Summer Homeschool Schedule for Learning

Do We Homeschool Year-Round? Our Summer Learning Routine

 

It’s summer vacation for most of us in the United States. For many parents, that means figuring out ways to occupy the kiddos.

I’m quickly becoming a mom-group junkie, especially when it comes to homeschool groups. Since summer schedules seem to be a hot topic, I figured I’d go ahead and write a post detailing what a tentative summer schedule looks like in the Anderson household and how we incorporate learning.

But first, I owe you a quick update.

As most of you know we live in Georgia, which means summer break started in May. So far, our boys have enjoyed weekly VBS’s, sports camp, swimming lessons, summer movie screenings, community events, playdates, and more. This is probably one of the busiest summers in our entire homeschool career. Most importantly, our boys are learning things that textbooks can’t teach. Things like how to be a team player, respond to mean kids, meet new friends, and grow in self-confidence.

While summer break is the perfect time to take advantage of all the social opportunities it has to offer, many new homeschooling parents beg the question; How do I prepare my children for the next academic year?

There’s no right answer to this question but let me present you with a few studies. Consider this study that reveals students lose a significant amount of knowledge in reading, math, and spelling during summer. This learning loss accumulates over time leading to a regression in academic proficiency, which we all refer to as the summer slide.

There’s no denying that taking a substantial break from academics poses the risk for children to forget key learning concepts. For this reason, you’ll find that the average curriculum incorporates a review of previously learned material for the first few lessons. Therefore, summer learning loss is already accounted for.

However, if you’re like me and want your children to build fluency during summer, incorporating learning into your summer routine doesn’t have to be a battle. Here are some ideas for how you can encourage your child to continue flourishing during summer months.

 

1. Implement a family reading time.

In our home, I implemented what I like to call a “reading hour.” During this time, everyone grabs something to read, their favorite snack, and hangs out in the family room reading together silently. Afterward, everyone can discuss what they’ve read. For children who aren’t readers yet, try read-alouds or let them listen to an audiobook with headphones on. For struggling readers, research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.

 

2. Make fluency practice easy.

If you don’t mind screens, installing apps like Prodigy, Elephant Learning, Reading Eggs, Epic, and more, can turn tablet time into fun fluency practice. Learning apps are not only a nice break from worksheets, but they also make incorporating summer learning easier on parents by allowing them to create academic goals and track progress. While some of these apps aren’t free, there are a ton of free ones available for download. Some apps even come with a free trial, so take advantage.

 

3. Focus on learning a new skill.

In our home, we carve out some time to encourage our boys to learn something new. We not only want them to retain what they’ve learned, but also increase what they know. Learning new skills sharpens their brains and builds confidence. Some great ideas we’ve tried are:

  • Following drawing tutorials
  • Learning how to play a new song on the keyboard
  • Learning to code a video game
  • Following dance tutorials
  • Learning life skills like tying shoelaces, riding a bicycle, swimming, etc.

 

4. Enter a contest and win money for college.

I’m excited to share this opportunity with you all. Education.com is holding a Limitless Learners Contest for a chance for six students to earn $500 toward college and $1000 to donate to their elementary school or local library. There are no strings attached. All your child/ren must do is this:

Describe a time when you were having so much fun, you didn’t realize you were learning something new!

Kindergartners may draw or paint a picture to reflect their answer, while older kids can write a short story, poem, or even a comic strip. Deadline is October 31, 2019, but why not utilize summer break to sharpen your child’s writing skills and craft a winning response? See details, here.

 

5. Implement a reward system.

I’m a believer in incentives. In our home, screen time is a big deal, so I use that to my advantage. This summer, learning how to spell new words will grant my boys an allotment of precious Minecraft time. Of course, I had to make it fun by printing out this list of key Minecraft terms. I told my boys if they’re going to be playing the game, they need to know the spelling and definition of each term. The result? Over 40 words learned in just one week for my 9-year-old. My 6-year-old also learned 15 new words.

 

6. Develop the whole child.

Some parents focus solely on academics and unknowingly neglect other skills equally important for ensuring a child’s potential for learning, growth, and wellbeing. Outside cognitive development, other skills that should be challenged and developed are physical, social, emotional, and creative skills. In our home, we’ve also added spirituality to the list. How does this whole child approach play into academics? In short, research suggests children who are emotionally and physically healthy are higher academic achievers. But did we really need research to know that? Summer is the perfect time to check in on your child’s socio-emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Some books to read with your kiddos are:


 

If you need inspiration crafting a summer schedule, check out ours below. Keep in mind this schedule is always changing depending on what we do that day, but it comprises all the things we’d like to incorporate into our schedule when we’re at home. I love schedules for children not only because knowing what’s expected encourages positive behavior, but they also teach time management and responsibility.

Summer schedule for home school

What does your summer routine consist of? Let me know in the comment section!

Home Management Tips and Freebies

How I Plan for Homeschool and Manage My Life | FREE Printables Included!

Hi there! Join me this month for My Journey to Homeschool series. In this series, I’ll be sharing the why behind our homeschool and the process it took to get from there to here.

If you’re new to this blog, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.

Last week, I shared How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of FREE Curriculum.

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.

To-do List Planner Insert for Home Management

 

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.

Events Calendar Sample Planner Inserts for Home Management

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?

Daily Schedule Sample Planner for Home Management

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.

1 Homeschool Schedule Planner Inserts for Home Management

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 makeup work 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.

Work Schedule Planner Inserts for Home Management

 

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.

Workout Plan Planner Inserts for Home Management

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.

Cleaning Schedule Planner Inserts for Home Management

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.

Meal Plan Planner Inserts for Home Management

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!

Yummy Recipes Planner Inserts for Home Management

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.

Sample Budget Planner Insert for Home Management

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.

 

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.

Scripture Planner Inserts for Home Management

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.

 


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!

Home Management Binder FREE Printables

GET THE FULL SET!

Home Management Binder Printables

 

I want to hear from you: What types of things do you include in your planners?

Confessions of a Homeschool MOM

12 Confessions of a Homeschool MOM

Hi! I’m Nike. If you’re new to this blog, my family is entering our fourth year of homeschool this year. I can hardly believe it!

My husband and I live in Middle Georgia where we homeschool our two boys, ages 5 and 8. They are entering kindergarten and third grade this upcoming school year.

I love blog posts where homeschool moms keep it real. I know that, for most of us, we enjoy homeschooling our children and want to highlight the many positives of being a homeschool family. However, not sharing the unglamorous side can be crippling for new families who may think they’re the only ones experiencing tough moments.

So, to all the moms (and dads) experiencing any of the following, you’re not alone. Here are my twelve confessions.

1. It’s challenging.

Contrary to what people, who haven’t a clue about homeschool, think, homeschooling is not an easy job. When done properly, it takes a great deal of time, research, knowledge, preparation, discipline, patience, coordination, and proficiency. Whether purchasing a curriculum or making your own, the work that goes into ensuring your children are well educated is extensive. Some bad eggs may give homeschool a bad name, but for the rest of us, we put in that work!

2. It’s uncertain.

Truthfully, I believe there’s a season for everything. I don’t know when our homeschool season will end. Whether it ends after high school or next year, only the good Lord knows. Anything can happen. My kids may want to try out traditional school. Homeschool may be outlawed (Lord forbid!). Or, it may just stop working for us. All I know for certain is, at the moment, we’re enjoying this time and hope it lasts as long as God allows it to.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

3. It’s lonely.

I’ve been blessed to meet and befriend other homeschool moms who invite our family out for parties and playdates, but at its core, homeschool is lonely. That’s because at the end of the day, it’s just me, my kids, and their curriculum. Being the primary teacher in my children’s life means that sometimes I’ll feel isolated and overwhelmed. And while the truth is I’m not alone and this is the plight of every homeschool parent, it sure doesn’t feel that way during those tough moments.

4. I get unmotivated.

I don’t jump out of bed every morning and greet the day like Mary Poppins. Sometimes I’m unmotivated. Sometimes I dread the monotony that homeschool routines can often fall into. Sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I’m sick. Sometimes I haven’t slept well. Sometimes I doubt myself. There are many motivation killers that can throw me off course at times. But I’ve learned that perseverance is what you do long after your motivation has left you.


5. I don’t know everything.

The truth is, I still have so much to learn. In fact, my boys are becoming smarter than me by the day. They’ve become experts on topics they’re passionate about and the beautiful thing is they’ve also become my teacher in that regard. As a homeschool mom, I’ve realized one of the best things I can do for my children is not to teach them everything, but to connect them to the resources they need to teach themselves.

6. We have tough days.

Most days are great, but some days my boys just won’t cooperate. Sometimes there are tantrums. Sometimes there’s defiance. Sometimes I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Yes, crying, yelling, and everything in between can be heard on any given day. We aren’t perfect homeschoolers.

If these walls could talk, they'd tell you we're not the perfect homeschool.

7. Unschooling myself is hard.

Since I was trained by the good ol’ public school system, I constantly have to unschool myself so that I can open up more to the reality that we don’t have to sit in a classroom doing schoolwork every morning. There are other ways to learn. In fact, children are learning even when we’re not actively teaching them. Still, it takes time to accept that my children can learn even when I’m not standing at the whiteboard lecturing.

8. I don’t hate public school.

I am a product of public school. So is my husband. So are my friends. We all turned out just fine. I went to an excellent college, earned a degree, and even earned a professional degree. I’ve had some of the most amazing teachers and some not so good ones. I don’t hate the public school system. I thank it, because it was an option when my family couldn’t afford to send me anywhere else. I didn’t take my education for granted. I used it to my advantage, making sure I excelled so that I’d be a great candidate for college. Whether my boys are homeschooled, go to public or private school, I’d make sure that they excel, too.

9. The house gets messy.

You can imagine the mess that accumulates when a family spends most of their time at home. Hey, we live here! In fact, the only time our home is spotless is when we have guests, and everyone panics to “get the house together.” Yes, we have chores and cleaning schedules, but somehow at the end of the day, it seems like every single item we own is covering the tables and floors.

I cleaned my house today... memes, inspiration, quotes

10. I’m glad I didn’t buy a curriculum.

When we first started homeschooling three years ago, I used every free resource I could find for my then kindergartner. He learned to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic without a boxed curriculum. You can find the list of resources I used, here. Holding off on purchasing a curriculum offered more time to study how my son learns, which helped me choose a curriculum that best fit his learning style. Even better? The money we saved that year was put toward extracurricular activities and family trips!

11. My schedules are for show.

I have what I like to call my “ideal schedule” and then there’s reality. That reality becomes our routine. The difference? When I schedule things, it puts our family on a timeclock and makes everyone stressed. When I establish a routine, it invites spontaneity and allows the day to flow organically. Believe it or not, we used to have an alarm that sounded when it was time to move on to the next lesson, eat, have recess, etc. It wasn’t fun for any of us.

12. It’s rewarding.

This is such a cliché, but it’s true. I love learning more about my children, their strengths and weaknesses, their preferred method of learning, how they tend to deal with frustration. I love seeing and being a part of their progression. I love spending the day with them. They are my little buddies!


 

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, it’s worth mentioning that even though some negative moments are highlighted here, the positive moments definitely hold more weight.

I want to hear from you: What are your homeschool confessions? Let me know in the comments below!

 

How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss and Restore Order + FREEBIE

The summer vacation sort of crept up on us.

In Georgia, most kids are out of school by the third week of May. But in our homeschool, summer vacation wasn’t supposed to begin until June.

What happened?

My second-grader decided he wanted to take his final assessments early. All his friends at church were already out of public school, and he wanted to join the crowd.

So, I let him.

It was a win-win, really. We had a family trip approaching and I thought It’d be nice to come back home and not have to worry about school work.

The problem?

After that lovely trip to Maryland, where we got to visit my siblings and explore the beauty of Washington, DC, there was total chaos in our home. Fighting over games, tablets, toys, and personal space ensued. Our living room floor was full of Legos, art supplies, and Cheerios. Our kitchen sink housed every single dish from the cabinets by the end of the day. And I was close to losing it.

Capitol Building Washington, DC
Our Family Trip to Maryland Included a Day-Trip to the Nation’s Capital

But then I remembered something; amid our travel adventures, I’d forgotten to write out our summer schedule. So, I did just that.

When I say peace was restored almost immediately, it’s no exaggeration. I showed the schedule to our boys and it was like a weight was taken off them. Knowing their daily expectations offered them a sense of security and control. Even more, creating a schedule that carried out my vision to combat summer learning loss gave me peace of mind.

Let’s not get it twisted. There are still those days when everyone’s mood clashes. Today, as I write this post, is one of them. However, incorporating a summer routine has definitely given us smoother days when we’re stuck at home.

So, what does the schedule entail?

The purpose of the schedule, other than to restore order, is to ensure our boys keep their brains sharp, limit technology usage, and learn something new this summer. I understand resting from the demands of schoolwork is essential for developing brains, but I also wanted to ensure our boys were spending a little time each day building fluency with old skills and taking the initiative to develop new ones.

Take a look at our summer schedule below and download your FREE editable copy, here!

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss
Click the Image to Download Your Editable FREEBIE and Create Your Own Summer Schedule!

As you can see, I’ve split the schedule into three parts: mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Every morning, there are three requirements to enjoy afternoon screen time:

First, our boys must read at least one book or two chapters. My five-year-old is still new at reading so we’ve worked it out where my oldest son does shared-reading with him. There are several studies that illustrate the significance of summer reading to prevent learning loss. However, our reason for ensuring our children hit the books during summer vacation is to simply encourage the lifestyle of reading.

Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems
Our Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems

Second, our boys must do at least one math activity. I made each of them fun interactive activity binders that house at least 35 activities for math fluency practice. You can read more about it here or purchase it here. These binders are a great alternative to worksheets because the Velcro attachments allow for repeated use until mastery. Additionally, these activities are perfect for kinesthetic learners who thrive with hands-on learning.

Boys Interactive Math Binder
My Son Practices Fluency Using His Interactive Math Binder

Third, our boys must complete their chore checklist. This checklist is basically a reminder for them to clean up after themselves, which is super helpful to me. Since they’ll either be playing with their tablets or watching TV, completing their chores in the morning means the house is likely to stay tidy all afternoon. I laminated the checklist (and schedule) to make them reusable with dry-erase markers.

Chore Checklist for Kids
Chore Checklist for Kids

Believe it or not, these requirements only take my boys about an hour or two to complete after breakfast. After that, they usually build Legos or draw pictures until the afternoon. I also created a list of activities to choose from should they grow tired of building skyscrapers with their Legos or drawing Sonic characters with scrap paper.

Why have a summer schedule?

Like most children, my boys thrive on structure. It offers them a sense of control and limits the frustration that can often trigger defiance and sibling rivalry. I’ve also made it a requirement that both must complete their checklist before afternoon screen time, which encourages them to work as a team.

Schedules are also great for me and my husband, who work from home. We know that from noon until four in the evening is going to be the quietest time to get important things done since the kids are typically quiet during screen time. To be honest, they’re actually so quiet, they’ve finessed us into having longer screen time because we’ve lost track of the clock. We must remember to set that egg timer!

Lastly, schedules are a great way to ensure we reach our summer goals. In our case, our main goal was to ensure our children were still sharpening their brains and building new skills. Trust me when I say that summer learning loss is real, but over the years we’ve discovered that making fluency practice a requirement decreased the amount of re-teaching we’d have to do for reading and math in the Fall. Repetition is one of the keys to mastery for children.

What are some alternatives to screen time?

Evenings in our home are scheduled to help our boys get their minds off the screen. Children must be encouraged to try new things and develop interests apart from television and video games. Therefore, our schedule reminds the boys of some of the things they like to do. Those activities include:

  • Playing the keyboard
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Telling jokes
  • Making crafts
  • Drawing pictures
  • Playing sports
  • Playing board games
  • Storytelling
  • Playing outside
  • Playing MadLibs
Educational Board Games for Boys
Board Games are Great Alternatives to Screen Time During Those Summer Days You’re Stuck at Home.

Not only are these activities fun, but they’re also a sneaky way to incorporate additional learning into our daily summer routine. Of course, most of these activities will hold the attention of older children. But if you have wee ones, visit my friends Zoe, Josephine, and Angela at ThinkBaby.org and read their post “FUN & EDUCATIONAL DIY CRAFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS.” They’ve got an awesome website full of gems for new and veteran moms!

What happens when we’ve got somewhere to be?

Summer vacation is filled with camps, traveling, sports, swimming, fellowship, and much more! This week, my boys have Vacation Bible School in the mornings. Next week, they’ll have afternoon swimming at our local pool. We try as much as possible to keep them involved with outdoor activities. When we have somewhere to be, we just pick up the schedule where we left off.

For instance, after VBS, my boys complete all their morning requirements and enjoy screen time for the rest of the afternoon. Next week, morning requirements must be completed before afternoon swimming. The remainder of the schedule will commence when we return home in the evening.

Schedules are made to be broken in our home. Therefore, we invite spontaneity. We are known for taking impromptu trips out of town, fellowshipping with friends until the wee hours of the morning, and hopping in the car to attend that local event we just learned about an hour ago. It’s no big deal if we ditch the schedule for things we find more enriching to our lives.

Vacation Bible School FUN Time Travel
Vacation Bible School Shenanigans With My Futuristic 8-Year-Old
HEART 360 (2)
My Boys Had a Blast Spending Their Mornings at VBS Where the Theme Was “Time Travel.”

Why do we have so much screen time during summers?

Summer screen time is a treat because my boys are only allowed screen time on weekends during the school year. Screen time basically consists of anything from watching tutorials, to coding and playing video games. While the allotted time is from noon to four in the afternoon, I admit some days our boys are probably watching screens much longer than that.

My husband and I have no qualms about children and screens, but we do see the value in controlling the amount of time our boys spend watching screens in order to help them develop other interests. Likewise, we’ve recognized that eliminating screen time on school days helped increase their concentration and work ethic, as they no longer tried to “hurry up and finish” school work in order to get to their video games.

There are many scholarly articles that make a case for why screen time is or isn’t good for children. I say, it all boils down to what’s best for your family. I know parents who can’t do any screen time whatsoever due to their child/ren having sensory processing disorders. Our boys can handle limited screen time, but we do heavily restrict what they’re allowed to consume (i.e. no violent or inappropriate games or shows).

Coding on a MAC for Boys
My 8-Year-Old’s Favorite Pastime Is Coding New Games with Scratch.

I hope you enjoyed me sharing a glimpse of what our summer is looking like this year. I decided to write this post because some of you liked the summer schedule I posted on Instagram and I wanted a way to provide an editable copy for you. I also love sharing what works for me in hope that it may work for you, too.

If you’re looking for activities to do with your children this summer, I highly suggest connecting with your local library, homeschool group, or recreation center and check out their schedules. You’d be surprised how many free and low-cost activities these resources have to offer.

I want to hear from you: What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments!

Day in the Life of homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten

A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old | Teaching Preschool

One of the common challenges in homeschool families is finding the time to teach younger children when so much time is dedicated to helping their older siblings with assignments.

I have a four-year-old and a second-grader and, let me tell you, it’s tough! Even tougher for my friends with four children or more. Preschoolers often like to fight for your attention when they see you giving so much of it to their siblings. I’m here to tell you, that’s not such a bad thing and you can use this attention-seeking to your advantage.

When your preschooler sees that learning seems to get and keep your attention, they’re more likely to want to be included in whatever learning their older siblings have going on. At least this was the case for me. I know it’s tempting to let younger children go off and do their own thing, but try adding small assignments to their routine that help them feel like a “big kid.” You may find you have a little more peace during your homeschool hours.

So, here is my day in the life of my four-year-old on any given homeschool day. This glimpse into our world illustrates how I manage to balance time between my two boys. As a side note, you may notice on my blog that I refer to my four-year-old as a preschooler and kindergartner interchangeably. That’s because according to his age he is technically in preschool, but he’s acquiring many skills that meet kindergarten requirements in our state.


A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old


8:30 am: Devotional

Let’s start with devotional. We’re currently using Our Daily Bread for kids, which we love. The daily devotionals are short, sweet, and to the point. They also are a great inspiration to delve into the Word of God. Both kids enjoy me reading aloud and will sit quietly and attentively while I do so. In previous years, I made activities for my boys to do while I read the Bible aloud. Some days, my preschooler is just not into sitting still so he goes off and plays with his toys, which is totally allowed.  That leads us to…

Tip One: Let your little ones have off days. We all have days when we’re just not feeling something. Allowing them to choose something else to do instead shows that you understand and respect their feelings. It also reduces the likelihood of your little one making a scene which can cause disruption and set the tone for the rest of the day, making it difficult for you to maintain the patience needed to work with your older children.

Our Daily Bread Devotional for Children
My children love Our Daily Bread Devotional for Kids.

9:00 am: Basic Skills Fluency Practice

This is my second-grader’s designated reading time. Since I have him read aloud to me, I need this time to be pretty quiet. This is when I break out my preschooler’s favorite activities. We use the Hooked-on Phonics Fundamentals workbook, which is full of educational cut and paste activities that keep my preschooler busy and happy. During this time, my little one practices fluency with basic skills like letters, phonics, numbers, counting, shapes, and more. He is also engaging those fine motor skills necessary for handwriting. So…

Tip Two: Have independent activities on hand. Give your little ones activities you know they can do on their own to help build confidence, independence, and fluency while you take time to work with older children.

Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.
Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.

9:30 am: Reading Fluency Practice

My preschooler and I practice reading fluency while my second-grader works independently on to his spelling curriculum. We are using the Hooked-on Phonics curriculum and are supplementing with Bob Books. Hooked on Phonics has its own set of starter books, but he seems to like the Bob Books more. We borrowed our Bob Books from the local library and are allowed to have them for 6 weeks at a time. We spend no more than 15 minutes practicing reading. Another 15 minutes is dedicated to storybook read-alouds.

Tip Three: Schedule one-on-one learning time with your little one when older kids have independent work. 

Hooked on Phonics Reading Curriculum for Preschool
Hooked on Phonics is our curriculum of choice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:00 am: Handwriting Practice 

My preschooler practices handwriting while my second-grader and I delve into his language arts lesson.  I love dry-erase books for handwriting practice because children can practice as much as they’d like without accumulating paper waste. The books we love for handwriting practice are the Kindergarten dry-erase workbook and the Sight Word workbook. I taught my preschooler how to follow the arrows, and to always write from left to right to ensure he’s writing letters, numbers, and words properly. Now, he can pretty much work on his own. Therefore…

Tip Four: Train your little one to work independently during homeschool off-hours. On weekends or when all your older children have completed their homeschool assignments, take just a little time to train your younger children to work more independently on key skills. This may take time and patience but is well worth the investment when you find yourself running from kid to kid during busy homeschool hours.

Handwriting Practice for preschool and kindergarten.
Independent handwriting practice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:30 am:  Everyone takes a snack break at this point.

11:00 am: Geography

My boys do geography together. We use a curriculum base called Beginning Geography and supplement with YouTube videos, library books, hands-on-learning, and kinesthetic activities. This is a great time of day because my preschooler really looks forward to it. He may not understand everything we learn about, but he enjoys doing the corresponding activities.

If you’re wondering how I teach two grade-levels one subject, here’s an example:

This week we’re learning about reading directions on a map using a compass rose. My main objective is for my preschooler to understand that north is up, south is down, east is to his right and west is to his left. Aside from looking at real maps I had on hand, we watched a Youtube video that explained what compasses were used for and how to use them.  To challenge my oldest son, he watched a documentary on the history of the compass rose. Later, we made our own compasses using supplies I had on hand. Then we played a kinesthetic activity where the boys had to jump toward the direction I shouted out. It was so much fun and something both grade-levels could enjoy.

Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to include your little ones in on the lessons. This is especially true if the age gap isn’t that wide between older siblings. In my case, I can use a curriculum base designed for grades k-2 and it’ll work for both of my boys. Last year, we used a science curriculum designed for first and second graders and my preschooler was able to do all of the lessons and experiments with us. Children are sponges at this age. You’ll be surprised by what they pick up on.

Geography for preschool and early elementary
A kinesthetic game for learning directions: Jump to your North, South, East, and West.

12:00 pm: Science

Both my boys also learn science together. This year, we are really loving interactive science notebooks. This is actually my preschooler’s favorite part of the day because he loves cut-and-paste activities. Whenever we finish a lesson, he often asks if we can do another one. I use the same supplemental method for science that I do for geography. We read books, do fun activities, and include hands-on learning and experiments whenever possible. That points us to…

Tip Six: Interactive notebooks are a win for everybody. You can find free or low-cost interactive notebook lessons just about anywhere, for any grade, and any subject! This works especially if you have children with larger age gaps. Everyone can sit around the table with all their supplies and work on their interactive notebooks. Works for us!

Interactive science notebooks for preschool and kindergarten.
Interactive science notebooks are great for preschool and kindergarten.

1:00 pm: Lunch and Recess

2:00 pm: Math

I save math for the end of the day because it’s my boys’ strongest subject. Plus, it’s also a subject that my second-grader can do on his own unless he’s learning a new concept. I like to work one-on-one with my preschooler on the days when my second-grader isn’t learning a new concept. We use math link cubes to practice addition and subtraction. We also practice number sequencing and counting to 20, 30, and beyond. Every now and then we’ll go over basic and 3-dimensional shapes, but he pretty much has that information stored in his brain.

Additionally, I try a variety of hands-on activities that I just make up myself. Matching number quantity to the numerical value is one of the activities we do often, and we can use just about anything we have on hand to do it. I also make use of our addition and subtraction flashcards and have my preschooler use cubes to determine the sum or difference. So…

Tip Seven: Save your little one’s strongest subject for the end of the school day to cut down on frustration. If you happen to need to sneak away to teach your older children new concepts, you can start the younger ones off and they can hold their own until you return.

Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.
Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.

 

Our school day typically ends around three in the afternoon. This is not an everyday schedule as we have fieldtrip days, co-op days, and playdate days pretty regularly. This is, however, the schedule we fall back on to keep us on track.

I’d like to end this post by saying there will be a day when none of this advice works. Take heart, it happens to the best of us. I will say that each semester gets easier. Before our winter break, it was much harder to keep my preschooler engaged and occupied. After winter break, things seemed more manageable. Your family will live if you do away with curricula for a moment to meet the physical, educational, emotional and social needs of your younger children. A break from monotony is always a great idea!

Now it’s your turn: How do you balance homeschool with your children? Give us some ideas that have worked for your family in the comments below!


Need more ideas for preschool? Check out these posts:

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

Tot-School Tuesdays | Preschool Addition Facts

Tot-School Tuesdays | Number Matching & Sequencing

Tot-School Tuesdays | “I Can Count” Busy Box

Free Resources for Preschool

Preparing for your first day of homeschool

How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! My name is Nike (nee-kay) and I’m a third-year homeschool mom to two awesome boys. This year, I’ll be teaching kindergarten and second-grade, and I’m super excited! I created this August series, titled “Ready, Set, Homeschool!” to offer encouragement and tips to homeschool newbies. The tips I’m sharing this month are things I’ve learned from homeschool veterans and through personal experience. Be sure to stick around for the next few weeks as I uncover some homeschool basics and more!

This week? How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool. Keep reading if you want to know the foundation for my homeschool preparation and how it helped our homeschool thrive.


 How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool


1. Don’t forget internal preparation.

Sometimes we get so caught up in buying school supplies, curricula, and setting up for our classroom that we completely forget what’s most important. That’s right! You can’t run a successful homeschool without taking care of your mind, body, and spirit first. What does that mean? Take care of ALL of you! For me, that means getting adequate rest, making healthy food choices, exercising regularly, and spending time with God.

I know, I know; this sounds so cliché, right? But friends, I wouldn’t feel right NOT to mention this significant detail of my life. Why? Because omitting internal preparation has NEVER amounted to a good day. Like EVER! I don’t mean perfect days, I mean good productive days where I’m full of energy, grace, love, and patience. Trust me, I’ve seen a difference in my demeanor. Perhaps you will, too! My current devotional? Be Still and Know!

Be Still and Know

2. Read books.

I like to read up on parenting, homeschool, education or whatever I feel will help me become a better homeschool mom—or person in general. I find when I read books on these topics, I gain a sense of confidence in my ability to homeschool and manage my home. And let me tell you, mindset is EVERYTHING! If you believe you can do it, you WILL. If you don’t believe you can do it, you WON’T. Come on, you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve read The Little Engine That Could!

So, what am I reading now? Rich Kid, Smart Kid | Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start. This book has really been helping me decide how I want to teach finances in my homeschool. Other books I recommend are the series What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know. This series includes all early elementary grades. I love these books because they help me make better curriculum selections. You can even build your own curriculum around them. And of course, what’s a homeschool without reading The Well-Trained Mind? A book that makes a brilliant case for classical education.

3. Review all your curricula.

You will thank yourself for reviewing all your children’s curricula and becoming familiar with what they’ll be learning. Reviewing the curricula will also help you prepare for additional resources and supplies that may be needed. For instance, looking at my second-graders curriculum ahead of time allowed me to make a list of all the things he’ll need to complete his science experiments, geography projects, and more. Reviewing curricula also offers an opportunity to peruse Pinterest for fun hands-on activities to accompany formal lessons.

4. Make a tentative schedule…or several schedules.

I don’t know where I’d be without my home management binder. I have a homeschool schedule, a daily schedule, a cleaning schedule, an exercise schedule, a meal planning schedule, a work schedule, a calendar of events, and more! Why do I have so many schedules? Because they make homeschool manageable! Which makes me feel like I’ve got this!

You don’t need all of these schedules. I’m just a bit of a scheduleaholic. I simply listed the types of schedules I keep as a reference for you to decide what types schedules will make your homeschool days run smoother. In the past, when I didn’t keep as many schedules, I found myself using homeschool time to get things done—especially cleaning and meal prep. Having a system for all things “life” ensures our formal homeschool hours are solely spent on lessons.

Home Management Binder

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5. Create a learning space.

You don’t need a classroom, just a functional learning space. If you have a classroom, great! If you don’t, you can homeschool just about anywhere. Many of my friends like the living-room sofa just fine. Other friends prefer to sit around their dining room table. At our home, we like to homeschool outside on the back porch when we can. Other days, we homeschool in the boys’ room, which I turned into a classroom this year due to some changes happening around our home.

Personally, we did not have a decked-out classroom right away. During our first and second year of homeschool, we used what is now our office. The décor was VERY minimal and only included what I felt was totally necessary; a dry-erase board, a political map of the world, an alphabet border, and some reference charts for math and science, among just a few other things. This year, I approached homeschool with a similar attitude that “less is more.” So, everything you see in our classroom is something we’ll actually use on the regular basis—even down to the school supplies.

Homeschool Classroom Decor

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6. Create a homeschool budget.

Not just for curricula and school supplies, but also for fun stuff like field-trips and extra-curricular activities. Personally, I like to create a homeschool budget month-by-month because, as business owners, our earnings look different each month. I also like to set aside money each month to save for curriculum purchases for the next school year. I know setting money aside makes me sound super responsible, but, trust me, I only implemented this system due to the mass amount of money I ended up spending in one lump sum on homeschool purchases. Don’t be like the old me, be like the new me. Plan ahead!

7. Join a co-op.

If you’re new to homeschool, I highly suggest joining a homeschool co-op. Why? Because it makes “back-to-homeschool” season that much more fun when your kids have friends who are sharing the experience. This year, my boys are looking forward to seeing all their pals again. They’re super excited to take on new classes with friends and go on field-trip adventures with their homeschool group. We did not have this experience during our first homeschool year and we did okay—but having a community makes things so much better!

Homeschool Co-op
First Homeschool Field-trip at the Museum Viewing the Solar Eclipse 2017

8. Organize your home.

It’s a great idea to get the entire house in order. After all, it’s your “school building.” Before we homeschool, I like to do a bit of spring cleaning in the summer. You’d be surprised at how many school supplies are buried in your catch-all drawers, closets, garage, etc. I barely had to purchase any new supplies this year. I found a bunch of Expos, craft supplies, markers, crayons, sticky notes, and so much more. And they were all in perfect condition.

Additionally, when your refrigerator and pantry are neat and organized, it makes meal time a breeze. The kids won’t have any trouble finding mom-approved items for snacks and lunch. And if you still prepare all the meals, you’ll feel so much better preparing them in an organized kitchen. I like the notion that a decluttered home helps declutter your mind, shifting the environment and making you feel more at ease.

9. Make the first day special.

Roll out the red carpet! Hey, why not? It’s your homeschool and you can be “extra” if you want to (you totally read that to the “It’s My Party” melody). At our home, we play music, take pictures, talk about what we’re most excited about for the upcoming year, and I even give my boys a special goodie basket filled with fun stuff I know they’ll love. I don’t spend much on the goodie basket items, as most were from Dollar Tree or Target. I probably spent $20 bucks at the absolute most. They’ve got stickers, markers, ninja turtle pens, color pencils, mechanical pencils, fun pencil sharpeners, paint sets, art kits, sketch pads, fruit snacks, and other little odds and ends.

Back-to-Homeschool Ideas

10. Read my previous posts on “Ready, Set, Homeschool!”

In my previous posts, I go over homeschool laws, free curricula and homeschool deals, homeschool must-haves, and more. I don’t want to sound redundant, so click the links below to read them!

7 Homeschool Must-Haves That Didn’t Make Your List

30 FREE Homeschool Deals That’ll Help You Save Some Coins

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

 


 

And there you have it! This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s definitely something we do in our home that makes a huge difference in starting our homeschool year off right. Congratulations on your first year of homeschool!  If this is not your first year, welcome to a brand new year! I pray for much success for all of you reading this post. Let me know in the comments: How do you prepare for your homeschool year?