August 17, 2017

How We Take the School Outside The Home {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

Taking School Outside The Home {Back to School Blog Hop}
There is a myth among some in society that to homeschool means that you school at home. We keep inside our four walls, never to leave. We only stay among ourselves. No interaction with the world. No SOCIALIZATION beyond each other. THIS IS A LIE! Today, I want to talk about how our family, and many other families take school OUTSIDE of the home on a regular basis. By the end of this post, I hope you will see how ridiculous the idea of homeschoolers only interacting with each other truly is and how "socialized" homeschool children really can be. But also to encourage you as a homeschool parent (if you are one) to take advantage of our freedom to take school OUTSIDE the home!

When you were a child, did you only learn about how to do things and function in society and the world by going to school? Was that the only place that learning occurred for you? Did you learn how to cook there? What about how to drive? Finances? How to interact with others? What about taxes? Sports? Music? How to change a tire? What a bird sounds like? How to grow food? What a fort looked like? Did you only learn about the beach by reading or being taught about the beach? What about marine life? Animals on the African savanna? Was your learning confined to the four walls of a classroom?

Please tell me you said, "NO!"

August 16, 2017

Homeschool Planning and Record Keeping w/Free Printables {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

One of the biggest questions that homeschool parents have for each other is “What curriculum works best for (insert age)?” The next question most common is “How do you plan out your year?” Followed by “what do you do for grades?” I have chatted all about picking curriculum in a previous post you can read here (Homeschool Curriculum Planning) and here (5 Mistakes I've Made With Curriculum), so let’s talk a little bit about planning curriculum lessons, and then recording WHAT we do—i.e. record keeping.

Lesson Planning

When it comes to lesson planning there are sooo many different styles and methods you can use. You really just need to find a way that fits you best. Ask yourself a few questions:

●Do I prefer paper/pencil style of planning or would I rather have it all digital?
●Do I want to see a year at a glance? Monthly assignments? Weekly?
●Do I want to be able to plan in detail all in one place, or just have a general idea of what is to be done?
●Do I want to see all my children’s lesson plans at one time?

Once you know the answers to these questions, it is a LOT easier to know what you are actually looking for in a lesson planner. Many curriculums provide you with suggested lesson plans. These are very helpful when determining how the curriculum will look spread over your year. You can simply then copy into your own planner what THEY suggest is done. Maybe tweaking it as needed. If you are a digital planner, you will have to set aside time to sit and enter in all the information into a program. It can be tedious, but having an email pop up with everything your children need to do for the day, may be just your style! Or clicking one button to shift everything around instead of having to erase.

Once you have decided HOW you want to do it, just start looking at different planners! There are MANY free downloadable ones available. Pinterest is full of links to them. Maybe you have a spiral binding machine, or a print shop that can put it all together for you? This might be the way to go to truly customize WHAT you want in a printed binder. Another option may be to look at pre-designed, printed, and bound homeschool planners. Places like Apologia and Mardel are two companies which publish best selling planners—they include a lot of sample pages for you to look at. I have reviewed the Apologia planner before—and I actually BOUGHT the Mardel "A Simple Plan" for me to use this year.

If you want to get an idea of some planners I myself have used before, here is a video I did dedicated TO talking about different planner ideas. I cover two digital ones, three paper ones, and two children planners.

I wrote another blog post about planning out your homeschool routine that you can read from last year which I think may be helpful too!


Now—states are different in regards to the homeschooling rules for how much recordkeeping needs to be done. You may live in a state with NO rules for homeschooling so you can basically just do whatever you want—keeping in mind the long term goal of transcripts for high school that will be transferable to college. I live in the next level of states—the ones with minimal rules. I have to do progress reports which follow the local school districts time frames, and a final report card—as well as attendance. The next two levels of homeschooling states increase the amount of record keeping required—so it’s very important you know WHAT is required for your state. I urge you to join HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) to stay on top of that.

So let’s get back to what my rules are for my state (Kentucky)—I need attendance, progress reports, and a report card. There are so many different ways to make progress reports! The local ones for the public schools usually include letter grading for grades 3+. The early elementary is still pretty much the pass/fail, excellent/satisfactory/needs work style. So what do I do? I use the grammar school style of excellent/satisfactory style. Why? Because this way I can do a clear assessment of progress throughout a year towards mastery. I like to see how work has improved as the year continues.

When it comes to end of the year reports, there are some subjects which DO have grades. But these are few, not the norm. And it is usually because of whatever type of curriculum I am using.

So how do I calculate the progress? Before I “grade” them, I make a clear list of my goals and expectations for the subject/curriculum. I include things like comprehension, neatness, completion of work, etc. This allows me to give realistic progress reports.

But what about Kindergarten? It’s so basic—how do you do a progress report?

I did a progression of things like:
*Writing their name
*Writing a sentence I dictated (The black cat sat by the dog.)
*Identifying colors/numbers/sight words/shapes
*Does he know his phone number or address?

With our progress reports those years, I did the SAME questions so that I could have visible documentation of their progress in these areas. Then I just made notes of the strengths and weaknesses’ they displayed. This is why you can easily just type out a progress report. Maybe even a page per topic/subject. Or just paragraphs for each one.

If want something a bit more “official” looking I have designed three different progress report pages for you. Feel free to print these out and use them as desired! One has the standard subjects already added; one has the subject area blank. The other allows for a more documented progress with room for paragraph writing.

Another big thing for record keeping is the attendance. Some planners have attendance sheets, while others do not. So, if you need a quick and easy sheet you can add wherever, I've got you covered!

I hope that these simple sheets will help you get started with your recordkeeping. One of the bonuses of having an account with is that it comes with a FREE subscription to AppleCore Recordkeeping. I use Applecore for creating my final report cards because I can quickly enter the subjects and have it spit out the "official" record. I can also enter my attendance into it for a quick calculation of my total days. If you get the PREMIUM subscription to Schoolhouseteachers, you also get the GOLD AppleCore subscription which even allows you to make transcripts! here is a video to learn more about AppleCore...

Remember, there is no extra cost for AppleCore Recordkeeping IF you have the inexpensive subscription to the super fabulous curriculum for K-12 website! There are also FREE printable planners available as a membership bonus!

Finally--when your year is over, and you are going through everything that your children created, be merciless! LOL! If you don't NEED to save all of their work--DON'T! It's not like taxes! Every year, I pick the best demonstration of how they have improved through the year--maybe an exemplary report, or paragraph they wrote. A few tests. A completed workbook. But here is the catch--if it doesn't fit in a manila envelope, it doesn't get saved! Each boy gets ONE manila envelope for me to keep their best work in. When I have it all together, I finish by sliding in their progress reports and report card. Then I label the front with the name and school year. Now it's EASY to store! I can put them in a file folder container and keep it in our loft.

Well I hope you have gotten an idea about how you can stay on top of planning and recordkeeping from our chat. I hope that at least one of the printables I have created will benefit you in some way!

There are 35 other bloggers doing the blog hop this week, so make sure you pop over to the Homeschool Review Crew to visit some other blogs this week! Join me tomorrow when I share ways that we take Homeschool OUTSIDE the Home for Day 4 of the 5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop for 2017! Have a simply marvelous evening!

August 15, 2017

My Top 10 School Supplies w/Free Checklist {5 Days of Back to School Blog Hop}

Top 10 School Supplies for Back to School w/Free Checklist
It's that time of year--the time when the stores send out one of the strongest lures ever--school supplies ads! One of my most favorite things to shop for is definitely school supplies. At a homeschool level, we just don't need as many as other students do, but there are still some must-haves that we find ourselves getting more of each year. Today, I'm going to touch on my Top 10 School Supplies for any homeschool--will your choices be on my list?

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When it comes to school supplies, there are some big must haves and some small must haves. Some of my must haves aren't even physical! But these still count as my Top 10 School Supplies for any homeschool classroom.

#1 Internet and Printer
Things have changed since our parents were in the homeschooling world (if they were). Today's homeschooling world includes a LOT of digital resources previously unavailable. There are digital copies of textbooks, online classes, printable curriculum, online educational games...the list goes on and on. I would have a MUCH harder time homeschooling if I did not have access to the internet and a good printer. We even upgraded our printer so it had a higher output AND did double sided printing. We are fortunate that even though we live in rural Kentucky, we still have a great high-speed internet!

#2 Books Books Books
Right on the heels of having internet, is having access to a WIDE selection of books. Homeschooling requires a lot of resource materials, and not being tied to the internet is nice. This is why I highly recommend that you collect some quality non-fiction materials for your personal reference library. I took advantage of a Usborne Book sale and stocked up on their fantastic encyclopedias. They are full color and internet-linked. Perfect for any homeschool classroom. I have one for history, science, geography, animals, and even math! We also collected all sorts of field guides for nature exploration. You can't go wrong with the National Audubon Society ones for your area. Don't forget some poetry and short story collections! I also have several young adult biographies. One of the main reasons I don't have a huge personal library is that I live just 5
minutes from an AMAZING library. It was recently redone, and with their renovation came a new "no fines" rule. Talk about making the homeschoolers happy! LOL. They also happily order any books that I can't find, and pull books on topics if I ask for them in advance. With the wide selection of young adult, children, and non-fiction available, there is rarely a book I need that they don't have. 

#3 Laminator
I cannot tell you how much I have used a laminator since we started homeschooling 6 years ago...but it is A LOT. Because so many things are printed out these days, I do like to protect them. Being able to laminate them is one way I can do that. You don't need anything fancy--just a simple one with a box of laminating sheets. You can make custom posters, flashcards, much! You can also turn pages into "dry erase" by laminating them. I wrote a whole post a couple years ago about how much I love my laminator. It really doesn't matter which one you have--you will enjoy having it available for you!

#4 Notebooks
Spiral notebooks and composition notebooks. I cannot have enough of these each year. I actually have shifted over to the composition notebooks, simply because there isn't a wire to get caught on anything nor can they unwind it! They are super cheap too--during the height of sales, you can get them for just 25 cents each! I rarely pay more than 50 cents each for them. We keep college ruled and wide ruled. Another style I also get is the primary version. This comes with primary lines and blank spots for illustrations. We use these for literature and science. I think each boy usually uses 3 per year. 

#5 Post-Its
What? Post Its are a must have? Yes, yes they are. I ESPECIALLY use the little ones because they fit in my planner day spaces. I also use them as bookmarks, and for extra notations on something the boys need to work on. I buy the COSTCO size packages. LOL. They really are a must have here though. 

#6 Index Cards
We use these for spelling words, vocabulary, bible verses, and anything else that might call for them. I also have laminated some and added magnets to them. Now they can be used over and over, and will stick to our cabinets or magnetic white board. I prefer the neon colors. :)

#7 Art Supplies
Now if you are only doing middle school/high school, this one might not be anywhere on your must have list. But with elementary ages, it really is. Even if I myself am not artsy, a LOT of our curriculum includes art projects. Already having the paper and paint and other supplies on hand saves me a LOT of time. 

#8 Coffee/Tea/Chocolate
Another major school supply is whatever YOU need to keep yourself going. For some it's a big mug of coffee in the morning. Others it's tea. Or chai. WHATEVER gets you going in the morning or gets you over the 2pm slump--IS A NECESSITY. So make sure you have plenty of it. 

#9 Flexibility
Remember when I said some things aren't tangible? This is one. I find that flexibility is totally a must have school supply for my classroom. I would be so overwhelmed (or at least MORE overwhelmed) if I didn't maintain a level of flexibility for what our routine looks like. This allows me to "go with the flow" on any given day. I included this in one of my Homeschooling Essential posts a few years back.

#10 God and His Word
For our family, it is IMPERATIVE that we incorporate God into every single school day. AND that He is a priority. We do not move forward in our day unless we pray and have Bible study. The few days that we have forgotten to do it...well those days were a bit pile of rottenness and attitudes. You will see on my curriculum post from yesterday that we do several things daily for bible. What isn't included on that list is that I pick curriculum that is Christian based, so God is woven throughout our day--whether it's history, science, or literature! I would not be able to fulfill my calling as a homeschooling parent unless I had God to help me. Even on the worst days, I know that "He's got my back." And it's no wonder that one of our classroom mottos is "With God All Things Are Possible!" (Matthew 19:26).

So there you have it. My Top 10 School Supplies for the homeschool classroom. What do you think? Do you agree? Are any of these must-haves on YOUR list? Share with me in the comments what you consider a must have school supply!

BEFORE YOU GO--I have created a super simple School Supplies Checklist that you can print off and take with you when you head in to buy supplies! I even left extra spaces for the things you need above and beyond the normal! Grab your FREE School Supplies Checklist!

Join me tomorrow as we explore Planning and Record Keeping for Day 3 of the 5 Days of Back to School Blog hop with the Homeschool Review Crew! Please make sure you visit some of the other bloggers participating this week. There are some AWESOME resources being shared--and I'm pretty sure there are even some freebies! Here are some blogs to get you started!