Is it Time to Shake Up Your Homeschool?

Is it Time to Shake Up Your Homeschool?

Do you feel excitement, gratitude, and happiness for your family’s homeschool life? Or do you feel like something may be missing and would like a change?

I want to share with you some steps you can take to infuse joy into your homeschool.

  • Change Your Homeschool Each Year–Homeschool feels more like an adventure when we change it up each year.  It keeps learning fresh and exciting. A couple of years ago, we went to an enlightening class at Disneyland each Tuesday with our friends. Our minds were expanded to the tremendous value of learning in non-conventional ways.

    Now our core group of friends schedules our activities together for the entire school year. This past school year, we adventured on field trips together each Tuesday, did co-op on Wednesdays, and sailed each Friday. In the fall, we’ll do beach volleyball and marine biology together on Tuesdays,  co-op on Wednesdays and Family Nature School on Thursdays. It is fun to change things up each year.



  • Get Out of Your House–Are you making the most of your flexibility and freedom in homeschooling by playing and learning out in the world? My whole family is so much happier when we have someplace interesting to go. The kids are far more motivated to finish their school work so we can have fun. As aforementioned, we go on a field trip each Tuesday with our friends. It is as much fun for the parents to learn as the kids. We all also look forward to hikes, beach days, park days, and other events with friends. While the kids play, us moms have a great time talking to one another.
  • Evaluate Academics–Which academic work adds value and which does not? What can be trimmed so you can spend more time with meaningful, hands-on learning in the world or just plain fun with family and friends? Here are some questions to ask:
    • For tedious math programs with lots of repetition, can your child do every other problem instead of every single one?
    • Does every subject need to be done daily? For instance, can you alternate Spanish and geography every other day? Can anything be combined? Are there some subjects you can learn organically without a formal curriculum?map-pics-002 I spend a great deal of time reading to my kids at the kitchen table. We keep dry erase maps on the wall (a friend keeps her maps under plexiglass on the kitchen table). As we go on our literary adventures, we cover all sorts of geography. There is no need for a separate geography curriculum with the organic way we learn.
    • Is the computer-based learning program you are using effective?  Make sure you have selected a solid program if they are spending time on that. I have found many of them to be a waste of time with a lot of fluff or not synced up to the child’s level.  If it is not a good use of time, consider cutting it and engage in hands-on learning instead.
    • Is any part of your child’s curriculum making them cry on a regular basis? In most cases, I’d say ditch that book. I know it is hard because you spent money on it. However, it is not creating a love of learning and may be damaging your relationship. Research and find something else he enjoys more. Sometimes there is an undiagnosed learning disability.
    • What can be done in the car en route to field trips and other activities? My kids read a lot in the car. Some kids do their math and others listen to audio 1933339128books while riding.  This is a wonderful time to listen to Story of the World history CD’s.  Evaluate about some ways you can restructure your schedule so you can get our earlier in the day enjoying the world.
    • When you consider what type of learning is most memorable, it is not sitting at the kitchen table or desk doing workbooks.  It is hands-on learning out in the world. It is creating and collaborating. It is hearing from people who are passionate about something share their knowledge with you. Yes, there is great value in spending time in academics. However, what can be cut from your child’s workload for other types of more memorable learning?
  • Be Deliberate About Building Your Homeschool Tribe–During my first year of homeschooling, we were meeting with three different, unrelated groups each week. I realized we weren’t going to have deep relationships if we continued on that path. I asked my kids which group they preferred, and they unanimously said our co-op. So, we began focusing on joining and creating activities with that group. Now, we have the most amazing group of friends. We are out together learning in such incredible ways and from fascinating people out in the world. Check out the blog post I wrote on the topic of building your core group of homeschool friends.
  • Co-op–Joining a co-op was one of the most important things we have done. We were fortunate to have an established co-op in our area with lovely families who share our interests and values. We meet them each Wednesday for a fun-filled day of learning. My kids take classes like art and science because I don’t enjoy doing art projects and science experiments at my house. I’ve taught multiple writing and also Lego classes. It is a joyful day because we all share our talents and passions to create wonderful classes for our kids.  The friends we have made at co-op are the same ones we do life with throughout the week.

    If you don’t have a co-op in your area, then you can get with a few friends and start one. If you don’t know many homeschool families, is there a Facebook page with homeschoolers in your area? You could share your idea of starting a co-op and see who else may be interested.


  • Year-Round School–We school year-round, and here are some reasons why:
    • We don’t have to spend several weeks each September relearning what we already learned. In my view, that is a waste of time, and I’d rather use that time doing other things.  We use a lighter schedule during the summer and primarily keep up with math, reading, and writing.
    • Frankly, I don’t enjoy being out as much during the summer when places are hot and crowded. During the school year, the weather is nicer, parking is abundant and our favorite places often empty.
    • My kids still keep some type of structure for those relaxed summer days. I hear some parents talk about their kids’ bickering during the summer. We don’t see that too much at our house.
    • We still take off certain weeks of summer for camps, vacations, etc.
    • Year-round schooling takes pressure off of me during the school year to really enjoy all the opportunities available to us year-round. Image result for let this messy house image
  • Relax Your Housecleaning Standards–Are you meticulous with your house? Do you spend a lot of time tidying and cleaning? Do you jump on your kids often when the house is not looking up to your high standard? In my opinion, you can relax. I don’t think too many people will look back on the years with their kids and be glad they spent so much time cleaning and being uptight with them. Rather, they will look back at their laughter and memories. I say a messy house is a sign of living life to the fullest.

You know the saying: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  I have found that most of us homeschool mamas are much happier when we are outside of our house learning together in the world with our kids and friends. It makes us such a joyful, adventurous, and grateful group of families.

How do you add joy to your homeschool? Please let us know in the comments below.

You may also be interested in:

Give Your Kids a World-Class Math Education for Free

Homeschooled Teddy Roosevelt Never Sat in a Classroom Until Harvard

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read and Love Books

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

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Give Your Kids a World-Class Math Education for Free

Give Your Kids a World-Class Math Education for Free

Did you know you can give your kids a world-class math education without purchasing any curriculum? With the abundance of outstanding teachers and materials on the internet making their content free, you do not need to spend a dime.  Here is a list of some of my favorite free math programs:

  • Bedtime Math–Bedtime Math is a great way to bring math to life.  The stories are current, entertaining and appropriate for all ages to enjoy. It is fun to do with your whole family or even friends. Their mission is to help kids love numbers so they can handle the math in real life. One of the outcomes I like is the revelation that people can correctly solve the same math problem in different ways. When we look at the math puzzle of the day, we often see each kid coming up with the same answer but solving it differently.  You can sign up to receive the daily math challenge delivered to your email. Image result for free math images
  • Khan Academy–With math exercises stretching from basic arithmetic through advanced calculus and a focus on personalized learning, Khan Academy is a valuable resource. Some homeschool families use it as their sole or primary math curriculum.
  • Big Brainz–BigBrainz is the most fun way I found for my kids to practice their math facts. By math facts, I am referring to the memorization of the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables. My kids are always excited to play it and does not feel like work but a video game. The beauty is that is a solid math facts program. Enjoy! Image result for free math images
  • XtraMath–This is another popular math website to help kids master addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. “Recalling math facts easily and quickly frees up mental resources for more complex problem solving.”  While not as enjoyable as BigBrainz, it is an another way to reinforce  knowledge. It takes only a few minutes each day and you, the parent, will receive progress reports in email and can access more detailed reports online.  We restart the cycle through XtraMath about every 3 months to ensure the kids are totally fluent with math facts. They get faster each cycle.  Now, my 9-year old daughter can achieve mastery in all four operations in about 2 weeks. If your kid is really struggling, then I suggest you modify his program giving him more time for each problem.  Image result for free math images
  • Prodigy–Prodigy Math is like a video game with a math curriculum built into it. It is adaptive to where your kids are, and you can even set up math assessments. My kids are always eager to play Prodigy. All math content and reporting access is free. Prodigy makes money if you choose to upgrade for extra game content like a character’s new hairstyle.
  • Printable Math Fact Triangle Worksheets–Fact families are sets of three numbers Image result for free image math fact trianglethat are related. For instance, multiplication and division triangles help develop the understanding of the relationship between multiplication and division. You can also use fact family triangles for addition and subtraction. This YouTube clip talks about fact triangles.
  • Living Books–The Sir Cumference series, The Number Devil, and The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Product DetailsAdventures have been among our favorites.  Of course, my kids also love The Life of Fred series. Living math books are a FUN and memorable way to teach and reinforce math skills. You may be able to find some or  all of these at your library.


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Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read and Love Books

Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read and Love Books

Do you want to teach your child to read? Whether you have a pre-schooler ready to learn or a struggling kindergartener or first grader, you will find some helpful ideas in this post.

I  taught each of my kids to read. Being part of this process has been one of my greatest joys as a mother. I want to share with you what worked for our family in developing advanced readers who love books!

Spending just $13 on Amazon and using a library card, your child can become a book-devouring bibliophile! 

I taught my oldest to read before he entered public kindergarten. His early reading ability propelled us into homeschooling. While in kindergarten, he was reading at a 5th-grade level and had already read five Harry Potter novels while most of his classmates were learning very basic reading skills. The school did not offer adequate challenge so I pulled him out March of that year. I’m so grateful we made the decision to homeschool.

Different kids are developmentally ready to learn to read at different ages. Some kids are ready to learn at 3-years old while others are not developmentally ready until several years later. One of my kids was ready to learn at the age of three, another at 4 and the other at 5 1/2. In education superpower, Finland, kids don’t begin formal schooling until the age of 7.

  1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons–This book was the best $13 I have ever spent on my children’s education. Additionally, I feel so strongly about its effectiveness that it is the only Amazon review I have ever written. The publisher says: “Is your child halfway through first grade and still unable to read? Is your preschooler bored with coloring and ready for reading?” 0671631985
    • It is entirely scripted and requires no prep on your part.
    • When your child finishes, s/he will be reading on a 1st-2nd-grade level.
    • You may consider using an incentive like a chocolate chip for each lesson completed or a prize after every 25 lessons.
    • After completing this book, we never did another phonics lesson again but went straight to reading books. We also never studied sight words.
    • Anyone I know who has stuck with this book has a very advanced reader who also loves books.
    • I feel so strongly about this effectiveness of this book. My recommendation is to start with this book and see if it is a good fit. If not, try another method. Several more are outlined below.
  2. Explode the Code–While Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the most 0838814603brilliant book for my older 2 kids, it was not a good fit for my youngest. Additionally, she was not developmentally ready to start learning to read until age 5. One of the beauties of homeschooling is one size does not fit all, and we can customize to each child.  Explode the Code was a better fit for her. The phonics-based workbooks offer a lot of practice and a nice variety of exercises.
    • No prep required on your part.
    • An online version is available. It has received mixed reviews. I liked the workbooks.
  3. BOB Books–These book box sets for are helpful for early and emergent readers. Each 0439845009book is small so builds confidence. “With little books, come big success.” I used these as a supplement for my youngest with Explode the Code. Some families use BOB Books as a stand-alone reading curriculum.
    • No prep required on your part.
    • Even as a beginner reader, kids are made to feel they CAN read a book.
  4. Dr. Seuss Beginner Books–We love these books! They are so whimsical and fun to 0394800257read. The illustrations are engaging. These are absolutely perfect after you complete Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons or made progress with Explode the Code or Bob Books. There are so many wonderful titles in this series of Beginner Books. We enjoy them all! Some of our favorites include Robert the Rose Horse,  Wacky WednesdayGo, Dog Go, and Put Me in the Zoo.
  5. Sound Box Books–This is another effective and enjoyable series at about the same reading level as Dr. Seuss Beginner Books.  Dr. Seuss Beginner Books and Sound Box Books are wonderful examples of early reader books, and your library may carry them or other series you find useful. I listed these two because I have found them to be the best.
  6. Read Aloud–One hallmark of our family is the precious time we spend together as I 014312160Xread aloud to my kids. For several years, I have been reading to them while they have their meals and snacks (except when Daddy or guests join us). Jim Trelease wrote a wonderful book about the many benefits of reading aloud.  I believe the investment of time I have spent in reading aloud high-quality books on a wide variety of topics has been one of the most important parts of my children’s education and our family bonding. Here is a list of some of our most beloved read-aloud books.
  7. Book strewing–Strew appealing books throughout your house making it easy for your kids to pick them up and peruse or read them!
  8. Frequent Library Visits–We typically visit 2-3 different libraries per week. Each kid
    My van full of library books after a visit to the library.

    has his own sturdy bag to fill up. When they were younger, we brought in a beach cart and filled it up.  We get almost all of our books at the library. We are such ravenous readers that it is impractical to purchase books. We do not have enough space in our house to retain them all.

  9. Online Learning–While online programs like Reading Eggs and ABC Mouse are popular with many families, I never felt them nearly as effective as sitting down one-on-one using the methods described above. I am not opposed to web-based learning. I tried both of these web-based reading programs and did not find them very beneficial. Reading Bear is a free, phonics-based program you may want to check out.
  10. Read, read, read!–The best way to foster a love for reading and develop a competent reader is to read, read, read! Read aloud to your kids. Have them read to you often during the early years. Create opportunities for them to read quietly. Ensure you have an enticing selection of books. Discuss your books.

Continue reading “Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read and Love Books”

My Favorite K-6 Math Curricula and Supplements

My Favorite K-6 Math Curricula and Supplements

Are you looking for some fresh math ideas or simply a how-to for your K-6 homeschooled student? In this post, you will find a wide variety of math resources that I love including some that are FREE! We use curriculum but also sprinkle in living books, free web-based programs and more.

A wise teacher once told me that you should select math programs from a few different sources. This way the student will see math from different angles. So, that is the way I have built the math component of our homeschool.

My 10-year old son and 9-year old daughter have taken standardized tests as a gauge to how they are performing against their peers from public schools around the country. They attained the highest level of math performance on those tests.  I was proud of this because I do not spend one-second teaching to that test. I just provided them what I believe to be a well-rounded math education. I also have a 6-year-old daughter.

Here is our program:

  • Horizons Math–This visually-appealing spiral math program is our core curriculum. We have almost completed three years of Horizons Math. It offers ample practice and repetition but is done in much smaller bites than some of the more tedious math programs I’ve used and seen. There is a lot of variety in the lessons as well as games and puzzles. I also like it because the kids can teach themselves with the tutorials provided in the workbook. While I don’t present any formal lessons, I do use the teacher’s manual to grade their work. Horizons Math 5 Student Books 1 & 2   - Overall, this is the most pleasant and well-rounded of any of the curriculum we have used. My only complaint is that when you start a new year the first 25-45 lessons are too easy. I assume this is because many people take off the summer and the kids need to review. We are year-round schoolers and don’t need that review time. So, I just have my kids double up on lessons until they become more challenging. Typically, they do one lesson per day.
  • Singapore Math–Singapore Math refers to the teaching method and curriculum used in Singapore. This nation consistently ranks at the top of international assessments of student achievement in math. The framework emphasizes mastery of concepts through dynamic problem solving.  We use the workbooks but not the textbooks.B003AY7NH6The textbooks are where your students will find the teaching. My kids can pretty much figure out what needs to be done without the textbook. They have seen some of the concepts already in Horizons but Singapore presents it in a different way. However, I have the teacher manual to grade their work and help them with any questions they have. It is not a spiral-based math program. It is for this reason that I also use Horizons. I feel the practice and repetition of prior concepts are important. Typically, my kids do one page per day.
  • Khan Academy— Khan Academy is FREE and offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace. Typically, my kids’ target is a 3% increase to their achievement level per day.
  • XtraMath— XtraMath is FREE and teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. While it is not flashy or particularly fun, the focus is on speed and accuracy. No parental involvement is required.  In my opinion, mastering math facts is so important, and I would not even attempt long division without being completely fluent in all the math facts. You can slow down the speed of the quizzing if it is too difficult for your child at first. We cycle through XtraMath every 3-5 months to ensure my kids can quickly recall the math facts freeing up mental resources for higher level operations. This takes about ten minutes each session.

Continue reading “My Favorite K-6 Math Curricula and Supplements”

Teaching with Legos to Develop 21st-Century Skills: Lego Writing Club

Teaching with Legos to Develop 21st-Century Skills: Lego Writing Club

I love to incorporate Legos into our learning!!! I have created and taught three Lego classes for our co-op. This post, the first in a series about teaching with Legos, will be about the Lego Writing Club.

 Kids delight in writing more when they have an audience of their peers and not just their parents or teacher.

Lego Writing Club incorporates the following 21st-century skills: 1) Collaboration and teamwork; 2) Oral and written communication; 3) Creativity and imagination; 4) Flexibility and adaptabilty; and 5) Technology literacy.

An excellent selection of minifigs is very helpful in generating imaginative stories. Lego Education developed two superb minifigure sets that were huge hits with my classes. LEGO Education’s Fairytale and Historic Minfigures Set as well as the Community Workers Set are both fantastic for this class!

B0085Y3GCW                                          B001AZ7YVM

Here are some more details about the flow of the class:

  • All students are addressed as authors or writers. Each week we begin the class with  one or two “Featured Authors of the Week” reading their story.

All students are addressed as authors or writers.

  • I teach a brief grammar lesson that the authors incorporate into their writing. For instance, I taught a couple of weeks over the proper use of quotation marks in writing dialogue. I developed a cumulative checklist, similar to the IEW concept, that they used each week to incorporate the writing skills into their stories.
  • I give the class a very open-ended theme for the build, such as ocean or winter, and break them up into teams. They collaborate and agree on a setting, conflict and main characters before touching any Legos.  Sometimes they build three different scenes for the beginning, middle and end.
  • After the builds are completed, I take pictures of each one. Next, I  upload the pictures to our free class website on MeWe and also include the details of their setting, conflict and main characters. Any class website or page should work.
  • The authors write a story at home based on their build and upload it on MeWe. Parents assist in the revision process. It is interesting to see how the stories within each team differ once they go home and add their own unique twist. My kids loved reading their peers’ stories each week on MeWe. Peer feedback is encouraged.

I hope you found this post useful and can use it in your co-op, classroom or with a group of friends. Stay tuned for Part Two of this Teaching with Legos series.

Here are some other posts you may enjoy:

Fun Ways to Teach Writing Without Buying a Curriculum

Making Writing Enjoyable

Teaching Public Speaking with Legos

How We Homeschool 4th & 5th Grade

Find out how my kids learned to type using a fun and free program:

Fun and Free Typing Program

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!


Free and Fun Spelling Website

Are you looking for a FREE, quality spelling website that is completely hands-off for Mom and Dad for your spelling curriculum?

My kids have thoroughly enjoyed I love it because they complete their spelling totally independent of me. There is never any grumbling when they go to do their spelling.  Each lesson offers a wide variety of ways to practice the spelling list including Hang A Bot, Spelling Bee, Word Jumble and Word Search. Their absolute favorite is Hang A Bot! My kids work on two short, engaging and to-the-point activities per school day. The free website also offers vocabulary-building exercises.

Additionally, a premium version is offered.   We find, however, the free version works great for us. The premium version does offer a free novel studies section for a variety of very popular books.

My daughter uses a Hewlett-Packard Chromebook that we purchased from Amazon for only $160  that works splendidly for her school work. At 11.6 inches, it is the perfect weight and size for her hands. She uses it for spelling, IXL, writing essays, research, YouTube, email and more.


Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on adding more structure to your schedule to allow more time for experiential learning, you may be interested in:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part One

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part Two


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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part Two

Are you looking to have more fun with your kids and less time nagging them to do their work? Would you like to spend more time on field trips, engaging classes,  and exploration?If your answer is  yes, this post may be helpful for you.

You can have plenty of time for experiential learning with discipline and a good structure in place. We were out 3 full days/week last school year and plan to do the same again this year. Here is a sample of what our schedule looks like:

 Days We are Out

On the three days we are out, the kids have a lighter academic schedule and need to focus on their core work including math, writing composition and reading. As I am buzzing around trying to get us all packed up for the day, I don’t put anything on the schedule that requires my involvement. Required science/history reading takes place for 25 minutes in the car en route to our destination. They need to finish all math before we leave for the day, or I know they will be too tired when we return. Some things like instrument practice work out just fine to do when we get back.

Full Academic Workload Days

On the two days we are home, we do full workloads as you can see looking at Monday and Thursday. They schedule their day how they want. My only requirement is that math comes first. On top of that, anything that requires my involvement, like editing an essay, must also occur in the morning. I want to be done with my part before lunch. Due to homeschool efficiency, we still are usually completely done with everything before the conventionally-schooled kids get out of school around 2:30 PM.

Dry Erase Sleeves and Spreadsheets


We love these dry erase sleeves that we purchased on Amazon about a year ago. The kids simply use a dry erase marker to check off what they have completed for the day. The $8 we spent on the sleeves were a good investment, and they enjoy using them. Additionally, the kids learned how to use Google Sheets (similar to Excel) by creating their checklists.

Science and History

You don’t see it on the schedule because we do it primarily through living books during read aloud and quiet time, co-op and experiential learning.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this series.

Find Part One of this series by clicking on the link below:

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning: Part 1

Here were our curriculum choices last school year:

An Example of an Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Curriculum

For ideas on how to design your own writing curriculum:

Designing Your Own Writing Curriculum

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!