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Preschool by Design

by Veronica 29. September 2012 16:44

Many families have started a new school year with all things running smoothly.  Some families are wondering about the preschoolers.  Should they have a plan?  Do they need a plan?  The answer can vary from day to day and be different for each child in your preschool age group.  We have developed a plan for our little ones that we use when needed.  Sometimes the little ones are content with their toys and have a great play day during the school day.  Other times they come asking for "twin time".




We call it twin time (named after our twin daughters) but the name really doesn't matter.  I'll explain how we use it in our home and then you take the parts you like along with your own inspirations and develop something that works for your family.  We've been doing twin time for several years and have used a variety of subjects such as:  music, craft, religion, storytime, learning, outside play, playtime, and you can add more.  I then assign each of my older children to a subject.  In our family there are usually about 4 or 5 older kids ready to have a fun time during their twin time.  We rotate the subjects among the older kids about every 2 months because all the big kids usually want a turn to do craft time, plus it keeps fresh ideas and approaches to utilize during that special subject time.

So what happens during twin time?  My older child takes a timer and sets it for 25 minutes.  During that time they have fun with the little ones focusing on the appointed subject.  During craft time for example they might do some painting, make something out of popsicle sticks and construction paper, or use yarn, glue, glitter, foam, colored tape, and other supplies to make a mask, puppet, or decoration.  When the timer beeps, the timer is reset for 5 minutes which is clean up time.

The older kids get a break from school and spend some sibling time with the littler kids and the little kids have fun.  Some days all the subjects are covered, other days the little kids are playing with their toys and then will decide they would like to have some twin time.  Usually if one of my older kids is done with their school work or almost finished I will let them take the first turn, other times an older child simply would like a break and volunteers. 

One of the key points is preparedness.  Before anyone leaves with a timer they have an idea about what they will be doing.  We make boxes that are filled with ideas for each subject and add to these boxes throught the year as we come across clearance items, gifts, or ideas in magazines or newspapers.  This time can be very simple or can get very enlivened.  My big kids thought it would be fun to have weekly themes.  So they made a list of themes for each week of our school year and focused their twin time around that theme. 

For example "At the Beach" could consist of reading books about characters that take trips to the beach for storytime.  During craft time the little kids can make clear bottles become a beautiful table centerpiece with layers of colored sand.  At playtime they can pretend they are packing for a beach trip by getting their gear together.  They then put on sunglasses and lay out their beach towel and play games with an inflatatable beach ball.  What about religion?  The mercy of Jesus is usually described as an ocean.  Talk about the ocean, show pictures from books and show how much water is on the earth with the use of maps and globes then do an experiment.  Fill a container with water and get an eyedropper and take a drop from your container and put it into an empty container.  The little kids will delight it doing something with their hands and getting a turn to put drop after drop into the unfilled container.  After a while they will get the idea that God's mercy is very great and more than we can imagine.

What I like best.  The little kids are learning and having fun and developing strong bonds with their older siblings.  My older children are loving their younger siblings and learning how to teach and have patience.  We do have a simple rule that the little kids must listen and follow directions or they can be excluded from that twin time activity.  It happened in the beginning a few times that a little one was sitting upstairs doing nothing while mom graded papers or helped another child.  My little ones quickly learned that they would rather mind than miss out on the activity.

What about Mom?  Well I don't have an official twin time.  I am usually the first stop in the showing off of the craft, color page, or getting to hear the exciting activity that just occurred.  And when your a mom time with your little ones can really be called anytime.  


EXTRA TIPS for very young ones:


Put your little ones in the high chair for craft time.  This helps your older child keep things under control since they can easily remove finger paint or other messy substances easily and not worry about it getting everywhere.

We also have a set of small old t-shirts we use as smocks that can get messy so their daily wear doesn't get stained.

Very small kids will not always stay still to hear a story or do an activity so train your big kids to go with the flow.  A storytime can turn into reading one page from 10 different books.  Sitting on the floor singing songs can turn into a parade singing around the room.

If you have a wider age span in preschoolers (an 18 month old and a 4 year old) consider having seperate fun times for each of them or have 2 older children assigned to the subject to help their partner at their age level.  There are many ways to work it out with your specific situation.  Even coming up with new subjects that appeal to both of them can be an option.  How about snack time?  (You can get fun and fancy with this one too!)


Remember to create something that works for your specific family and keep changing it as your family changes!






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Homeschool Motivation

by Veronica 19. June 2012 14:33

In Search of Motivation


Usually by this time of year, my research is nearing the end and I am ready to start ordering materials.  This year is quite different.  I've shelved everything and my excitement is lacking.  Perhaps the thought of planning a new school year is making you feel overwhelmed too.  If this be the case then join me in the search for motivation.


My God

He has given me these wonderful children to spend my days enjoying and loving them.  He has entrusted me to provide them with guidance that will one day lead to glorious eternity.  I can't let Him down.


My Children

I want them to be excited about school and enjoy learning.  I want them to see our future days as an adventure that leads them to exploration and discovery of their abilities and talents.  I can't let them down.


My Husband

He doesn't question my choices and is totally supportive.  He puts full trust in that our children will be well educated and gives me plenty of love to make it happen.  I can't let him down.



I know why I started homeschooling in the first place.  I have totally embraced this lifestyle and feel that it rewards me beyond my expectations.  I don't want that to stop.  I can't let myself down.


So now I encourage you to make your own list if you are looking for that motivation.  Why are you homeschooling?  It doesn't have to be a long list but a quality one.  I need to remember that even when I don't feel like moving forward there are many reasons why I should do it anyways. 

I know once I get started reviewing and researching that my excitement will begin to grow again. 

I know some days I won't want to even look at materials. 

I know in the end it will get done because of the reasons listed above.  

I don't know how long it will take me to accomplish.


This will be a learning experience for myself and my kids.  Doing something good and right even when it isn't easy will be the first lesson for the next school year!






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I Have To Finish The Workbook?

by Veronica 15. April 2012 06:42

The Completed Workbook:

A symbol of triumph or a missed opportunity?


There are some that are coming near the end of their current school year.  The excitement is building as both student and parent realize there are a few lessons left or a smaller number of pages in the workbook to be completed.  There can be a great sense of accomplishment as the workbooks are filled and finished containing a year of hard work.  

We use workbooks as well, but I want to be careful on how I use them.  I like the idea of finishing off a workbook and completing all the pages.  I also like the idea of just using what a student needs from a workbook to increase their skills and knowledge.  It can be tempting to consider mastery of a subject as complete once all the pages are done.  Oftentimes I have found that a workbook page can introduce a topic, but the real mastery doesn't occur with just getting all the answers right on the page.

Here is an example...


My boys were getting all the answers right on their grammar exercises.  One day I decided to play a game with them instead of using the workbook.  I made a story up with blank spaces for parts of speech.  I then would call out a part of speech that I needed to complete the story without them knowing anything about the story.  The resulting story would be pretty silly based on their choice of words.  It didn't take long for us to begin reviewing what I thought they already knew.    They started asking questions like:  What is an interjection again?  An adjective describes things right?  What is the difference between a verb and adverb?

Once we reviewed the parts of speech and they became confident of supplying an adverb when I called for that part of speech the fun really started.  They wanted to play over and over again and they were getting the correct parts of speech after we did real life examples.  The workbook helped to introduce the concepts but the real learning happened when we weren't using the workbook. 

A mom once told me she wished they had time to play games and do things like Fun School but there just isn't enough time to have fun and get all the workbooks done.  Is our goal to admire the stack of completed workbooks or learn?  Ask yourself that question when you feel there just isn't time for fun, perhaps if you think of the fun as learning then you won't see that time as wasted.  You won't feel the pressure of having to use all your school time to complete exercise pages because learning can happen even when you don't finish the book!

I have nothing against workbooks, like I said we use them.  I do think we need to stop and check to make sure the material is actually being understood.  If we can make it fun, then it makes school learning more enjoyable for everyone.

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Here Comes High School

by Veronica 27. March 2012 07:22

Getting Ready for High School


I've always put together our school year with resources that I feel are engaging and academically sound.  I admit it takes longer to research subjects and materials, but we have found it completely rewarding.  My daughter already had her expectations for me to design her High School Plan.  She has thoroughly appreciated our homeschool methods and didn't want any changes.  Since I've always created custom lesson plans for her, she never thought I would consider other options.  I was thinking about the workload for myself and tinkered with the idea of looking into some established home school programs.  She shunned the idea of even considering that as an option.  I still looked, it is great for inspiration.  Also it helped me realize that we both loved the freedom to choose books, topics, and materials that really make our school a place of learning.

I know that there are many of you out there considering your plan for high school. I want to encourage you. It is a huge undertaking but well worth the pursuit.  It is possible and more and more families are choosing to continue homeschooling into high school.  You can too!

So now, I'm in research mode as I prepare to pull together a curriculum for my soon to be 9th grader.  I'm learning about state requirements, college requirements, my student's requirements and so forth. This is an exciting time, but also filled with a lot of work.  I'm thankful for because it is a tremendous blessing knowing that I can easily create a transcript or print reports when needed.  It's easy to keep track of all her classes, grades, projects, awards, volunteer service, standardized test scores and more with this invaluable service.  

I can focus on discussing, assisting, instructing, and spending time enjoying school with my High Schooler and the rest of my kids! Learning and spending time with your family- isn't that the best? 




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Avoiding Homeschool Burnout - Things You Need to Know

by Veronica 28. February 2012 01:43

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout

The final blog in the Avoiding Burnout series is here!  Visit Energizing the Day, Fun School, and Finding a Way Out, if you missed the previous posts.

The first 3 posts were focused on what a homeschooling parent can do to avoid the dark clouds of burnout.  This post is different because there is nothing for you "to do" but be encouraged.

Though I don't know everyone personally that reads this blog, please know that I am sincere in my following statements.

Things You Need to Know

YOU ARE SIMPLY AMAZING!  What, don't think that pertains to you?  So you are just responsible for your childrens education which spans the spectrum of academics, spritual growth, physical well-being, and character formation to name just a few and your standard duties for each day?  It is amazing, and admirable!

YOU ARE APPRECIATED!  It is easy to feel that the sacrifices you make go unnoticed.  Is anyone grateful for your work or is it just expected?  It often isn't expressed in words by children, especially if they are very young.  Want proof that you are appreciated?  Who do they run to when they need help or are hurt?  YOU!

YOU ARE HARDWORKING!  It doesn't mean you are busy every minute.  It means that you are doing your best to handle whatever is on your plate.  I've been at church with a baby that is climbing all over me, nursing off and on, and getting into things.  I truly have felt at the end that I truly worked that hour!  Know that it is work and praiseworthy!

YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!  Some days you wonder if anyone has learned anything about anything.  Are all your efforts being put to waste?  No, it is a journey and you are making an impact.  Remember there are times when you get to see those lessons you've been imparting come to life.  It is because of you!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  We all have those days that can be defined as hard, crazy, unbelievable, you name it.  No one is perfect and we all have imperfect days.  Most likely if its happened to you, its happened to any of us!  So keep that in mind for when you need it!

THANK YOU!  You can never hear that enough.  Thank you for giving your time, energy, wisdom, love, and attention to your children and homeschooling them! You are making the world a better place in more ways than you think!

Know someone that could use some encouragement?  Share it with others; we're all in this together!

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Homeschool Burnout - Finding A Way Out (Literally)

by Veronica 16. February 2012 16:01

Avoiding Burnout

Continuing the series on homeschool burnout this is the third in the series, visit the first post on energizing your day, and the second post focusing on fun!  This series is dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!


Changing the scenery can get everyone excited about a school day!


Here are some suggestions for finding a new study spot.

  • Pick another room in the house to spend your day!  This is the easiest location because you have everything accessible to you at home for school work and entertainment for younger kids.  If you forget something just go get it and you are set for the day. 


  • Head out to the public library.  Plan to check out books of interest in science or history based on what you've been studying in those subjects.  You can also bring your math books along and reward the kids with a book to check out when they finish their work.   Your little ones will enjoy having a story time session with you!


  • Have you ever noticed how food courts in the mall have plenty of table space?  Get there early and find a corner spot.  When everyone needs a break use those coupons you’ve been saving for a snack or drink.   We’ve brought our own lunch to the mall and haven’t encountered any problems.  Since you are at the mall, you might get an errand done at the same time!  The bonus is it is totally stroller friendly and hi-chairs are available!

Note:  Expect the food court to get crowded during lunch time.

  • If you live in an area that isn’t too cold out then take your school outdoors.  It could be your backyard or a nearby park.  You can use the outdoor setting for subjects such as science and nature, art, or geography.  Playground equipment will allow everyone to get some good physical education!  You can also learn at a park if you choose one with a memorial, or a specific dedicated theme.  We’ve been to rose gardens, Japanese tea gardens, and arboretums all with no cost for entry.   


Plan ahead the night before making sure you have the proper study materials, snacks, drinks, activities for younger kids, strollers, diaper bags and anything else that will make your outing pleasurable.



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Homeschool Burnout - Fun School

by Veronica 7. February 2012 01:40


Avoiding Burnout

Continuing the series on homeschool burnout, visit the first post on energizing your day, this second post focuses on fun!  This series is dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!

  Fun School 

The kids came up with the name "Fun School" many years ago.  We did it at random times of the year, until one of my daughters made it a monthly day of Fun School.  She was given an assignment to write a persuasive paper.  I told her she could choose any topic and if it was well written with valid points that I would consider her request.  And that is how Fun School became a dedicated day we do each month!

What is Fun School?  Well it doesn't mean that the other days of school are not fun- I wanted the kids to be clear on that point.  It just means that we take a break from our standard curriculum and do the things we haven't had time to do, or the things that we really enjoy, or continue working on something we are really excited about at the time.


 Here are some examples of Fun School:


  • School games - There is a game for just about every subject.

  • Religion - Decorate your home with posters celebrating the faith, re-enact a Bible story, or cut out religious symbols (cross, dove, fish) and decorate them for display.  Think Vacation Bible School in your own home!

  • History - We've built and burned the Tower of London, made viking boats, and cooked foods from other countries.

  • Science - Science kits can be so much fun.  Most kids like watching science come alive with real experiments.  These can be very involved to simple, but either way they have a big impact.  Don't have a kit?  Check the internet or your science books for items around the house that you can use.

  • Geography - Learn where places are in the world by doing geography puzzles!  Call out a country/river/capital and have the kids take turns locating it on a map.  You can do this with coordinates for longitude and latitude as well.

  • Construction sets - The possibilities are endless and most come with instructions for building a few examples. 

  • Writing poetry or stories - Some kids just like writing while others will choose something different.

  • Craft projects - Rugs, paintings, dioramas, cross-stitch all have been made in our home and don't forget craft kits with all the supplies!

  • Reading - Do a favorite read aloud book together or let the kids read on their own.  Act out a scene from a favorite book or play! 

  • Videos - If you don't own any educational ones visit the library!  We have watched many of Shakespeare's plays, the ballet Swan Lake, and many science topics. 

  • Audio - Play music from composers you have studied, enjoy music from other countries, or listen to songs that teach something new.

  • Cooking - Baking with kids gives opportunities for learning measurements, following directions and understanding new vocabulary.  Also teaching a child to cook is easier when there isn't a dinner deadline and fun is the goal.  

  • Computer - There are many educational websites with games that reinforce or teach new concepts.  Research the night before, and then you know the links are safe and work to your children's' interests and age levels.

  • Kids - The kids will have their own ideas and they will be happy to apply their imaginations and talents when given the opportunity.  If your kids seem unmotivated then just get involved doing something and enjoying it. They will usually come around to see what all the excitement is all about that they are missing!


What makes Fun School fun?  You! 

Having a great attitude, even when the experiment didn't come out quite right, or the craft glue is all dried out will teach a lesson in itself!  No need to worry.  There isn't any pressure to complete the task perfectly or have all the right materials!  There are no grades or assignments that need to be sent in for evaluation. The kids don't have to be concerned about memorizing facts or being quizzed afterwords. It is just plain fun with no strings attached!  As a mom, it is great to see your kids discovering new things and enjoying learning!

The bonus is that you will see Fun School happening more often because your kids will be wanting to revisit these experiences and add new ones! 

They will be hurrying to get their school work done so that they can do the Fun stuff that isn't "school" in their eyes, but just having fun!



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Homeschool Burnout - 10 tips to Energize the Day!

by Veronica 24. January 2012 07:23

Avoiding Burnout

As we approach the season of homeschool burnout, I though you might be looking for some clear skies.  This blog is the first in a series dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!


Energize Your Homeschool Day!

Ok what do I mean by this?  Simply do things differently and have fun!  Here are 10 ideas: 

  1. Change the order of which you complete your school subjects.

  2. Wear costumes or funny hats to school-go through the dress-up trunk or put something together that is just fun to wear!

  3. Eat lunch for breakfast and eat breakfast for lunch.

  4. Let the kids use colorful pens or pencil colors to complete their work.

  5. Pick a different seat other than the usual spot.

  6. Trade out the lined notebook paper for construction paper, stationary, or printer paper that has a decorative border.  Note: This may not work for every subject, so think about where it fits best.

  7. Tell the kids to use the computer to type up anything they normally write out- a history outline or grammar questions for example.

  8. Decorate your school area with streamers, banners, balloons, or leftover party theme props.

  9. Turn out the overhead lights and use alternative lighting such as night lights, flashlights, or LED candlelights.

  10. Have a "word of the day" and then do something silly every time it is said.  A silly thing could be jumping out of your seat and getting under the table.  Use a word that is likely to come up a few times like, "book" or "read".  You can even make it into a contest to see who responds the fastest or catches the word of the day the most.

Remember enthusiasm is contagious.  Starting the day with eagerness, even when you don't feel like it, will be the first step to brightening your homeschool.



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The Library Cart

by Veronica 9. January 2012 13:13

We call it the library cart.  It was a birthday gift for me many years ago-a square rolling cart from the office supply store.  We take it with us to the library and fill it up with books.  Once we get home, we park our cart in the same spot in our foyer.  The books are then ready to be "checked in and checked out".  

We have one simple rule:  If you take a book out of the library cart, return it to the cart when you are done. 

It is our in-home library and it keeps our books from getting lost.  The kids have been very faithful about returning the books.  Why?  Because they know that keeping this rule in place allows for future checkouts, avoids paying late fees (from the kids' money), and makes it easy for us all to keep track of the library books.  The younger kids think its fun to "check in and check out" their books to the library cart.  I presented the process for using the cart in an exciting way.  Afterall it's their own library! They can help others and play the librarian as well. 

My older kids are allowed to bring their chapter library books into the van for reading or keep in their room until they are finished.  They have proven to be responsible with returning the books back to the cart.  The younger kids usually have someone read to them and can be reminded to return the book to the cart after the storytime.  Sometimes the younger kids get books out to look at and forget to return them to the cart.  If someone notices some library books left out, we remind the young readers to come get their books and return them to the cart.  We don't put the books back for them, but rather help them to develop the habit.

When the time comes to return the books back to the actual library, we count them up to confirm they are all there and then we wheel our cart back for a new batch of books.   Since the habit of returning books to our cart has been formed, if we are short a book it is usually found within a few minutes due to an older child still reading it in their room.

We use the library a lot in our family.  This simle rule and cart have enabled us to continue to use the library a lot without losing books.  The kids are motivated to use the cart because they are excited to get a fresh batch of books and I don't have to be concerned about hunting down library books in the house!




New Year for Homeschool Organization!

by Veronica 1. January 2012 04:03

A brand New Year is a fresh start! Whether your homeschool year is just beginning, in the middle, or towards the end, now is a great time to get organized. Set aside some time to catch up on the grading and reporting. Set aside some time to get ahead on lesson plans or create booklists. Let handle all the "paperwork" neatly online and then set aside some time to enjoy the good feelings of knowing your homeschool is organized!