook account. When my son clicks on the star for the workout task (yes, that’s in there, too!), it locks up the whole website. We’ve used a different icon in the meantime.
  • Fourth, I would love to be able to see all my kids’ activities for a given day so I can quickly approve tasks without going in and out of menus. That’s an issue when you have six kids!
  • Fifth, I would have had an easier time entering chores if I could have entered it once and then clicked on the days and times each child was to do it. Currently, you can only specify that more than one person is to do a chore on the same day and time.
  • Sixth, my kids have requested that they be able to pool stars to get one reward. That isn’t a huge issue as I’ve explained they could use their stars for a cash reward that they could pool.
  • Finally, I would love to see some kind of motivating chart or calendar so kids can see how they’re doing over time.

Overall, High Score House is a great, free motivational tool that can be of benefit to homeschoolers. I haven’t been asked to review it, nor have I received anything for doing so. If you try it, let me know what you think! Are there other systems that work better for your family?

 

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The Challenge of Chores

The Challenge of Chores

I really believe that I have tried absolutely everything to get my kids doing chores thoroughly and independently. I have tried every conceivable chore chart: refrigerator, printed, spur-of-the-moment, elaborate peg boards, computer, iPad, clip-on. My current system is an improvement over the past. However, the main reason chores aren’t as much of a problem today is because my youngest is almost six. Everyone can do every chore (especially with help).

My current system is a simple table created in Word, listing morning and evening chores for each child for each day of the week. Every chore rotates to each child and even to mom or dad. Chores include clearing and wiping the table and counters, unloading the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, cleaning various bathrooms, taking care of the dog, helping with meals, and picking up various rooms. Chores everyone has to do daily (e.g., make your bed) are not listed on the chart, nor are weekly individual chores (e.g., vacuuming). I use another list for the latter.

People with smaller, non-homeschooling families often marvel at our chore chart which is posted on the refrigerator. I wish they wouldn’t, because frankly our chore chart doesn’t work. Sure, it works better than anything else has, but in my mind, it’s still a complete failure. For example, when it’s my turn to clean the bathroom, it’s clear it hasn’t been cleaned all week, despite cheerful proclamations by my kids that they’ve done it. When it comes to evening chores, we all take turns not doing them. Don’t get me wrong. We have co-op meet in our house each week and lots of company, so our house gets cleaned. But not as quickly or as peacefully as it should be.

I was listening to a promo for Dr. Randy Carlson’s program, Intentional Living, when a mom complained that she couldn’t get her kids to clean their rooms, despite all of her nagging. She said she usually just broke down and cleaned their rooms because it was her house and she wanted it clean. Dr. Randy said (and I’m paraphrasing), “So essentially you’ve trained your kids to believe that they have a really crabby maid.” LOL! Wow, that sounds familiar, only I’ve also trained my kids that they have a really crabby mom. I spend lots of time complaining about the kids not doing their chores or doing them really poorly. Then I become the drill sergeant who insists that they get them done NOW.

So yesterday for the 8,000th time, I sat before the Lord really, really frustrated about chores. Sure, I knew I needed to check their chores. I knew it was all my fault. But knowing this had never solved the problem. In the movie, Courageous, a father tells his pastor, “I just wanna know how to be a good dad.” That’s what I said to the Lord yesterday. Lord, I just want to know how to be a good mom. I really want to solve this chore challenge. If you tell me what to do, I will do it.

Honestly, I expected God to tell me that I was lazy and selfish and I would have agreed! Instead, he surprised me with an insight that has completely changed the way I am approaching chores and character, too! Here it is: Approach chores the same way you approach teaching any other school subject. Well, that seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? But not to me. Whereas, I would never tell my kids how to write an essay once or twice and then expect that they would have it down; and whereas, I would never get mad at my kids for making mistakes in math; and whereas, I would never fail to check my kids’ schoolwork, allowing them to go for days on end without doing their lessons, I was doing all of those things with chores. Being the chore checker was a job I dreaded and resented, while being a teacher is a job I treasure and enjoy. I am now my kids’ chore teacher!

The difference that role change makes for me is huge. I now check my children’s chores because I want to see if they understand what to do, not because it’s one more responsibility on my shoulders. I am praising them for getting so much of it right, rather than criticizing them for what they still don’t know. I am teaching them to make meals to mastery, rather than asking them to do cooking tasks haphazardly. I am also accepting that many of my children are still years away from working completely independently.

What I marvel at is how this huge mental shift occurred as an answer to prayer. What a wonderful teacher is our God, who is so patient and positive with a mom like me. Maybe you need a different approach to the challenge of chores. I know Who you can ask to tutor you.

The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. (Proverbs 16:21)

 

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Chore-ganizing

Chore-ganizing

kids chores

With all 8 of us in and around home most of the time, housekeeping is a huge issue. That is why I have been searching for a method of organizing chores that really works for my family for a LONG time (this picture is 2 years old).

I’ve tried magnet chore boards on the fridge. Didn’t work because the kids forgot to change their magnets around and I always had to reset them each day. I’ve tried printed lists. Didn’t work because I had to reprint them all the time. I tried the big tag board from www.familytools.com. Didn’t work because the kids were constantly knocking the whole board down. Too many times of picking up a thousand tags and reorganizing them and I was DONE with that. I’ve tried computer programs that give points for chores. Didn’t work because I had 5 kids clamoring to get on one computer to enter their chores at the same time. Actually, what they were doing is salivating over the rewards. I tried www.titus2.com’s Managers of Their Chores. That didn’t work because the oldest felt it was too babyish and the youngest was losing her cards all over the house. That was just one more thing to pick up! They also despised having the same chores for a year. Lots of bickering about fairness. I also tried Chore Olympics that I devised myself. I created sets of chores that were rotated from child to child. Each child was timed for their chores each day and the totals were added per week. The winner got a prize. Besides the fact that it took forever to add up everyone’s times, I kept running into problems when one of the kids wasn’t there for some reason. Then I have a child who will never, ever, ever win. You know the type. LOL

The biggest problem I had with all of these approaches is that I wasn’t checking all the chores to make sure they were done. I was too busy managing the systems, doing my own chores, and helping the youngest. I think I may finally have a solution. It may or may not work for you. Actually, any of the above systems may work for you if you have fewer or more organized kids than I have! But what we do now is foster cooperation rather than competitiveness. The chores are organized into sets and are assigned the same days as they were before using the same list as I used for Chore Olympics. Only now I set the timer for 25 minutes. If you’re done before the timer runs out, you call out, “Who needs help?” Prizes are awarded for everyone based on the number of days a week chores are completed within 25 minutes. Because I am helping everyone, I have the opportunity to see while we’re doing chores if the work is done. It’s music to my ears when I hear, “Who needs help?” The Lord knows I do! LOL For those who are interested, the rewards I give are a number of draws from a privilege jar I got from www.FamilyTools.com. If we get done within 25 minutes 7 days a week, 3 privileges may be drawn from the jar for each person. They only get to keep one, but the choices increase. The number of choices decreases with days chores aren’t done in time. Originally I had thought of adding choose a chore to everyone’s list if only 1-3 days we make it, but choosing a chore just is a chore for me! I have to show every child how to do those tasks. I prefer to save Choose a Chore for those times when I child whines that s/he’s bored.

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