How I Work and Homeschool Successfully

The working homeschool parents desk.

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”  – John C. Maxwell

Trying to work outside the home while homeschooling is not an easy task. I know this because I have worked part-time and full-time, in the home and outside the home since the beginning of our homeschooling lives. It would be silly for me to tell you “follow these steps and it will be easy.”  Nope, can’t do that. It won’t be easy. After all these years trying this trick and that method, I know what works and what doesn’t work and have found tools to help you be a successful working homeschool mom or dad.

Before we talk about the usual planning and scheduling let’s take a look at curriculum choices and methods of homeschooling. These are simple things you do to make working and homeschooling easier. Picking a simple curriculum and approach will help you homeschool and ease any anxiety that your not doing enough.

CURRICULUM CHOICES

Lesson planning is probably the most time consuming task. Purchasing your curriculum is a lot more fun then lesson planning. To save you time All In One Homeschool and Ambleside Online are the best choices.

Hands down the easiest, least expensive curriculum is through All In One Homeschool Everything you need is all in one place. Each daily lesson plan gives your child clear instructions on what they are to do for that lesson. You will need to print worksheets out but that’s about it.  I have friends, besides myself, that have used this with wonderful success. It’s amazing! For high school students there is  All In One High School.  It is free or you can make a donation.

 Another program is Ambleside Online. A wonderful program that is also FREE and lessons are already planned for you.  It follows a Charlotte Mason approach that means books are necessary. They have provided all the information you need to obtain the books needed for the courses.  Plus there are lesson plans and curriculum from Year 1 to Year 12.

METHODS OF HOMESCHOOLING

This will probably be the only time you see me suggest CYBER SCHOOL, available through your public school.  I mention this because it is typically just like public school except your child is at home. It is different for elementary student then for the high school student.

My friend uses this type of program and she goes over her 3rd graders work while her husband helps with any homework when he arrives home in the evening.  

The CHARLOTTE MASON approach is perfect for the harried homeschool mom. When my boys were about 7 and 8 years old we had to live in a hotel suite for about two months while we were looking for a place to live on Oahu, Hawaii. It was hard living in a hotel room a.k.a. small suite, searching for a home and still trying to educate. This method worked because we would read books from the library and went on many nature walks. All we needed was our sketch books and colored pencils.  A “living” education.

Become the  RELAXED homeschooler by  narrowing your teaching down to the three r’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  Read Ruth Beechick’ books: The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your child Successfully  she shares just how simple it can be. This can be practiced in the case of an emergency such as a job loss (happened to us.)

In all honesty, I believe every method can be used while working. However I have found that Charlotte Mason and Relaxed homeschooling lend themselves to a naturally less structured day. At the same time you know you are making progress.

Planning and Scheduling

The planning of homeschool is the easy part. It’s the act of working out your schedule that can be daunting. That’s why I like BLOCK PLANNING with a twist.

BLOCK PLANNING and Priorities

I discovered I am terrible about giving directions but I want to talk to you about priorities and why setting your priorities will keep you together. Then watch the video on Block Planning.

PRIORITIES

  • Spiritual
  • Personal
  • Family
  • Job

My priorities are listed in the order of most important to least important. Spiritual is at the top of the list. What that means is if I am asked to go for coffee (personal) it will need to be scheduled after my time with God (spiritual). If I am going to get a haircut (personal) and my son decides he can’t walk to the gym that day (family), he will have to wait until after I get my hair done. These are examples of how I use the list of priorities. These priorities also turn into my blocks for planning with coordinating activities designated to each priority block. Take a look at how I use the Block Planing method. (You can get the complete planner by clicking on the image.)

Example of how I use Block Planning

Within these blocks you will have detailed information.

  • Home includes doing laundry, meal prep, house cleaning and any house projects.
  • Personal might include a night for a long shower or bath, haircuts-time just for you.
  • Homeschool will have lesson planning, reviewing children’s progress, activites.

Now you can set time allotments for each area.  I give myself an hour a day for Home activities. But because my schedule varies from week to week I can move around the blocks to accommodate my job and still get what I need to, done.

Give more time to areas that are a priority which can also change.  If your child gets sick than you may decide to make less time for your Home block.  

I am also specific about what my priorities are for the month, week and day. That means you need to remain flexible at all times. Move things around when you need to. I will always pick my children when they are experiencing life dramas over getting a haircut. Hahaha !

To be successful at homeschooling while working you need to take a look at your curriculum and homeschool approaches. You will prioritize your plan and skillfully schedule.

If you have to work, you have to work. After to talking with several homeschooling mom’s they rather focus solely on being a homeschool mom. If that’s what you rather do or move towards not working, here are some helpful book’s to help you reach that goal.

You may find the way that I block plan helpful while working and homeschooling. You can download the blank year at glance, month, week, and day planner by clicking here to get your Free planner.

How to Plan a New Years Eve Party for Families

 

Our plans for a New Years Eve party for our family go’s something like this: My husband and I struggle to keep our eyes open as we sit on our cozy sofa awaiting the fall of the iconic NYC Ball to slowly spiral down in Time Square. As the clock hands move near midnight and the New Year approaching our eyes snap open to the sounds of cheers and toot’s of blowing horns.  Another year has passed and our attempt to have a New Years Eve party for our small family has been less than exciting.

This year I am hoping that it might be different because my last homeschooler, the last child, is 14 years old and although he is the ultimate introvert, he is interested in having family friends over for the evening.  The need for a New Years Eve Party plan has arisen.

I am confronted with the challenge with creating a New Year’s Eve Party that is fun for teens and pleasant enough for the moms and dads. If your New Year’s Eve party is for your family than you can scale down but it is all applicable and will help you have a lot of fun. 

  1. The Family Meeting
  2. Your Budget
  3. The Guest List
  4. Your Party Theme
  5. The Arrival Time
  6. Send Invitations or Tweets?
  7. How to Decorate
  8. The Snacks and Drinks
  9. Party Games

The Family Meeting

In the beginning stages of  planning the party you are going to sit down and listen to what he, in our case, has in mind for his New Years Party.   This is where you mindfully listen without interrupting. In our case my son had no idea what he might want to do so I was able to make suggestions that he liked.  It was that easy.

The fundamentals of your party:

What is your budget?

Who are you going to invite?  Your guest list and invitations.

What will be your theme? Black and gold, Gamer Night, colorful, whatever you can imagine.

What games and activities will you have?  

When will the party start and end?

How are you going to decorate?

What will you serve for snacks and drinks?

 

The Budget

You need to decide on how much you want to spend on your New Year’s Eve party.  Knowing your budget will be the guide for everything on your list.

The Guest List

Using your budget will help you decide on how many friends to invite. The bigger the invite list the more food and paper supplies might be needed. It will also help to ensure that you don’t forget someone that you would not want to leave out.

Your Party Theme

You can go the traditional route with black and gold but why not change it up a little. For an example of a party theme I will use “Gaming into the New Year”. Using that example the balloons could be pearl red and white and when you laid the party favors on a coordinating table cloth, they would be eye catching. Use games from the year that were popular and lay the game boards down as the base for your center piece. You get the idea.

The Arrival Time

This largely depends on what type of party you and your family decided to have. Even if it is you, your spouse and your kids. A good time is 8:30 pm or 9:00 pm.

Send Invitations or Tweets

Right away I thought “phone calls” but I remembered that today we send Facebook Invites, Instagram, Twitter and the list goes on.  If there is time a nice mailed invitation makes your party special. Evite and Greenvelope are online invite options that I am familiar with.

How to Decorate

This is my favorite part of having parties.  I am going to continue to use the “Gaming into the New Year” theme as our example.

I always do what I call “a walk through” of the space to get ideas of what my guests are going to see and how much space do we need.  Let’s start with the entrance.

Think about how you can convey the theme you have decided on. You definitely want to have New Year’s “fun” look. Using party favors to decorate with is also a nice addition for the overall look.

Balloons in bunches or arches at your entrance. For our theme I see red and gold colored balloons.

Cardboard cutouts for the “Gaming into the New Year” theme I was thinking of Rich Uncle Pennybags inviting the guests in.

Lights wrapped around pillars and strung in the windows.

What will your guests see and smell when walk into your home?  The smell of cookies and peppermint? A table set for snacks and treats? Balloons floating on the ceiling?

It is important that your home is inviting and comfortable.  You can add colorful pillows. Clear flat surface space so guests can put their snacks and drinks down. You might need to move furniture around or take furniture pieces out and bring other pieces of furniture in to create the space you want.  Throw sitting pillows on the floor to make it comfortable for children to sit if they want to.

The Snacks and Drinks

Everyone’s favorite at my house. Snacks and drinks can be as simple or complicated as you choose.  From chips and salsa to hummus and vegetables whatever puts a smile on your face.


If you want to make some fun sugary treats check out The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  My son watches Youtube cooking shows and that’s how he found Rosanna Pansino. In her cookbook she has cleaver ideas for Italian cream Sodas, cheese cake and the simple sugar cookie.

Nerdy Nummies making The Best Gingerbread Cookies Recipe Ever!


Once you have your New Years Eve snacks and drinks displayed you want to place your food at the end of the room to create space for the families to play games and hang out.  This also directs your guest to mingle first before grabbing goodies to eat.

Party Games

These family friendly games make it easier for your friends to get to know each other. There is no need for people to try and make conversation. Just a need for laughter.

Charades This link is a charade generator and gives great ideas for your game!

Pictionary

Giants,Wizards, Elves is like Rock, Paper, Scissors but sounds like tons of laughing and fun!

Musical Chairs with a twist.

I hope this helps you in having a fun evening with enough to keep those eyes open long enough to watch watch the ball drop in Time Square. 

Tell everyone what your family does for New Years Eve in the comment section below.

 

2018 Best Christmas Gifts for the Boy that Loves Books

Christmas gifts for boys, in particular, and creative Christmas gifts that don’t require a PS4 or XBox, can be hard to come up with.  After talking with my personal team of readers, we came up with these gift ideas for the boy that loves reading books.  If he doesn’t enjoy reading books now, these gift’s might be the trick to create that love of reading good classic books.  

 

Christmas Gifts for the Boy That Loves Books


Sherpa Fleece Blanket

To cuddle in while reading.

 


Reading Pillow

For comfort and relaxing on.


Hot Chocolate Mug 

Filled with marshmallows making reading memorable.

 

Lots of Pillows 

In our house pillows to lay all over are necessity.

 

A good book light

To make reading easy on the eyes so you can keep reading all night.

 

Warm Fuzzy Socks 

Gotta keep those tootsie’s warm.

You Have to Have Books to Read, Right

These are just a couple of the books that have been enjoyed by the boys in my home.  I have created another list of “must-reads” for the young man in your life here.

The Hardy Boys were fun books to read.  I would read these to all three of my sons before bed at night.  They enjoyed them enough that at twenty years old they still talk about those stories.  Every once in awhile we laugh about  the phrase “gee-whiz”! They thought that was hilarious. 


How we love Winnie the Pooh!  I suggest this as a read-a-loud to young and old.  After I read this to my youngest son I had wondered why I hadn’t read this years ago.

These are just some of the ideas that came from my team of experts.  There were so many suggestions that I am saving them for another post but if you have some gift ideas that you want to share please do in the comments below.  

Happy Gift Giving!

 

 

 

The Secret to Creating Interest in Poetry Reading

Poetry reading of The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe
Narrative poems for kids in their tweens and above.

Halloween is perfect to reveal this secret to creating interest in poetry. With a great poem for kids from Edgar Allan Poe and the poetry reading of his Gothic poem The Raven.  This classic poem, often read on Halloween nights, leaves much to talk about after it’s read by the candle light that flickers by your side. This one simple secret will make your afternoon playful and constructive. This is a popular poem for  kids especially those preteens!

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, . . .”

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven
The narrator and the raven

What is it about the poem, The Raven?  Edgar Allan Poe wrote at least 70 poems if not more. So why is The Raven the poem that clings to our thoughts engaging the reader and has the listener absorbed?  

The opening sets the mood and is relatelable.  The sense of a dark cloudy night, you can see yourself sitting in a soft overstuffed chair thinking about a book you are reading and slowly dozing off.  If you read at all I am sure you have had this experience. I don’t know about you but Mr. Poe has brought me into the poem. I can almost smell the damp.

He continues telling us it was a “bleak December” and shares that his

“books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Nameless here for evermore.”  

Mr. Poe has captured that sensitive part of the reader.  Truly a characteristic of the Dark Romantic movement.

What is the Dark Romantic Movement

Real quick,  the Dark Romantic movement fell between the 1840’s and 1860’s and is a subgenre of the Romantic movement. Also known as the American Renaissance.  Mr. Poe was not alone in this genre. His fellow American authors were the ever popular Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving.  Other literary favorites are Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker from England.

The Secret: The POETRY READING

Preparing for the Poetry Reading

  • You will read the poem aloud to yourself a few times to get familiar with it and hear the rhythm of words. You might write down the stanzas that you like. This method allows you to focus on the performance verses risking stumbling through the words and loosing the meaning of the poetry.
  • It is important to THINK about the lines and the punctuation.  Sometimes, a poem will not have punctuation but the line ends. This is when you want a “pause”.  If you have read the poem a few times already you will have an understanding of the break and will be able give the right emphasis.  When the poet has used punctuation, read it as the punctuation tells you too. When you see a comma, pause for at least 1 second. A new stanza you will pause longer at about 3 seconds.  
  • Remember not to rush through your reading of The Raven.  This is a NARRATIVE POEM, share the story with emotion. Have fun with this CREEPY tale and take this opportunity to be dramatic.

Setting the Scene

When my son was around 8 years old he took a class and his teacher was amazing!  The class was called Tropical Rainforest. The first day she had created a rainforest tunnel. As we walked into the classroom we were surrounded by vines dangling from the ceiling and tropical palms jutting out from the side walls.  The sounds of the insects and tropical rainforest animals came from all directions while an occasional mist of water fell upon us. I wasn’t “taking” her class but she had me excited about what she was teaching. That is what you want to do, get your children excited about poetry.  

Let’s start with music.  Music has the ability to create the mood for what you are experiencing.  I like this example:

But you don’t have to use music to set the mood.  Sound effects work just as well if not better to bring the listener in to the poem you are reading.

The sounds of rain during a thunderstorm as the fire crackles.

Other Senses

Surround yourself, where you will be reading the poetry, with lighting that will give you the effect you are looking for.  Placing flickering candles or a hurricane lamp by your side as you read can give historical context while  Jack-O-Lanterns work well to create a Halloween mood.

Adding scented candles such as pumpkin, spiced apple, and cinnamon to name a few, are great choices to bring in another element. There are many options with essential oils too.  Some companies have blends like Harvest Moon from Plant Therapy. 

You definitely need your friend, The Raven, which you can buy at the Dollar Store and set them on your bookcase, chair and sofa.    Of course what is a poetry reading with out warm cozy blankets and a cup hot chocolate.

After the Reading

Since you are already wrapped in your cozy blankets and feeling warm and maybe not so fuzzy after reading The Raven, begin asking introspective questions and share those thoughts.

  1. What does the character, the narrator, want or hope for?
  2. What does he fear?  Or does he?
  3. What do you think his voice sounds like?
  4. What were the most interesting parts?
  5. What verses stand out to you?
  6. How do you see the narrator’s life?  Is he young, old, rich, poor?
  7. What parts of the poem can you relate to?

By sharing your own insights of The Raven with your children you are giving them examples without saying “here are examples”.  These questions will help your children analyze the poem. It is important to recognize their statements as being “good”.  You can ask them more questions to help them dig deeper but do not push where this time together has become “a lesson”.  This is not a the time for correction.  You are creating interest in poetry.

Just for Fun

Traditionally in our home school we will create a drawing a day or two after the reading.  It is a good idea for you to practice this and then share how drawing the raven is sooo easy.  

FREE Bookmark With a Quote From Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh bookmark with quote.

We love Winnie the Pooh at our house.  That inspired me to design a free bookmark with a literary quote from Winnie the Pooh. This happens to be one of our favorite quotes from Pooh and you can have it on a book mark.  Click on the link below to print your freebie.

Click to print your free bookmark.

Winnie the Pooh has the best quotes about friendship
A lovely bookmark for you