The secret to homeschool success!

Want to know a secret? Sure you do!  Drum roll pease…

Homeschooling success comes from setting just one goal per child per year!

Yes, that’s it! 

At present, I am in the middle of personally designing curriculums for many of my homeschool, coaching clients.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the umpteen choices you are contemplating right now?

Dare I say, you may even be rethinking homeschooling altogether, or how many courses you can outsource or hand-off. Right??

The thing is, trying to be all things to all your children, for all subjects, is crazy busy and overwhelming!  It just is!

That is why, long ago I retrained myself to think small.

Yes, to think, one goal, each year, per child. 

Consequentially, if you simply reflect on the past school year accomplishments you will notice a subject or skill, that your child needs help with to feel real success.

Does this mean you forget the rest of the subjects?

NO! The other subjects are subordinate to the one big goal. 

You have to first and foremost respect the dignity of each unique child. 

Each child has a unique set of strengths and challenges. To foster these, by making them the one goal for the year, lays the foundation to real sustained growth. There is plenty of help to do this too!

Here’s an example:

My daughter was nearing nine and was struggling with reading.  She had very real, vision issues that made reading laborious and exhaustive.  Naturally, she had strong resistance to her reading lessons that year. Additionally, she had (still has) a vivid imagination. Quite frankly, the simple Dick and Jane type of readers did not hold her interest. The stories she had created in her head, through her imagination, were far more captivating.

The truth is that real success in reading, real enjoyment in reading, lays the foundation for everything else.

That year, I planned her curriculum with one goal; have her feel real success with reading beginner chapter books.  Every other subject played second fiddle to this.  This subject took priority in everything I choose for her for that year!

I mean everything!

Nothing was added to her curriculum that would curtail her ultimate goal, reading success.

To illustrate; we kept math work to mainly hands-on fun we did no laborious workbooks. I had no worries here, because I knew math skills would come in time. Indeed, at the right time for her to truly master them. Science was accomplished family-style, with weekly read aloud, and fun experiments with her siblings.

I had on hand many games and puzzles to help her strengthen her eye muscles for focusing. We used the library often in search of topics she loved for read aloud time and reading practice.

Fast forward 15+ years to today.  She just graduated Christendom College this May with honors, and get this, she is pursuing a career in copyediting! 

Really awesome, right!!

I have taught this methodology and practice to hundreds of families too!  It works and sets the stage for your child to feel a real sense of success.

I designed some handy reflection worksheets for this process in my popular FREE Planning Guide, call Get Ready.  Did you get your copy?

Catholic Homeschool mom

Share in the comments below, what has been the cornerstone of your homeschool journey.

3 Tips to Overcome the End of Year Struggle

The struggle is REAL.

Do you ever feel as though you are not doing enough for your homeschooled kiddos?

Or you are not sure if what you are currently doing is the right thing? 

Do you ask yourself, “Am I ruining my kids for life?  Am I setting them up for failure?”

This time of year, which I call “the struggle is real” is rife with second guessing, dwelling on what never got done this year or what still needs to be done. Couple that with summer vacation and end of the school year fast approaching  and you have a recipe for disappointment and overwhelm.

homeschool mom struggle

Dear homeschool mom, this would happen to me every single year, both in the early days as well as my veteran homeschool days.

Why?

We all take our role as “Parent as Primary Teacher” very seriously.

We constantly give ourselves a non-stop performance review in our heads.  In other words, we let this really critical boss tell us we are not doing enough, that we could be doing more and that the kids would be better off in a different situation.

YES, even when our hearts are saying homeschooling is the best education for our precious kiddos!

Here are three tips I use to get that pesky, finger-pointing boss out of my head and begin to follow my heart!

Love always wins.

Jesus the source of LOVE. Replace that critical self-made boss immediately with the image of our Lord Jesus.  Visualize Him, and most importantly stop whatever you are doing and be present in His Love. If you can, go to Adoration, even for a quick visit. It literally changes everything.

I could not always get to daily Mass or Adoration when my children were little, so I made a spiritual communion, a desire in my heart to be one with Him.  Vinny Flynn in his book 7 Secrets of the Eucharist , in his last chapter, talks so beautifully about this tremendous gift, spiritual communion, Jesus is always available!

Make a List.

Writing things down always brings clarity. Period, end of sentence.  I know that it is so tempting to just let those self-defeating thoughts roll around in your head. Better yet it is super tempting to call a friend and complain. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to vent your frustrations to get the struggle out of your head. BUT writing down all those thoughts truly helps to put clarity into the big picture.

If you think you did not do enough this year, write down what you think you can reasonably finish in these last few weeks. It instantly makes you get outside your head and feeling productive. Forget the past, it is done and over with. Just move forward. Make a list.

Plan a celebration.

You are amazing and serve your family with your whole heart and soul. Please remember that!!

There is no doubt that even though you may feel your homeschooling came up short, there is without a doubt some wins!  Did one of your kids learn to read? Was there a sacrament received by one of your children this year? Did you learn more about one of your children’s interests/strengths?

Celebrate the good stuff that happened this year. There is sooooo much more to homeschooling than accomplishing the academic achievements.  It truly is about forming the people in our care in an environment of love and truth.  That is something to really celebrate!

Now it’s your turn, what do you do at the end of school year to finish up on the upswing?

Please comment and share, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Top 3 Tips: Homeschooling when sickness hits!

I bet you can relate to this scene!

You are nursing full time to the sick kiddos in your home, so you get derailed from teaching the kids not sick. Then when the sick ones get better, the healthy ones get sick! This can go on for several weeks, one sick kiddo at a time!

Then you get sick.

What can a homeschool mom do?

You could just be sick and skip school, right?

“Plug-in” the kids with a few documentaries and viola it counts as a school day, right? BUT you have already missed so much time with them…

Or you could do these TOP 3 easy things that actually still get school work done while you are in survival mode.

Over the past 25 years homeschooling my seven kiddos, there were plenty of times that I actually never got sick, call it mom-immunity!! But there were also plenty of times that I too got whatever was running through my family!

I do not live near any of my close relatives and most family is about two hours away. I had to learn early on how to manage without much help!

They say necessity is the mother of invention and I truly believe that! More importantly, I do believe that God’s grace is sufficient. All too often I was way too hard on myself and expected way too much!

Having mom or the family sick brings with it amble opportunities to really focus on the overall important things of life.

Tip #1: Mandatory Quiet time

This tip is especially helpful when you have kiddos all under the age of 8. During this time of my life, I would gather every, single one of us in my bedroom and close the door. Heck, I got my cold from them so we would just plop on my bed in one, giant, sick bundle.

My family LOVES to color and this really was a salvation. I would always keep on hand imaginative, coloring books such as the ones from Dover Publications. This publisher is a fantastic resource because of the enormous wealth of coloring book choices with excellent and informative illustrations. To make it count as homeschooling, I chose coloring books correlated with our current school work in history, science or literature! The company offers free samples, you can just download now. They often have free shipping too. My best bets are the history coloring books, or the nature coloring books, something for everyone at different ages!

Tip #2: Reading aloud

Having sickness in the house, whether it is just the kiddos or includes mom, is the perfect opportunity to have read aloud time take over most of the homeschooling day. Count your sickness as a blessing to get you started in one of the most profound experiences in your child’s development, reading to you or listening to others read aloud! There are so many benefits to reading aloud, from the practical, such as language development, knowledge gained and shared, literacy skills, brain development to the spiritual and so much more!

I did a post: How to Make Read Aloud Time Work, with helpful tips and book recommendations. Read together from the couch or bed! Pick important stories too, that infuse virtues into your homeschool! Love this quote…

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

GK Chesterton

I have plenty of book reviews here on the BLOG. And I keep adding more weekly! These are book reviews culled from my 25 years of homeschooling and running our family business choosing the best books!

Tip #3: Play with Games and Toys

Yes, I did say play with games and toys and I mean for it to count as a homeschool day! However, not just any games or toys. I do not mean computer games. There are plenty of them, and free ones too BUT when you are sick or the kids are sick, it is so easy to lose track of time. Even if you set a timer for the kids to limit computer time, survival mode is not the time to monitor their computer usage. The result of which would only cause you to spend time trying to undo the damage of brain fatigue with crabby kids!

kids with tangram

It is really important to have on hand games and toys that actually teach important skills, such as spatial relationships, math skills, reasoning, color, matching, sequencing, timelines, communications, creativity, etc. Do you see where I am going with this? No babysitting by using TV and the computer!

Here is a handy list of my best games and toys that count for homeschooling:

  • Tangrams or Pattern Blocks- spatial relations, color recognition, patterning
  • Lacing and Tracing Cards – fine motor skills
  • Puppets – ones they make from a kit or animal and fairy tale figures (for storytelling)
  • Beading and laces – for patterns, colors, sequencing
  • Double-sided Geoboards – basic geometry of squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons and symmetry
  • Puzzles – letter recognition, spatial relations
  • Scrabble or Hangman – spelling practice
  • Two-sided counters – practice math facts

BONUS Tip – for your older kiddos

Chances are the older kiddos can manage most of their assigned work themselves for a few days, with no great loss. They most certainly should be able to read all assigned work. They can write down all their questions, or jot the pages from their workbooks that gave them trouble while you were down and out. I often found that without relying on my constant presence they could do a heck more than they realize. All too often they know how to do just the minimum which includes asking mom for the answers. Here is their chance to stretch themselves and you.

Give the big kiddos the chance to shine and be the family hero by asking them to teach their younger sibling a subject, be it math or spelling or something they love and excel in. Teaching younger siblings reinforces already learned concepts and skills with the added benefit that the repetition reinforces and strengthens it.

Be gentle with yourself! Rest, and get better homeschool mom!

What are your survival mode tips? Please comment below! The best tips come from those of us in the trenches!!!

Ready, Set, Go, Homeschool Mom!

I love this saying as it evokes a clear image for me!  It is the image of a runner at the starting line of a race. They have been preparing for months to run this race.  The runner is eager to begin and give their very best effort to run the race.

catholic homeschool mom

In my mind, I can see that this runner is different. She does not run for personal gain but for a higher reward.  This reward is priceless. This reward is satisfying on such a deep level that the runner draws strength, her energy and perseverance from the mere thought of obtaining it.

What does this have to do with homeschooling?

I see the runner as a mom who homeschools her children.

I work best visualizing images, making movies in my head of the life I want to lead. Being fed on a steady diet of old fashioned black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s, I was drawn to the messages told in a story. There was always the hero and his journey towards some good for himself or humanity. I find that the best books I cherish have strong hero stories!

It is no wonder that I was drawn to the ultimate story, the very best hero tale, when I was invited back home to the faith of my birth. This story is the one our Lord has told through His Word and through his Apostles and Saints, handed down through the ages.

This ultimate story is the center of my family’s homeschool journey.  It is the energy my family drawns upon to direct each day. 

It is all that matters in the end. 

Catholic Homeschool mom

A little while ago I wrote a guide called, Get Ready. This handy little guide I developed as a starting point for anyone who wants to begin their family journey towards an authentic and doable Catholic homeschool.  In it, I introduced the PRRR method, (a silly acronym, I know). Firstly you start with Prayer, then you go through the next steps of Read, Research, and Reflect. In addition, there are helpful suggestions and worksheets to guide you through this EASY process.

“Get Set, Go!”

Above all, what I learned after 25 years of homeschooling and consulting, is that you “Set” your life first, then layer in school. I know that seems unfamiliar and maybe even confusing at first, but think about it for a minute. The only way to find balance, to have enough time for all your roles, as wife, mom, and teacher is to SET LIFE and fit in school.

To do otherwise is a certain recipe for overwhelm.

Consider this…would you buy a car without thinking of who is going to drive it and be a passenger in it?  Would you make dinner by never looking at the ingredients you are adding to the dinner, let alone open the fridge?

In other words, when you choose to homeschool, to do something extraordinary, you have the opportunity to personalize and tailor the education of each and every child in your family.

However, can you possibly teach so many different levels with so many different personalities and learning styles?

It is possible! I have personally witnessed many, many families do this. Ordinary people with an extraordinary desire to challenge the status quo of education. You have already begun, when you decided to take on the primary role of educator.

How? You are a parent.

catholic homeschool mom

Two powerful passages come to mind that speak volumes:

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. (CCC 2223)

The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies. (CCC 2224)

Relax, over the next few weeks I will be introducing practical techniques that help you SET YOUR LIFE.

So, go ahead and spend time first in getting to know what is in your fridge BEFORE you make dinner….spend time this week getting to really know your kids interests and talents.

Comment below what you “found in your fridge”…