Chances are you’re thinking about your kids’ future and what you need to do to prepare them for it.
Whatever your goal is for your children, it may weigh heavy on you daily. So much so that you forget to show up for the moments. You know, those little moments that make up your homeschool journey?
The truth is, this isn’t just a homeschool thing. This is a mom thing. A parent thing. It’s natural to want the best for our children and to do whatever it takes to secure their future. That’s why we invest so much time, money, and prayers into our homeschool, isn’t it?
But, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a secure future. Even children raised by the best parents can become adults who completely defy everything their parents worked hard to achieve for their sake. Home education. Private school education. College tuition savings. Children are their own person and have free will just as we do. Sometimes, they can—and will—use that free will to make poor choices, just as we can expect them to use that same free will to make good choices.
I think deep down we know this, which is why we fail to show up for those little moments. We’re too busy desperately searching for clues—proof—that what we’re doing will be worth it in the end. Which is why we lose it when our child still hasn’t grasped long-division or those tricky grammar rules. Good academic performance gives us the instant gratification of feeling like our sacrifice isn’t in vain. We praise our children and we praise ourselves for a job well done. We are convinced that these moments somehow foreshadow our children’s future and our success as their parents.
However, when our children don’t meet our expectations and/or fail to demonstrate that love for learning we all want to foster, their future somehow flashes before our eyes. Suddenly, we fear they may not get admitted into college, build a successful career, or become that groundbreaking businessman or woman.
And then our own future flashes before our eyes. We imagine the judgmental glances from our peers, the whispers behind our backs, the “I told you homeschool was a bad idea” phrases from disapproving family members. We bring that false future into our present life and lose our ever-loving minds over something that hasn’t happened yet—and probably never will.
So, we bring on the punishment, the guilt-trips, the threats, the bribes. Whatever it takes to improve their performance! Silent tears soak through our pillowcases at night, and we’re tempted to give up.
“Maybe it’s a sign,” we say, “A sign we aren’t qualified to homeschool.”
And because we fear this false future we’ve created for our children, some of us give up. The rest of us continue to teach from fear rather than from a place of peace, love, and understanding. In our own twisted minds, we believe that somehow, if we teach from fear, we’re in control. So, we allow fear to keep us from showing up for our homeschool. Instead, we show up for a false future and the idea that it is somehow greater than the journey itself.
What is a false future? It’s where the what-ifs live. What if my kid doesn’t learn enough? What if my kid doesn’t get into college? What if my kid resents me? I think you catch my drift. We think up the worst-case scenarios and live our lives trying to stop them from happening. But the big question is: are we doing what we do for the what-ifs or for the journey? If the answer is yes, we are failing to show up for the beauty that is homeschool.
You may be reading this post and think, this isn’t me. Congratulations, you’ve probably already mastered showing up for your homeschool. But if you’re reading this and it resonates with you, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start showing up!
So, how does one show up for their homeschool?
1. Relinquish control.
This was the very first step I had to take when I made a conscious effort to show up for my homeschool; recognize and accept that I’m not in control—but God is! Author and blogger, Sarah Mackenzie, would call this concept teaching from rest. That is, trusting that God’s got your children’s education and future in His hands—even when you’re a wreck! Even when they’re a wreck! In that, we can guide our children’s education from a loving and trusting place, rather than from anxiety.
2. Change your audience.
The revolutionary question I had to ask myself was:
Who am I trying to impress? God or man?
I like how Mackenzie put it: “Whose ‘well done’ are you working for?” Although she posed this question in her book, Teaching from Rest, this wasn’t the first time this inquiry resonated with me. In fact, this question surfaced several times throughout my homeschool journey. Each time, it humbled me and reminded me that the only opinion that matters is God’s. My children don’t have to be little prodigies. And I certainly don’t have to be Mary Poppins.
3. Embrace failure.
Fear of failure will rob us of teachable moments that can enhance our homeschool journey. Failure isn’t a bad thing. In fact, any successful person will tell you they’ve learned more from their failures than their successes. Failure is a teacher, not a conqueror. When we embrace this truth, we’re more likely to discern what went wrong and how we can improve something, rather than become defeated by setbacks. Even more, we’re more likely to make braver decisions that lead to greater successes because we’re not afraid to fail.
4. Redefine success.
If success is defined by high test scores and perfectly written papers, we’re all in for a huge disappointment. It’s not wrong to want your child to perform well, however, you cannot control how they perform. But do you know what you can control? How you perform. Therefore, let success be determined by how well we demonstrate our love for our children. Did we teach them from a place of patience? Kindness? Gentleness? Joy? Goodness? Peace? Even when things don’t go as expected? Remember, love never fails. It always leads to success! Therefore, there’s a greater chance our children will develop a love for learning if we teach them from a place of love.
5. Reflect often.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I reflect on our past homeschool years, I can’t help but realize how quickly time passes. My boys are no longer the toddler and Kindergartner I started homeschooling nearly four years ago. It makes me happy for the times I showed up and lived in the moment, but sad for the times I didn’t. I don’t view this sadness as a negative thing, but a humble reminder to embrace the moment and show up for my homeschool each and every day.
Read any blog post with the title, “What I Would Do Differently in My Homeschool,” and these veterans will tell you in so many words, they’d embrace the moment and not be so anxious about tomorrow. May we take heed to their words and do our best to show up even for the smallest moments in our homeschool journey.
If you’re new here, my name is Nike (nee-kay) Anderson and I am a fourth-year homeschooler of two boys, ages five and nine. Welcome to the family!
The field trip conversation emerges quite often in homeschool communities. I’ve noticed most moms would love to do more with their family but they just don’t know where to begin. So, I figured I’d make a post about some of the awesome field trips we’ve taken that are kid and wallet approved! Some of these field trips were hosted by our homeschool group while others were family adventures. I highly suggest joining a homeschool group or co-op if you haven’t already. Having a community takes care of the burden that often comes with planning field trips. It also ensures you’d get to take advantage of discounted group rates and free tours.
Here are Other Reasons to Take Group Field Trips:
To expose your children to different experiences that inspire learning beyond the textbooks.
To give your children the opportunity to fellowship with their peers.
To create pleasant memories of your homeschool experience.
To give your children the opportunity to learn from other people (tour guides, teachers, volunteers, etc).
To get out of the house!
To expose your children to possible new interests of study.
To encourage your family to do things you wouldn’t normally do on your own.
What are some personal benefits we’ve experienced with group field trips?
I’ve met awesome people whom I’ve had the pleasure of developing friendships with, and suddenly homeschool doesn’t seem so lonely.
My boys are more confident in building friendships because they know they will see the same faces.
Meeting a couple times a month breaks up the monotony of homeschool life, and takes the pressure off of me to provide my boys with social opportunities.
My boys are more aware that they are not the only homeschool kids in the world, and now feel a sense of community.
We get to integrate, and form connections with, people who don’t look like us as well a people from different walks of life.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
27 Frugal Homeschool Field Trips to Take This Year
1. Tour your local creamery and learn how they make their ice cream.
Be sure to check out your local creamery to inquire about group tours. Our homeschool group has been able to arrange a tour with our local Coldstone Creamery for the past couple years. The field trip typically takes place in the morning during low-traffic hours. Our host gives us a brief history of how the creamery started and an in-depth tour of how their ice-cream is imported, stored, and made. She even shows us how they make their famous waffle cones. Of course, there are yummy samples to taste during this tour. The creamery is also kind enough to offer us a group discount on ice cream. It is the one time our kids get to have ice cream after breakfast and they love it!
2. Tour your local orchard and learn about the fruits in season—and pick some of your own!
We typically visit the orchard during strawberry season. Not all orchards are created equal, so be sure to choose one that specializes in field trips if you can. It makes a huge difference! Orchards that specialize in field trips typically have awesome learning centers, tour guides, thorough instructions on proper strawberry picking, group discounts on strawberries, and maybe even some complimentary fresh strawberry ice cream! We were able to learn about the plant life cycle, plant our own seeds (which we were allowed to take home), learn about bees and their significance in pollination, taste some yummy local honey, learn about the life cycle of strawberries, and of course pick our own very own strawberries to take home and enjoy.
3. Tour your local pizza shop and learn how they make their classic pizza.
Who doesn’t want to know how to make pizza? Take advantage of group discount rates and arrange to have a tour and lunch at your local pizza parlor. Our homeschool group arranged this field trip last year and it was great to not have to worry about packing lunch. There’s just something about eating together that solidifies bonds. Our children not only learned a new recipe, but they also learned the importance of safety and hygienic precautions when handling food in the kitchen.
4. Tour your local aviation museum and learn about historical events.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area that has free admission museums, take full advantage! Some museums also host free events or days when admission is free. I remember traveling to Washington, DC and all the museums were free to explore! Here, in my small town, we’re fortunate enough to have an aviation museum full of history and awesome aircraft exhibits. We’ve visited there many times and it’s a great place for kids to learn about historical events like the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and WWII. Not to mention all there is to learn about the many different aircraft, military vehicles, and notable service men and women.
5. Tour your local news station and learn the ins and out of news production.
You may find favor at your local news station, so call around and arrange a tour! Our local news station was gracious enough to give our older children a tour of the facility. Our host was a meteorologist from the weather team. This was perfect because he was able to show us some really cool behind-the-scenes adventures. One of those adventures included some interactive green screen fun! I’d say that was the highlight of the field trip.
6. Tour your local police department and learn what officers do when they’re not out patrolling.
Of course, learning how they catch criminals is exciting, but there’s much more that goes into being a police officer. Our homeschool group took a field trip to our local police station, where we received a tour of the building—even where the criminals go when they first arrive. The most exciting part of the trip, aside from getting a tour of the police car and seeing how the siren works, was getting a peek inside the forensic department. The forensic department showed us how their latest technology can accurately analyze collected evidence from crime scenes. Oh, how the kids loved the magic of the blue light, which made invisible things visible!
7. Visit the aquarium and learn about aquatic life.
We’d have to travel over an hour to visit the huge Georgia aquarium and pay over $100 for the experience. Luckily, we have a local aquatic center for just a fraction of the cost. The kids can see freshwater aquariums, underwater habitats, and learn about native aquatic wildlife. The 200,000-gallon outdoor aquarium houses over 50 species that include trout, alligators, and more. Our group even got to watch the divers clean the tanks and feed the fish.
8. Tour your local post office and learn how mail is handled and transported.
Ever wonder what happens to a letter after you slip it into the mailbox and bid it farewell? Taking a field trip to the post office is a must! Our kids were quite surprised to learn just how much behind-the-scenes it takes for a letter to “magically” end up in our mailbox every afternoon. Our tour guide showed us the entire process of a letter from the time it enters the post office to its departure for delivery. The kiddos even got to check out the mail truck, pictured above, which was a huge hit. The wonder of children always amazes me; they’re impressed by the simplest things we often take for granted.
9. Get fishing lessons from your local education center.
This is one idea you don’t see on the field trip list very often, but fishing is a beautiful skill worth acquiring. This field trip has been on our list for the past three years. We aren’t a fishing type of family, but we were happy to learn the basics at our local education center. Since it’s a catch and release system, we don’t get to keep the fish we catch (not that we’ve ever caught any, haha), but it’s fun practice and a great pastime for kids. Afterward, we washed our hands and ate our packed lunches with our homeschool group at nearby picnic tables.
10. Tour your local fire department and learn about fire safety.
This is a pretty standard field trip, but if you haven’t visited the fire department yet, I highly suggest it. Parents and children alike will learn proper fire safety precautions as well as what firemen do at the fire station. At the very least, you’ll be convicted to change those batteries in your smoke detectors and implement a safe procedure for your family in the event of a house fire. Our children also learned about the safety equipment firemen must wear and their different functions. And since their masks can be pretty scary, the firemen made sure to let our children know that if they’re ever stuck in a fire and see someone wearing a mask, that person is there to help so never hide from them. But, of course, the highlight of this field trip was getting a tour of the fire engine!
11. Tour your local farm and learn how to care for farm animals.
One of the perks of living in Middle Georgia is that there are farms everywhere. We’ve visited quite a few farms and have petted our fair share of cute furry pals. Something special happens when children connect with animals. They learn so much just by observing; the gentleness of a sheep eating from your hand, the way horses stand when they’re asleep, how content a pig looks wallowing in the mud. It’s also important for children to understand how important it is to treat animals kindly, and to be shown an example of what taking proper care of animals looks like.
12. Arrange a hike and discover nature.
We love trails! Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from in our neck of the woods, so we’ve hiked quite a few. Taking a nice hike along your city’s most gorgeous trail is such an easy and low-cost field trip that everyone can enjoy. The kids get to explore and burn some energy, and the parents get their exercise in for the day. Everyone wins! If your trail has a welcome center, grab a brochure of the native flora and see how many you can find along the way. Pack a lunch to eat later with your group and bring plenty of water.
13. Visit a nature center and learn about native wildlife.
Zoos are pretty popular, but have you ever visited a nature center? Our local nature center was originally a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned native wildlife that couldn’t be released back into the wild due to the severity of their injuries. We’ve seen a variety of owls, eagles, cougars, aquatic animals, and more. These beautiful creatures are now used to teach children (and adults!) the significance of each species and the role they play in our big world. It’s a beautiful depiction of the interdependent relationship between humans and animals.
14. Attend seasonal events together and bond.
Arrange to meet up and fellowship at your local fall festival, Thanksgiving parade, Christmas lights show, spring break carnival, Independence Day celebration, etc. In fact, we’ve actually run into a few of our homeschool friends at these events and arranged to enjoy the experience together. Pictured above is our children at the 2017 solar eclipse experience hosted by our local museum. It was our very first field trip of the school year and was very much impromptu. The museum provided education pamphlets, maps, telescopes, and delicious food trucks. How wonderful was it for us to experience this rare occasion with our homeschool friends? It’s an event we can all remember and talk about for years to come.
15. Tour your state capital or local government building and meet some of the nation’s leaders.
Does your state have a Homeschool Day at the Capitol event? If so, arrange a field trip with your homeschool buddies and go! Homeschool Day at the Capitol is when homeschoolers across the state gather to meet and thank legislators. It’s a full day of learning and activities from classes to tours and fellowship with other homeschoolers in your state. But you don’t have to wait for this annual event to schedule a field trip, most capital buildings are open to the public during normal business hours. Pictured above is our trip to the nation’s capital, where we toured the grounds of the Capitol Building and learned its purpose and history.
16. Organize a Field Day and work on sportsmanship and team-building skills.
Field day is probably our most popular annual homeschool event. We find a nice park to host it, ensure proper booking, and then meet and coordinate the events of the day. We accommodate all age groups from preschool through high school, and it’s typically an all morning and afternoon affair, so definitely more like a day trip. Best of all, our children get to bond with their friends while practicing important skills like sportsmanship and team-building.
17. Tour your local library and learn how to search for books on your favorite topics.
Do you visit the library often? A guided tour might be just the thing to help your children become more familiar with the space, services, and resources the library has to offer. Guided tours offer lessons on how to search for books by author, keyword, or topic, how to identify and search for call numbers, how to request a book through Inter-library loan, and how to access ebooks, periodicals, etc. Our tour even included an interactive call number search game, where students were given a sheet of paper with a list of books that they had to search for and check-off as they found them. It was so much fun!
18. Visit a science museum and take a STEAM class.
Science museums have much to offer, but did you know some of them also offer extracurricular classes? It’s worth looking into! Our recent trip to the Museum of Arts and Sciences included an interactive lesson on states of matter followed by a craft. The craft required students to make a piece of artwork using a liquid (melted wax), solid (crayons), and a gas (colorful air bubbles). They also enjoyed a lesson on different habitats, which featured live animals. So, if you’re dreading teaching science lessons to your children, make it easy on yourself and gather a few friends to take advantage of low-cost classes in your area. Be sure to note your museum’s minimum student requirement to ensure you have enough participants.
19. Visit the planetarium and learn how to identify constellations.
Turns out our local science museum also has a planetarium, which is an awesome field trip idea for astronomy lovers. If you have a planetarium in your area, this is an experience you won’t want to miss. A planetarium is a large room with a dome ceiling that allows you to see what the night sky looks like. It also serves as a theater that presents educational shows right inside the dome. You’ll have to recline for this experience! We couldn’t take pictures while inside the planetarium, so pictured above is the Science on a Sphere exhibit right outside the entrance. Inside the planetarium, we learned how to identify planets and constellations in the night sky. We also watched a 3-D presentation exploring galaxies.
20. Visit your local ranch and learn how to make corn flour.
Not only did we learn how to make corn flour by hand at our local ranch, but we also got to take a dive into the corn bin, among other things. Maybe your local ranch doesn’t offer this service, but I’m sure there are other great services they might offer, like seasonal field trips or guided tours. One seasonal field trip we took advantage of at our ranch was the guided program, Pilgrim to Pioneer Days, which taught the history of Thanksgiving. It included interactive lessons, a tractor wagon ride tour of the 1,500-acre farm, and access to the farm’s attractions. Prices may vary depending on the facility, but for our family of four, this trip averaged $36 for a full day’s experience.
21. Visit one of the tallest skyscrapers in your city and learn about its history.
Our boys love architecture, especially skyscrapers. Last year, we decided to take a trip into the city and go inside one of the tallest skyscrapers of Atlanta—The Westin Peachtree Plaza, also known as the Sun Dial. Of course, we wanted to visit the tallest one, but we had to settle for the skyscraper that offered open viewing to the public. For a small fee, we rode an elevator up 72 flights of the 723-foot building, the fifth tallest in the city. We read about its history, had a 360-degree view of the Atlanta skyline, gazed through the complimentary telescopes, and pointed out famed landmarks. It was an amazing experience. Even more so through the wide eyes of children. Afterward, we ate lunch and walked the Northside trail (I told you we love trails!).
22. Visit your local pumpkin patch during the Fall and enjoy seasonal activities and a hayride.
It shouldn’t be hard to find a local pumpkin patch that offers hayrides and other seasonal activities. Where we live, there’s much to choose from. The patch we like visiting offers face painting, story time, unstructured play activities, a fun hayride, and an array of different types of pumpkins available for purchase. Like most of the field trips I’ve mentioned, this was an organized field trip by our homeschool group and it was completely free!
23. Attend a Saturday workshop at Michaels or Home Depot and pack a lunch to eat at a nearby park afterward.
Did you know that Home Depot and Michaels hosts Saturday workshops for kids? If you didn’t, now you know! We used to take advantage of Lowes’ Build and Grow Kids’ workshops in the past but they’ve been discontinued. Thankfully, Home Depot hosts similar workshops where kids can learn how to make different objects out of wood. These workshops take place on scheduled Saturdays each month at participating Home Depots nationwide. Best if all? It’s FREE! And if that wasn’t awesome enough, the kids receive a free kit, apron, pin, and certificate of achievement. Michaels also hosts a $2 Kids’ Club craft project on scheduled Saturday mornings. This is a great, budget-friendly, field trip idea for your family or homeschool group.
24. Watch an outdoor movie hosted by your local park.
Another awesomely free field trip idea is to enjoy an outdoor movie at your local park. All you have to do is follow their social media pages to stay up-to-date on these types of events. Pictured above, we enjoyed a beautiful day at the lake that ended with an outdoor viewing of the movie, Moana. We enjoyed complimentary popcorn and hot cocoa, and we packed our own picnic. If you want to make this experience more “educational,” read or watch videos about the history and/or making of the movie. My boys loved learning how CGI movies are created. They also followed tutorials on how to draw some of the Moana characters and attempted to learn how to play “How Far I’ll Go” on the keyboard (bless my ears! Haha!).
25. Visit a Butterfly Garden and learn about different butterfly species.
Ever visit a butterfly garden before? There’s no time like the present to give it a go. I don’t want to assume everyone knows what a butterfly garden is, so I’ll offer a brief definition. A butterfly garden is where live butterflies are in an enclosure and you can walk through their habitat. They are also called butterfly houses and/or farms. It’s an absolutely beautiful observatory, where people can learn about the many species of butterflies and their native habitats. As you can see from the picture above, the butterflies are typically friendly and will interact with you and your children. We even fed them nectar. Most gardens are open to the public, so research your area for the nearest butterfly exhibit.
26. Organize a “Lunch & Lesson” and learn something new together over a tasty meal.
Is it weird to take a field trip to someone’s home? We don’t think so! Lunch & Lesson is something my friend and I arranged this month for our children to learn Black History together. The event took place at my home, where I prepared a lesson, craft, and lunch for the kiddos. Pictured above is last week’s Lunch & Lesson. We ate hot dogs and french fries, and learned about Bessie Coleman. Since Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot license, we built and painted wooden airplanes while listening to Newsboys. It was awesome! If this is something your speed, you could arrange something similar and invite people over. It doesn’t have to be Black history, you could cover any subject of interest or simply get together to craft.
27. Go to the skating rink, burn some energy, fellowship——and perhaps learn a new skill if you’re new to skating.
Our monthly skating events are not only fun, but an opportunity for my boys to hone their skating skills. In a world where “book smarts” is glorified, sometimes we forget our children also learn through developing gross motor skills. Roller skating works all parts of the body and is especially good for the heart. Like most physical activity, skating is also a great way for children to relieve stress. Our local skating rink is kind enough to open its facility to us during non-conventional hours, so long as we continue to have enough people participate. If your local skating rink doesn’t already offer something similar, you could gather enough homeschoolers and petition for it. It’s worth the group discount rate, and your children will have a place they can regularly fellowship each month.
That concludes my list of frugal homeschool field trips that we’ve enjoyed over the years. This list is not at all-comprehensive, but it does include the field trips I can remember off-hand—and also the ones I remembered to document on camera. If this is your first homeschool year and you’re feeling a way about not taking enough field trips, please know this wasn’t our reality our first year either. It took time for us to find a homeschool community we could feel a part of. However, not being plugged in didn’t stop us from enjoying family adventures of our own. I do hope this list inspires you to make the most of your homeschool experience.
Socialization seems to be a top concern for prospective homeschool parents. It also seems to be a concern for homeschool critics. In fact, whenever the subject of homeschool emerges, I can almost guarantee the person on the other end of the conversation will mention something about socialization.
Before I go any further, I want to mention that it’s a common misconception that homeschool and poor social skills are directly correlated. They are not. There are many children who attend public school that lack proper socialization skills, but we’d never attribute this deficiency to them being “public-schooled,” right? Instead, we’d just chalk it up to their personality. After all, many people are introverted and socially awkward.
When it comes to homeschool, like public school, I’ve met children who are super extroverted and outgoing, and I’ve met children who are super shy and introverted. It just depends. I’m a member of three homeschool groups and teach homeschool classes, so I’ve been exposed to tons of homeschooled children on the regular basis and they are all different.
But how do we actually keep our children socialized? The simple answer is, by socializing with them. After all, “socialization” defined means to mix socially with others. Every family has members with different personalities, values, and conflicts. Therefore, by definition, learning to interact and peacefully resolve conflicts with parents and siblings is socialization enough for a child.
I suppose when some people think of homeschool, they imagine a family living in the middle of nowhere on a farm with very little interaction with the “outside” world. There’s nothing wrong with these types of families, I know a few and most of their children are social butterflies, but I’m here to tell you the homeschool demographic has shifted. I spoke with a retired educator this past summer who was floored by all the social opportunities that are now available for homeschoolers.
Here are a few that we take advantage of:
My children meet weekly and learn elective subjects with their peers. All classes are taught by a skilled parent (some of which are former educators). Classes my boys have taken include physical education, group reading, math games, building and engineering, music, theater, geography, cooking, and more! There are over one-hundred families signed up for co-op each semester, so there are loads of kids. We host spirit days, picnics, and even theater nights.
Pictured above is one of the kindergarten classes I teach at my local co-op. We were trying to help them get their wiggles out before their next class, so we held an impromptu relay race in the hallway. I typically don’t get to take pictures of my kids in their classes because I’m teaching. This year, however, my kindergartner is in my first-hour class, so I’m happy to get at least one picture in!
It’s important to mention that all co-ops differ. Some co-ops offer organized sports. Some co-ops offer playdates. Some co-ops are even community service based. If you’re new to homeschool or just looking to meet new friends, be sure to search the types of co-ops your city has to offer.
2. Homeschool Groups
My children attend fieldtrips, playdates, picnics, holiday parties, and other fun events with their homeschool “squad” (that’s what we call it). We meet at least a couple times a month to enjoy the day together. What’s great about the homeschool group and co-op is that they provide an opportunity to build longevity in friendships. My boys met their best friends through our homeschool group and I think it’s awesome that they get to grow up and experience homeschool together.
Pictured above are my boys’ best friends all in one photo! We ventured out to the Go-Fish Education Center and learned all about aquatic life. We even got to go fishing! When the exploring was over, some of the group decided to stick around and have a picnic lunch. We feel so blessed to have these experiences.
How do you find a homeschool group or co-op in your area? Facebook is your best bet! Just type in “homeschool groups near me” in the Facebook search-box and request to join the group that best suits your family. An additional application process may be required.
3. Library Events
The library is always hosting events for children. Our local library even offers bi-monthly homeschool STEM classes. I make a habit of downloading the library events calendar from their website and marking off events we’d like to attend. Such events include read-alouds, craft activities, Lego clubs, STEM classes, reading books to shelter animals, and more!
Pictured above is a homeschool geography class hosted by our public library. This was a great series! The class learned about different countries and did hands-on activities. They hosted an exhibit day where students could bring in currency from countries they’ve traveled to. The students also did an oral presentation on a country of their choice (my son chose Nigeria, of course.) And my absolute favorite class was when they hosted a feast where the students brought a cultural dish related to a specific country.
Visit your local library’s website and search their “events” or “calendar” tabs to find out what they have to offer. I like to print out my local library’s calendar and highlight the events we’re interested in attending. I will say, though, that nothing beats visiting the library and speaking with a knowledgeable librarian about opportunities for homeschoolers.
4. Homeschool Days
Our local skating rink, trampoline park, bowling alley, museums, and other venues offer what we call “homeschool days” where they open the facility to homeschool families usually at a discounted rate. This is a great opportunity for my boys to meet children who are not a part of our homeschool group. It’s also a lot of fun!
Pictured above is our monthly Homeschool Skate Day. This day is open for all homeschoolers to come out and socialize. They can skate together, play at the indoor playground, or hang out at the cafeteria over some fries and a coke. This is an all-ages affair and a super lax environment.
Check with your local recreational businesses to see what they have to offer homeschoolers. Zoos and aquariums may also offer extracurricular classes. Sometimes, these venues will agree to start incorporating homeschool days if the demand is there. Therefore, you can always round-up homeschoolers in your area to petition for such services if they’re not offered.
5. Extracurricular Classes
So, I’ve talked about co-op classes and library classes for homeschoolers, but that’s just the beginning. There are many places that offer extracurricular classes that benefit homeschoolers. Some of our local museums offer STEM courses at a decent price. Our local education center offers low-cost classes on fishing, aquatic animals, and natural resources.
Pictured above is a lesson on states of matter during our group trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Students were able to do a fun art project using a liquid, solid, and gas. They even learned about plasma. This lesson was followed by a lecture on birds, reptiles, and mammals with live animals included! To cap off our trip, we visited the planetarium and watched an awesome presentation on galaxies and constellations.
Art and music studios have also reached out to homeschoolers in our area, offering discounted group rates. Even our state capital offers legislation classes every year for homeschoolers, along with a free tour of the capital building and an opportunity to meet legislators. Local churches have also been kind to homeschoolers. One of them just started offering science classes to homeschool students this year!
Now, I can only speak for my city, but I’m sure there are similar opportunities in yours. You’d be surprised which establishments offer opportunities to homeschoolers. As previously stated, if you find absolutely nothing, you can always petition if you show them you have enough homeschoolers who are interested in their services.
6. Organized Sports
My boys took taekwondo classes in the past. This year, they’re trying their hand at soccer. Organized sports are great because it means my boys have teammates who are most likely not homeschooled. Exposure to non-homeschooled children is a great way to eradicate untrue stereotypes about homeschoolers.
I’ve read that public schools in some states allow homeschooled students to partake in their organized sports programs. That’s not the case where I live, but we do take advantage of the Upward Sports program. Upward Sports is statewide and offers basketball, soccer, football, cheerleading, and more! So, if you’re a homeschool family looking for organized sports opportunities, check to see if there is an Upward Sports program in your area. Your local recreation center is also a good place to check out.
Pictured above is my oldest son’s Upward Sports soccer team. As you can see, the teams are unisex and generally separated by age group. Here, the coaches are handing out Game Day Stars. The stars represent a virtue that the athlete exhibited well, like good sportsmanship, humility, etc. The program prides itself on not just focusing on performance but also the character of each athlete.
We are a family of Believers so attending church is another opportunity for our children to interact with their peers. Our church has a dynamic children’s ministry for each age group and my boys look forward to seeing their friends every Sunday.
Like co-ops and homeschool groups, attending church is yet another way my boys have the opportunity to form long-term friendships since they’re exposed to the same group of kids on the regular basis. And it’s not just during service that they get to see each other, but they look forward to running into their friends at all the family events hosted by our church.
Pictured above is my oldest son with some of his classmates on Salvation Day at our home church. It was a special day because he accepted Jesus Christ into his life! Since my husband and I attend the adult service, we rarely get to take pictures of our kids at church. I’m so glad that our church hosts a Facebook page just for the children’s ministry so that we can see our boys in action. So, a huge thank you to our church for this beautiful image.
As Georgians who have family that lives in Nigeria, Maryland, Rhode Island and Tennessee, travel is something we love to do. The great thing about traveling with kids is that it really does open their eyes to the diversity that exists in the world. They understand the concept of culture and accents, and that not everyone looks, speaks, or even believes as they do.
Pictured above is our spring trip to the nation’s capital. People from all around the globe flock to DC every year! Not only is it home to the White House and Capitol building, but it’s also home to seventeen museums, all of which are free! Some museums include the African American Civil War Museum, the National Geographic Museum, and the International Spy Museum to name a few. It was great to surround our children with such culture and diversity.
You don’t have to spend big bucks to travel. Every so often, we like to take day-trips to Atlanta or other surrounding cities and states and explore what they have to offer. All you need is a good running car and some gas! Parks are everywhere and they are generally free. You could also arrange a day-trip on a day you know certain museums offer free admission. Many children’s museums have FREE admission days!
While our homeschool group hosts playdates, I also take the liberty of arranging personal playdates outside the group. Personal playdates are great because they create a more intimate setting, allowing for the parents and children to bond more. These playdates can take place in your home or a mutual place like the park.
Pictured above is an intimate pool party we were invited to by good friends of ours. It was just my boys and her boys splashing around and bonding on a beautiful late August day. We try to be intentional about getting our kids together in-between homeschool group events so that they can strengthen that bond.
I must mention, you don’t have to be best friends with the parents to make this happen. In fact, our first playdates with other families were arranged solely based on the fact that our children hit it off and we wanted them to see more of each other. The more we got together, the more my friendships grew with each parent. So, don’t be afraid to take initiative and exchange contact info with the parents of your child’s new friend.
10. Community Events
We don’t just rely on our homeschool group to provide the fun, we go out searching for the fun, too! There’s an amazing Facebook page I frequent when I want to know about upcoming events in the community. Perhaps your community also hosts a local events page on Facebook? It’s worth checking out.
We’ve attended everything from parades to festivals, holiday celebrations, and more. Pictured above is our boys enjoying their time at the Spring Fest. I love that they can make friends literally anywhere! They’d just met this brother/sister duo and you’d never know it by how well they played together.
I made this a separate point because you don’t necessarily have to belong to a homeschool group to go on fieldtrips. In fact, our family has been on quite a few self-planned fieldtrips, which is great because we could explore at our own leisure. Nevertheless, planning a group fieldtrip with other homeschoolers means you can get awesome discount rates. Additionally, your child gets to learn and experience new things with their peers.
Pictured above is our group fieldtrip to Rock Ranch. Our boys learned how to make corn flour by hand, met beautiful farm animals, played in the corn pit, bounced on a giant inflatable pillow, toured the grounds on a hayride, and much more. What makes these fieldtrips even more special is that they are creating memories with their friends.
If you need some fieldtrip ideas, visit my Instagram to check out some of the fun fieldtrips we’ve taken.
During the summer, my boys enjoy attending reading camps, sports camps, and VBS camps. Not only do they get to see some of their friends, but they also get to meet new people and experience new things. These programs are typically free or low cost and are usually hosted by local libraries, churches, and/or recreation centers. Be sure to check out the venues in your area to discover similar summer programs.
Pictured above is my oldest son at one of the Vacation Bible Schools we’ve attended. This particular VBS is their favorite and they look forward to it every year. I do want to mention that, in most cases, you don’t have to be a member of a church for your kids to be able to attend their VBS. Vacation Bible Schools are typically outreach programs and are open to the community. We attend VBS’s at churches we’re not members of all the time!
Lastly, your local museums, zoos, entertainment complexes, universities, etc, are great places to check for camp programs. Our local museum hosts STEM camps year-round. One of our local universities hosts summer camps that allow children to take science, writing, and history classes. Even our entertainment complex got in on the fun and started offering summer day camps. All you have to do is call the venue and ask or simply check out their social media pages for information.
I’ll close by saying this is not a comprehensive list. There are many other ways my boys have the opportunity to socialize. They visit their cousins, they volunteer, they play with the neighborhood kids, and so much more. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many opportunities.
Finally, this is not an attempt to prove that my homeschooled children are “socialized,” but rather a way to give my homeschool peers some ideas on what social opportunities they can seek out in their area. I hope this post was helpful!
This week, I’ll be sharing how I plan for homeschool and manage my life.
We couldn’t have made it through our first three homeschool years without a vision and a plan. My planning routine has pretty much stayed the same over the years, the only difference is I’ve gotten a bit fancier. Instead of just typing everything out on a Word document and printing it, I made a customized home management binder with cute inserts.
Why do I use a home management binder rather than a store-bought planner? Because most planners are too small for my needs. With a home management binder, I can literally three-hole punch my entire life into it—and I have!
Read on to see what I put into my home management binder. There’ll be free printables at the end! For privacy purposes, I won’t be sharing my exact write-ins for certain schedules. I hope you don’t mind.
1. Daily Do-To List
This is pretty self-explanatory. What’s different than most to-do lists, though, is that I also include a water intake tracker and a section to list my daily gratitudes. I got this great idea from a Youtuber called Jady Alverez. I simply laminate this insert so that I can reuse it with a dry erase marker. Check out my sample “To-Do List” below.
2. Events Calendar
This comprises all events from homeschool fieldtrips, sports games and practices, co-op days, playdates, birthday parties, extracurricular activities, local family events, holidays and more. I will also chart doctor and dentist appointments here. Check out my sample events calendar below. Of course for privacy reasons, this is an unofficial sample. Wouldn’t want anyone showing up at my kid’s soccer games.
3. Daily Tentative Schedule
This is more of a routine than a schedule. I basically like to picture what a perfect day would look like and write it down. That makes it more of an ideal than a reality, doesn’t it? Haha. But it does help our days flow better even if we don’t follow it verbatim.
I know some of you like seeing other people’s schedules, so here it is! Our REAL schedule. Just know “momma time” seldom happens, but I do workout in the evenings so that sort of counts as momma time, right?
You’ll notice that I’ve also noted the days I plan to rest, have a family day, and buy groceries. Optimal grocery shopping time happens between 3 and 5:30 on Thursdays. However, if we have a fieldtrip or some sort of outing that week, I’ll typically pick up groceries straight afterward. In fact, as I’m typing this, I’m realizing Tuesdays after co-op is probably the best day to swing by the grocery store since it’s on the way home. Hmmm.
It’s safe to say this schedule only works when it’s a non-event day. I think the key to a functional routine is to leave some wiggle room. That way there’s more flexibility on the days we have fieldtrips, co-op, and other events to attend.
4. Daily Homeschool Schedule
I keep a separate homeschool schedule so that I can go into more detail as far as time management goes. It also helps me plan how to divide my time between my two children. Typically, all the subjects my oldest son can work on independently is the time I’m scheduled to work with my kindergartner. Again, this is ideal, but we try to stick with it as much as we can.
I will share our actual schedule so that you get a gist of how things work with teaching more than one child around here. This is tentative, so it’s likely to change as we get into a good groove.
One thing you’ll notice is that some subjects are missing. That’s because we’re working with the Good and Beautiful curriculum this year and it comprises multiple subjects that include phonics, spelling, grammar and punctuation, literature, art, writing, and geography. I labeled that curriculum “Fluency” and “Course.”
Another thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have “free” days. Many families reserve Fridays for makeupwork or fieldtrip days. We don’t. One reason is that we attend fieldtrips primarily with our homeschool group and choose dates that are available, which isn’t always on a Friday. Another reason is that we don’t take as many breaks as public-schools, so I sort of view those extra school days as a way to stay on track.
5. Blog and Work Schedule
I don’t have a 9-5, but I do work on many projects throughout the year. Since most of those projects are monetarily compensated, I label them as “work.” I like to keep a separate blog and work schedule because they allow me to see the full picture at a glance. I laminate these schedules so that I reuse them with a dry-erase marker.
Here is my actual “work” schedule. My goal was to keep it pretty light because I want to enjoy the last few weeks of summer with my family.
When do I work on these projects? VERY late at night. However, I do try and commit to the bulk of my projects during school breaks and summers. I have set work days, but I honestly just work whenever I have time. Today has been a sixteen-hour day so far, but that is normal for Mondays.
Yes. I said sixteen. I’ve been working on this project from noon to past four in the morning and counting. I don’t think people realize the time it takes to create and publish quality content.
And this is why I only blog once a week. For one, blogging is not all that I do. For two, I’d be super sleep deprived trying to cram a bunch of blogs in during the homeschool year. I love blogging and earning extra income, but not at the expense of my well-being. If I’m a mess, my kids will also be a mess. They are only this small once. When they’re older, they’ll be plenty of time to invest more of myself in these types of ventures. The internet isn’t going anywhere.
6. Workout Schedule
This isn’t a fantasy schedule. I actually do workout 3-5 times a week. It’s typically during the evenings between 8 and 11 pm at our local gym. I do cardio each of the days I go and have a different target muscle group for each weight training session. Below, I share my workout routine.
They say you make time for what’s most important, and physical fitness is important to me for three reasons. One, it lifts my mood. Two, it makes me look and feel great. Three, it’s my me-time. Most people like to listen to music while working out, I love listening to podcasts and learning more about my interests!
7. Cleaning Schedule
I like to break my cleaning schedule into two categories: Daily Cleaning and Weekly Cleaning. I used to also have a monthly cleaning agenda, but NEVER lived up to it, haha. You know, things like washing the windows, walls, etc.? Yea, those things got done when they got done.
For daily cleaning, I try and do a load of laundry each day. Admittedly, some days I forget. We also take turns unloading and loading the dishwasher and doing afternoon and evening pickups to get the house in order. Sweeping the floors and wiping down kitchen counters and bathroom surfaces is also a given.
For weekly cleaning, on my list of to-do’s is washing the bedding and linens, cleaning out the cars, deep cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and mopping the floors, and taking the trash to the curb on trash day. Everything else like dusting, washing baseboards, and cleaning the windows, fridge, oven, etc. will get done on an as-needed basis. And by as-needed, I mean when I’m tired of looking at it. Got to keep it real, here.
I DO NOT. I repeat, DO NOT, do all the cleaning. My boys have a chore checklist. My husband primally cleans the bathroom and takes the trash out. And we all pitch in on the dishes and other daily chores around the house. Therefore, laundry, cooking, and vacuuming are primarily the things I do by myself on the regular basis.
8. Weekly Meal Planning
I also laminate my weekly meal planner so that I can reuse it with a dry-erase marker. The categories are broken down into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Here is our actual meal plan for the week. Try not to judge me too much, haha. This is primarily for my boys. My husband and I do smoothies for breakfast and leftovers for lunch.
I’ve been asked about meal planning a few times and the key for me is eating the same thing in rotation! One week, we’ll have PB&J with fruit and cheese for lunch. Another week, we’ll have cheese quesadillas and apple slices for lunch all week. The same with breakfast and snacks.
For dinner, we have a few tried and true recipes we like to rotate with. I always cook extra for leftovers the next day and a possible lunch for my husband and I. In total, I only cook dinner about 3 times a week. That is the power of leftovers! Spaghetti leftovers in itself will last us three days—lunch included.
9. Favorite Recipes
Yes, I have a list of all my favorite recipes. I get most of my recipes from Divas Can Cook and tweak them to suit our needs. While I made cute inserts for my recipe lists, I find it’s just easier to print them from their home website. I then put them into sheet protectors and place them into my home management binder. These recipes are great to have on hand when meal planning and making my shopping list.
Here’s an example of how to use the planner inserts to record recipes. And, yes, beef stew is one of our favs!
10. Monthly Budgeting
The most dreaded of them all, but it must be done. Once again, I laminate these inserts for repeated use. I’m still learning the art of budgeting, but found it helpful to log these expenses in an excel spreadsheet at the end of each month. Since we are business owners, this helps keep us in the practice of being financially responsible. We also keep a business log specifically for business expenses, but that’s best done in Excel.
For obvious reasons I won’t be providing our exact budget figures, so here’s a sample version of how to use this planner insert for your home management binder.
11. Business Receipts
As business owners, keeping track of important receipts is vital. I place the receipts into a plastic pocket folder made for binders. This way they are easily accessible and we don’t have to go looking for them when we need them. I also place my warranties in this folder.
12. Important Documents
I currently have three pocket folders in my binder labeled the following: Medical Records, Homeschool Records, Important Records. This is where I’ll keep vaccination and health records for my boys, homeschool DOI’s and registration info for programs and sports, family membership info, birth and marriage certificates, and other legal documents. This is especially convenient when I need to register my child for something and I need their birth certificate, vaccination records, and so forth.
13. Vision and Mission Statements
You must have a vision for where you’re going and a plan to get there. That’s why I chose to write a vision and mission statement for our homeschool, businesses, and family. It’s helpful to refer to these statements often to keep me on track with my life goals.
Below are our actual vision and mission statements for homeschool. They change every year.
Vision and Mission Statement for Home Management
14. Inspirational Quotes and Scriptures
This is a new addition this year. I wanted to compile a list of inspirational scriptures so that I can read them every morning before I start my day. I thought it would be helpful to print and laminate them so that I can keep them in my binder for easy reference.
Here’s one of the pages. I currently have three pages worth of favorite scriptures. I’m working on filling out my favorite quotes page.
Other things in my home management binder that I find extremely helpful and convenient?
15. Birthday Reminders
16. Important Numbers (Pediatrician, Dentist, Contact Persons, Etc.)
17. Address Book
18. Password Log (Use password hints rather than the actual password)
19. Business Log
20. Shopping List & Notes
21. Weekly At-a-Glance
Here’s what they look like at a glance! Get a real preview, here.
Cute Planner Inserts for Home Management Binder
I must say, this home management binder is a real blessing to me. It makes life so much easier and cuts down on the time I have to search for things. What’s also great about it is my husband, or any family member, can use and refer to it if I’m traveling, sick, or out of town. They’ll know everything from our daily schedule to our favorite recipes and where to find important medical info for the boys.
Today, I’m sharing three FREEBIES from this awesome collection of planner inserts! Click the image below to download and get a great start to the upcoming school year!
This week, I’ll be sharing how we pulled off an entire year of free curriculum during our first penny-pinching homeschool years.
If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.
Can you believe I’ve never written a proper curriculum review? Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ll be reviewing our entire year of free curriculum for devotional, language arts, reading, math, science, and geography!
Basically, the first two years of our homeschool journey was a free curriculum frenzy. Before I invested money in a box curriculum, I first wanted to see what resources were available for FREE. I was shocked to find awesome quality resources for kindergarten through second-grade—and beyond! I’ve even made a few resources myself. Visit my FREEBIES page to check some of them out!
I was in resource heaven putting together a comprehensive curriculum for my then first-grader, but I admit it was so much work! Maybe I can help alleviate some of the workload for you by giving you the links to everything we used in one blog post? Of course, this is only helpful if you have a first or second-grader (or an advanced kindergartner). However, some of these resources have curricula available for grades up through high-school.
To make things even better, I’ll give you a brief description of each resource, as well as the pros and cons of each. Are you ready?
This resource is my collective 180-day Bible series for kids that covers 36 scriptures or one memory verse each week! I created this resource because we needed fun activities to accompany our memory verses. It includes 180 fun activities that are designed to improve cognitive skills by helping children to think, reason, and write for themselves. The activities also encourage children to strengthen fine motor skills, encourage creativity, and strengthen handwriting skills. The following topics are covered:
Obviously, this resource was free for me because I created it. However, I do offer the series “God Thinks I’m Awesome” for FREE, here!
First, the activities for this resource are great for helping children learn edifying scripture. There’s an activity for each weekday, Monday thru Friday, that requires children to do the following for each memory verse:
Activity 1—Draw what the verse means to you.
Activity 2—Write a sentence about the verse.
Activity 3—Arrange the verse (cut-and-paste activity).
Activity 4—Trace the verse.
Activity 5—Color the picture.
Second, my boys loved learning their verses while doing these activities! The memory verses were a terrific addition to our family devotional time. They inspired my boys to ask questions and encouraged great conversation. The memory verses are also designed to be palatable for young children, as my youngest son was three-years-old when we utilized this resource. Therefore, the verses are kept short and sweet, and the activities provide lots of repetition for mastery.
Third, this is a top-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom. By the looks of the reviews, other teachers, parents, and students have been loving this resource, too! All the scriptures included in this resource are available for patrons to view before downloading the product, so it’s clear exactly what verses are covered and how they are worded in each series.
The activities are designed for younger children from pre-k through third-grade, which means some of the verses in the activities have been re-phrased for palatability and understanding. You’ll mainly find this to be true for the “Our God the Creator” series, which summarizes some of the Genesis verses to “God created light on the first day,” “God created the sky on the second day,” and so forth. This hasn’t been a problem for us since we always read and review the verses straight from the Bible before completing the activities.
If you’re not familiar with the All-In-One Homeschool, it’s an online comprehensive Christian-based curriculum that is free to use! While I’m going to talk about their level one language arts curriculum, this resource offers curricula for all core subjects for grades pre-k through high school. It even offers electives like Bible, Art, Computer, Foreign Languages, and more! As I mentioned, it’s free, but you’ll need access to the internet, computer, and basic school supplies to take advantage of this resource.
My first-grader enjoyed the Language Arts 1 curriculum. This curriculum offers a basic review of phonics before delving into the following concepts for first and/or second graders:
Literature (Poetry from Abroad, Crane)
First, let me say that this curriculum was well organized and easy to follow. The author did a phenomenal job arranging virtual worksheets, games, quizzes, and activity ideas for each subject. It is no-prep and no-nonsense!
Second, I loved that this curriculum was comprehensive and covered all the key concepts for first and second grade. I felt pretty confident that my child was getting a solid foundation in literature.
Third, I loved that this curriculum sets students up to work independently. Provided your child has great fluency in reading, they can totally work independently on this curriculum.
Lastly, incorporating levels rather than grades is another great concept. If a level is too easy or difficult for a child, they can be moved up or down to fit their academic need. Since all the levels are available at your fingertips, you can actually skim through them and extract from each one. For instance, your child may be ready to move up to level two for grammar but may have to stay on level one for spelling. The flexibility is awesome!
I had to supplement this curriculum to incorporate more repetition and practice for mastery with certain concepts. I also ended up using another curriculum for spelling, as I did not like AIO’s setup for learning spelling words. I want to stress that every curriculum has different standards and will cover different concepts and topics. It’s up to you to decipher which topics outside the curriculum you’d like to cover. For me, using extra worksheets and free printables wasn’t much of a problem. But it does mean you have to search them out, making it an extra thing to add to your to-do list.
This online Christian-based reading curriculum by All-In-One Homeschool is designed to introduce readers to full-length novels, practice narration and summarizing, and improve vocabulary and comprehension. The curriculum uses the following literature:
The Tale of Jolly Robin by Bailey
The Tale of Solomon Owl by Bailey
The Tale of Reddy Woodpecker by Bailey
The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Burgess
Buster Bear by Burgess
McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader
Beatrix Potter stories
A variety of other short stories and poems
This resource can be used primarily online or you can purchase the materials in book form for just $15.
First, the curriculum had a great choice of literature with advanced vocabulary. The vocabulary is challenging, yet appropriate, and not too overwhelming.
Second, I loved the fact that the curriculum introduced my first-grader to chapter books. He really enjoyed reading the novels authored by Bailey.
Lastly, this curriculum was no fuss and easy-to-follow. There’s also an audio option available, which is great because children can listen and follow along with the hardcopy at the same time—giving them an ear for what proper reading fluency sounds like.
The major con was that this curriculum is online. If you do not want your child to read entire chapters on the computer, you must print out the chapters, which can cost you ink and paper. Otherwise, purchasing the materials in book form is the better bet, but that defeats the whole purpose of the curriculum being free. Still, I think it’s a wise investment if you want your child to hold a physical book while reading.
Another con was that there were very few follow-up questions for each chapter, which means if you’re keeping a reading journal you’ll have to think of clever entry questions yourself. Children are just encouraged to “tell someone about the chapter,” which is fine, but not very thought-provoking.
My son was also disinterred in most of the literature selections and struggled to relate to the reading material. All-in-all, this was not our favorite curriculum.
This is another curriculum from the free online Christian-based resource All-In-One Homeschool. This comprehensive math curriculum covers the following concepts for first and second graders:
Memorizing addition and subtraction facts
This curriculum comprises levels rather than grades, so it’s advisable to ensure the material is appropriate for your child’s mastery level before you begin. This curriculum is also set up for independent learning, so strong reading skills are required unless the child is accompanied by an adult.
First, I loved the access to other free resources. There were a ton of free awesome math games for fluency practice! My son enjoyed playing most of the games and they really did help him understand and master the material.
Second, I loved that the first half of the curriculum focused on practicing mental math for sums up to 20, which is essential for advancing to a third-grade math level.
Lastly, I loved that this curriculum encouraged hands-on learning with manipulatives you can find in your home. Hands-on learning is so important at this age!
This math curriculum did not cover multiplication. At least not to the degree that it should, considering it’s recommended that second-graders know how to multiply fluently by 2’s, 3’s and 5’s by the end of the school year. There’s some coverage on skip counting but not necessarily multiplication factors and products, so if this is important to you be sure to give your child more practice using supplementary materials. There is not much material on adding or regrouping three-digit numbers, either. Again, I recommend supplementary materials if you wish to learn and practice advanced regrouping.
This is a comprehensive science curriculum that includes videos, lesson plans, experiments, and activity pages for pre-K thru second-grade. There are twelve units and topics covered:
In the home
The human body
All twelve units encompass a 180-day curriculum with corresponding episodes from The Magic School Bus. That means there’s something to do for every weekday of the school year!
First, the experiments were easy to do and most of the materials needed could be found right in my home. I recommend printing out all the experiments for the week and making a checklist to ensure you have everything you need.
Second, I loved that the curriculum was no-prep. The lessons provided notations for the instructor explaining what students should learn, key terms, and what questions to ask the students, among other things. There was no additional research required unless my boys wished to advance in a topic.
The third thing I loved about this free curriculum was that it was pretty adaptable and I did not have to cover all the topics in sequence. There were many weeks where we jumped to other topics that were more relevant to my children’s current interests.
Lastly, I loved that this curriculum included a list of recommended books for each unit. That made reserving library books and planning ahead much easier. It also meant I didn’t have to struggle to find supplementary materials!
While the Magic School Bus curriculum is great, especially for those moms who aren’t well versed in science, I do forewarn that older children (closer to second grade) may become bored or unimpressed by some of the experiments. This is definitely a curriculum for the younger ones who are new to science. My then seven-year-old, who took STEM classes at the time, started to lose interest in the curriculum by the second semester. However, he loved watching the corresponding episodes!
I created this 50 States of the USA resource as a gentle introduction to geography for anyone looking to go through the US map state-by-state. Each activity covers all 50 states, including the state capital, and aims to build and strengthen the following skills for grades pre-k thru first-grade:
Find it—Critical thinking and problem-solving.
Color it—Creativity and fine motor skills.
These activities not only help familiarize children with the US map, but helps children learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags.
First, this product is wallet friendly. This product was only free for me because I created it, but I do have a freebie available, here, for those interested in trying it out. The freebie includes three states, Alaska, Rhode Island, and DC. If you’re interested in the full set, it is available at Nike Anderson’s Classroom and is extremely affordable. It is also currently my Best Seller.
Second, the activities in this resource not only helped familiarize my children with the US map, but also helped them learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags. It also covered state abbreviations and regions. My boys learned so much and enjoyed coloring the flags for each state.
Third, this resource is very buildable. I maximized this resource by supplementing it with other free resources. I checked-out books from the local library, I utilized the political maps in our classroom, and we watched National Geographic Kids’ YouTube channel that has awesome educational videos for almost every US state.
Lastly, this resource is no-nonsense and easy to use. It doesn’t bombard children with a bunch of facts and is a very gentle introduction to US geography.
This resource is not a comprehensive curriculum, so you will need to supplement it. For a more comprehensive curriculum that covers regions, capitals, fun facts, and more, I created the All About the 50 States of the USA mega bundle.
Would I recommend these resources to a friend? I have actually recommended all of them to any friend that asks for curriculum advice. You’ll hear me mention often that it’s not the curriculum itself, but what you put into the curriculum that makes it effective. Where I felt a curriculum lacked, I simply supplemented. However, I’ve even had to supplement some of the boxed curriculum I purchased. Which goes to show that every curriculum will have “holes.” There’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. If you don’t believe me, read the forums for some of the most recommended award-winning curricula and you’ll see not everyone is impressed by them.
I want to hear from you: Have you ever tried any of these freebies? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!
Hi there! Join me this month for the My Journey to Homeschool series. In this series, I’ll be sharing the why behind our homeschool and the process it took to get there.
If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.
I’m doing this series for two reasons. One, it’ll help you get to know me better. Two, I really need to revisit my why for self-encouragement as the start of the new school year approaches.
Even though this blog is over a year old, I’ve never quite addressed the reason my husband and I decided to homeschool in the first place. I’ve mentioned the benefits of homeschool that appealed to us, such as flexibility and tailored education, but I never really got into the “heavy” stuff.
Well, that’s because I didn’t want to appear anti-public-school. In fact, you’ll read here that I actually don’t hate public school. I’m simply pro-diversity. I believe there are many paths to success and one of those paths includes alternative education.
Nevertheless, as someone who has experienced and studied education at a professional level, I have some pretty sober things to say about the public-school system. As great as it is to have free education in this country, like everything else in life—including homeschool—public-school has its flaws.
The following reasons are ones that spoke to my husband and I on a personal level. They are in no way meant to sway you in one direction or the other if you’re on the fence about homeschool. Instead, my hope is to inspire you to develop your own “why” if you’re feeling led toward the path of home education.
So, without further ado, here are five reasons we really chose to homeschool our two boys.
1. We Weren’t Taking Any Chances.
Racial disparity in the education system is a topic no one wants to discuss, but it’s a real concern for many parents who are raising black children in America. In fact, studies indicate one primary reason black families choose to homeschool is due to dissatisfaction with the low expectations for black students and how they are treated in the education system.
The school-to-prison pipeline for children of color is a reality my husband and I had to consider when discussing the future of our boys’ education. Since we grew up in the public-school system, both of us have witnessed this practice first-hand. While we’ve turned out “okay,” we couldn’t negate some of the psychological damage we’ve had to overcome.
If you’re not familiar with the school-to-prison pipeline, it is defined as followed:
“The policies and practices that are directly and indirectly pushing students of color out of school and on a pathway to prison, including, but not limited to: harsh school discipline policies that overuse suspension and expulsion, increased policing and surveillance that create prison-like environments in schools, overreliance on referrals to law enforcement and the juvenile justice system, and an alienating and punitive high-stakes testing-driven academic environment” (National Education Association, 2016)
It is not our goal to shield our children, but rather utilize homeschool as an incubator of sorts to help prevent premature exposure to harmful disparities in society before they are fully equipped to process these experiences and thrive on their own.
2. To Implement a Holistic Approach to Education.
Homeschool offers us the ability to prioritize development in core areas that are often neglected. Physical, social, emotional, and spiritual development hold equal importance to intellect in our home. Since public school comprises about 1, 170 hours of a child’s time each year, there’s less time in a child’s day to prioritize development in areas outside of intellect, unless a more holistic approach to education is adopted.
As homeschool parents, we have the freedom to implement a holistic approach to education without competing with the time restrictions of public school. That means having sufficient time to work with our children and be more intentional about integrating all core areas of development into their school day. This practice is often referred to as whole child education.
3. To Cater to Our Children’s Intelligence.
If you’ve ever studied developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, you’re hip to the nine types of intelligence. However, while at least nine types of intelligence have been identified and legitimatized, public schools only cater to students who possess logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligence. That means if a child is not a math-whiz or book-worm, the likelihood of reaching their potential in the education system is slim.
So, what are the other types of intelligence that often get overlooked?
Naturalist intelligence or nature-whizzes.
Musical intelligence or children who are skilled in sound.
Existential intelligence or those who are referred to as “life smart.”
Interpersonal intelligence or those who are people smart.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence or those who can perfect skills through a mind-body union.
Intrapersonal intelligence or those who are gifted in self-awareness.
Spatial intelligence or those who can think in three-dimension.
It was very apparent to my husband and I when our boys were babies what their dominant intelligence was. In short, they both exhibited strengths in spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and musical intelligence. These are strengths we are able to fully develop by allowing our boys to incorporate them into their learning—maximizing their academic potential.
4. To Increase Their Quality of Education.
It’s no secret that as more emphasis is put on teaching to the test, more education budget cuts are being made, and the student-teacher ratio continues to increase, the overall quality of education has suffered. Couple that with a one-size-fits-all curriculum that is tailored for the average student and you’ve got highly intelligent students who aren’t being adequately challenged and low performing students who aren’t having their educational needs met.
This is a reality for many public schools.
Sending our children off to school just to become great test takers was simply not appealing to us. Nor was sending them into an environment where their success depended on becoming “average” students.
5. To Establish a Healthy Environment for Self-Development.
Our children are individuals and we want to keep it that way. Unfortunately, in most public schools there’s a “get in where you fit in” mentality where children are encouraged to become carbon copies of each other and individuality is frowned upon.
As homeschoolers, we aim to provide a healthy environment for our children to discover who they truly are and what they’re passionate about—outside peer influence. In other words, we’re removing the distractions and providing our sons the privilege of defining themselves for themselves and growing confidence in that identity.
Yes, peer pressure is inevitable. Yes, children are bound to make poor decisions. However, the more time our boys spend developing in confidence and character in a healthy environment, the more equipped they’ll be to make sound decisions in difficult moments, and the less likely they are to adopt an inauthentic view of themselves.
In essence, homeschool enables us to redefine education by making it enjoyable, interest-led, and a natural part of our everyday life. it’s essential for our family to dissociate learning from something you only do in a classroom or to get good grades. Instead, our desire is to encourage our children to become lifestyle learners
As I mentioned earlier, homeschool is not perfect, either. But it is the better decision for our family during this season of our life.
If you’re new to homeschool, you may find the following posts useful:
As the close of our homeschool year approaches, I’ve taken some time to reflect on our successes and failures. In our three years of homeschooling, what components did our good days have in common? What components did our bad days lack? What ultimately led to our success as a homeschool family? These were the questions I asked myself.
During this reflection, I’ve come to realize our success didn’t depend on finishing every curriculum down to the letter. We didn’t. Nor was it defined by my children acing all their assessments. They didn’t. And it certainly didn’t rely on my being the perfect homeschool teacher. I wasn’t.
Instead, our homeschool success depended on maintaining the following elements:
I’ve said before that a parent needs neither discipline nor patience to homeschool. What we truly need is the commitment to develop these virtues. A commitment to homeschool to the best of our ability. Why commitment? Because when we’re committed, we do whatever it takes to maintain loyalty to what we’re committed to. Yes, even grow in discipline, patience, and any other virtues we need to homeschool successfully.
I started homeschooling my boys by making a small commitment. About three years ago, I told myself we’ll commit to one year of homeschool and see how it goes. If the year went well, we’d continue to homeschool. If the year went poorly, we’d abort the mission.
During that trial year, there were many times I wanted to give up. But, I was committed to finishing the school year at the very least—no matter how badly I wanted to run to the nearest school and register my kids.
Still, it took more than a commitment to finish the school year. I had to commit to giving it my best shot. Commit to teaching my sons. Commit to growing in patience. Commit to making it work despite the odds against me.
Commitment begets commitment. In order to commit to becoming successful in one area, I had to commit to becoming successful in another.
Our vision is our focus. It defines our goals and carves our path. Whatever causes us to look to the right or left of that pathway will either slow us down or throw us off course. This lack of focus puts us at risk for doubt, comparison, and, ultimately, failure.
I remember when I started homeschooling my first year. I rarely participated in social media and didn’t belong to a homeschool group, so I didn’t know many other homeschoolers. I did my own thing, my ideas were original, and my children had a blast that year. Even better? I stayed in alignment with our homeschool vision, which was to foster a healthy relationship with learning.
Then, I started connecting with other homeschool families. I was so excited to see how big the homeschool community was. Not only were there hundreds of homeschooling families in my area, but there were thousands more on social media sharing their experience and wisdom.
Discovering the homeschool community was a great thing, of course. Until I allowed myself to compare my method with that of others. Slowly, but surely, I began to suck the fun right out of our homeschool by forcing other methods onto my children. In my quest to make them “smarter,” I’d forgotten about our vision.
If it weren’t for defining our vision in the first place, I’d still be forcing unsuccessful methods that made everyone miserable. Although I strayed from it, the vision was what pulled us back on course and inspired us to continue to homeschool in a way that was most authentic to our family.
Ah, doing something despite how difficult it may be. I bet we can all raise our hand and say that homeschooling is not easy. It will take perseverance to keep us going when we want to give up. Trust me, there’ll be a time you’ll want to give up, if it hasn’t happened already.
One day, I was going through my old tablet notes and came across a familiar post. The title? “I Give Up.” Yep, on March 20th, 2015, I wanted to give up. I wanted to quit homeschool. I just moved to an unfamiliar town, I didn’t know anyone, I had frustrated finances, and I was totally burned-out.
What’s funny? All the reasons I listed for wanting to give up were temporary. I eventually became very familiar with the town I lived in and all the resources it had to offer. I eventually met other homeschool moms and made great connections. Our financial condition eventually changed, and my burn-out didn’t last forever.
I’m so glad I didn’t make a life-changing decision based on temporary circumstances and emotions. I’ve learned part of perseverance is knowing that our current condition is just temporary. If we can just hold on a little longer, we’ll eventually see the progress—and success—we’ve been hoping for.
I’m so glad you stopped by! Any thoughts on this post? Let us know in the comments!