Homeschool Theme Days: Celebrating Dr. Seuss

homeschool theme days | celebrating Dr. Seuss | Dr Seuss' Birthday

My kids love a party, and it doesn’t take much to qualify as a party. Wacky Hair Day, Mismatched Socks Day—just add “Day” to the end of anything and it’s a self-made party. I’m not always in the mood to plan a party, but I know this can be a huge mood-changer for our homeschool. And I keep telling myself, it really doesn’t take much to get them excited. I still hear about our Dr. Seuss Celebration I threw together five years ago (the morning of, no prep, and super pregnant). I haven’t celebrated Dr. Seuss since, but I’m thinking it’s time to revisit some of these fun memory-makers. So as part of my planning, I’ll be blogging periodically about some Homeschool Theme Day ideas that I’m collecting on Pinterest.

Homeschool Theme Days:

Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (March 2)

Idea #1: Read together! There are so many fun Dr. Seuss titles. Pick your favorites, and let them pick their favorites. If you have older kids, have them pick a story to read to a younger sibling or complete a fun Dr. Seuss reading challenge with your assigned reading for the day.

Incorporating Drawing into Learning

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into learning

When I first started homeschooling my kids, I began with the homeschool style I identified with best (classical). It wasn’t a bad start. At five years old, my son had not shown a clear learning style yet, and I didn’t know his strengths or weaknesses. I had to start with what I did know. But over the years, I’ve shifted my style slightly. We are still predominantly classical, but it’s not easy to have a hard-core classical, literature-rich homeschool with all the ADHD we have going on!

I’m learning that the key to making our homeschool method work well is working within my kids’ learning styles and strengths, adding activities that they enjoy or that keep them active. For instance, my son LOVES to draw, so I’m incorporating drawing into more of his homeschool. Drawing is more than just art. For both of my kids, drawing focuses their attention on the details that their active minds and bodies would otherwise not notice. Drawing slows my ADHD kiddos down enough to catch the details.

Because I’ve already mentioned how we’ve been using some drawing and sketching to help my daughter through some of her dyslexia struggles, I wanted to let you behind the scenes to see how my 5th grade son has been incorporating drawing into his subjects.

Incorporating Drawing into Science

We are putting together our own science curriculum this year with an encyclopedia we love and some experiment kits. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been covering sound, which had him learning about the ear and how it works. The encyclopedia we use had a cool diagram. While I knew I could find some free worksheet somewhere for him to label, I also knew—my son LOVES to draw.

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into science

So I had him draw the ear and label it. Honestly, I wasn’t positive how this would turn out when I first assigned it, and my son’s reaction was not instant enthusiasm. But once he started this project, he was eagerly asking for more. And he did an awesome job! Also, the attention to detail that the drawing required helped him to notice more than simply labeling an ear would have.

Okay, so this won’t work for just any boy. But because drawing is his strength, incorporating drawing in this way was a serious win for us.

Incorporating Drawing into Geography

There’s lots out there about drawing maps from scratch as a way to learn geography, but because he was already drawing an ear I wanted to change it up a bit. My mom got us a light table for Christmas, and it has been a huge hit. We use it for everything, except school. I hadn’t tried that yet. So when I suggested he used the light table to trace his map of ancient Phoenicia, he was stoked!

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into geography

Have you heard how ADHD kids can hyper-focus and have a rough time breaking away from something they enjoy? Yes, my son was so tuned into this assignment that he finished the entire week’s map assignment in a single day (we didn’t get math or language finished, but you know— you win some, you lose some). Hyper-focused is understating it.

The next week, when I gave him his new map, he immediately asked if he could use the light table again. Of course, I defined some terms of use this time.

Incorporating Drawing into Writing

My son loves writing as much as he loves drawing. In his spare time, my son is writing novels. But he doesn’t just love to write. He loves to draw and illustrate. If I give him a writing assignment, he’s on board. And if I ask him to illustrate his paper, draw a comic strip, or create a map for the setting of the story—he’s ecstatic!

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into writing

incorporating drawing | story writing | story settings

It’s hard to say if incorporating drawing into our homeschool is such a hit strictly because of their personalities or if it’s successful because it focuses some of that energy into a kinesthetic activity that helps them to slow down and pay attention to those tedious details. I honestly don’t care why or how it’s working, only that it is! And while I know not everyone’s kids love drawing in the same way my kids do, I’d love to encourage you to incorporate your child’s strengths (whatever they are) into your homeschool (whatever your homeschool style may be).

It’s not just about classical vs. delight-directed, it’s about using everything to our kid’s learning advantage.

Motivating YOU when your child is unmotivated

homeschool moms | encouragement | motivation

Nothing drains the energy out of a day like a sulky child. No matter how optimistic I feel at the start of the day, no matter how much coffee I consume, no matter how many Scriptures I quote to myself—pouty, sulky, unmotivated kids are rough to homeschool. So, how do I keep a good attitude? How do I stay motivated to homeschool when my kids are not? There’s no easy answer, but I try to keep 3 things in mind when I’m tempted to throw in the towel. 

It’s not my fault. 

This is such an easy trap to fall into. Maybe I haven’t made school enjoyable enough. Maybe I have the wrong curriculum. Maybe I’m teaching this wrong. Maybe I’m a terrible teacher. Maybe I’m failing at this. It’s such a vicious trail of defeat and lies. But it’s so easy to assume it’s my role to make everyone happy and my fault if they aren’t. It is my job to put learning materials and opportunities in front of them. And I do try very hard to match their learning styles and make school “fun.” But in the end, whether or not they enjoy it is their choice, not my fault. Some days, my kids are just bound and determined to not enjoy anything. I don’t prefer it that way, but their choice does not make me the “mean mom.” It doesn’t make me a failure. It just makes me the mom of a bunch of unmotivated kids having a bad day.

It is not my responsibility to keep them happy. 

It’s my responsibility to keep them healthy, to protect them, to provide learning opportunities for them. But to keep them in a constant state of happiness and contentment is not my responsibility. I fight this constantly. We can wear ourselves out looking for the next best thing, feeling as though it is our responsibility to make them love every moment of their education. I’m so guilty of this! And I have to reign myself back after some time on Pinterest and say, “You know, it’s okay that we haven’t used all of these super cool Lego Learning ideas. And it’s okay that I don’t have a cool acronym and song for everything we memorize.” My responsibility is to teach; it is their responsibility to learn. I have to consciously cast that back onto them: “I’m sorry you feel that way. That must be miserable. I would much prefer that we choose to do things this way, but I can’t be apart of your choice to….” Bottom line, my kids can choose to love learning (and I do try hard to encourage that), or they can choose to hate it all. But in the end, it is their choice. My favorite line in these moments: “If it were me, I’d prefer to enjoy learning. But if you’d rather be miserable, I’ll let you.” Most of the time, after they’ve calmed down those BIG feelings of theirs, they decide they’d rather enjoy it with me.

It is my choice.

Just like my child has a choice about his or her attitude, I have a choice about mine too. It is not my child’s fault if I join his pity party. It stinks when kids are unmotivated or in a bad mood. All the negativity can be very draining, which is why it is ultra-important (and not a bit selfish) to do some self-care. 

  • Step away (even if it’s to the bathroom). I make a point to let my kids know that I need a time-out to control my attitude and reactions. It teaches them, by example, that this is the correct way to handle those BIG FEELINGS, and it teaches them to respect others feelings. I also let them know the consequences. “I may become a Momster, and I don’t want to act that way. So I’m taking a time out.” Some times, they still don’t get the point, and I have to be a little more specific: “I feel like I’m going to either cry or scream, and I don’t want to do either. So I need you to be completely quiet all the way home.” (And unfortunately, they know I mean it. Because, yeah, I’ve done both.)
  • Supply your time-out space with what you need to regroup—an inspiring devotional, some battle verses, a cup of coffee, some chocolate, whatever it takes! I have a playlist of “Battle Songs” that I use for times when my emotions need to be redirected. I keep my Paul David Tripp devotional handy. And yes, there are times I take chocolate with me.
  • Do something shocking. Think of a car that has a dead battery. It doesn’t need a gentle nudge; it needs a giant shock! Sometimes my day needs a shock, too. Mondays tend to be our horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days. To shock our week into action, I’m trying a couple of different things: (1). taking school to a different location or (2). canceling our normal schedule to do a big learning project that we’ve been meaning to get to. Other times we’ve gone on a nature hike, watched educational movies, or taken an impromptu field trip. Make the kids do their schoolwork under the table, in a tree, or in a pillow fort. SHOCK THEM! And maybe even shock yourself. Most of the time, the thing I feel least like doing (leaving the house) is absolutely the thing we need most.

In the end, for my kids and myself, it’s a heart issue. And these days take lots of prayer—for my kids, with my kids, over my kids. I have my kids pray for me. And then we inch forward, in the Lord’s strength and sufficient grace. Because most days, when I’m unmotivated and losing momentum, it’s because I’m doing it in my own strength. I’m not enough for this job, even on a good day. But He is. Thank God, He is!

Motivating Your Child with Anxiety

child with anxiety | homeschooling ADHD | homeschooling dyslexia | motivation

Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned our top motivation-killers at my house: Big Emotions and creativity. Today, I’m revealing the last of our big three: anxiety. I’m not sure if the anxiety at our house is rooted in the ADHD or the dyslexia or something else entirely, but anxiety has been a real motivation-killer at several different points in our homeschool. How do you get your child moving again when anxiety has her totally shut down?

While a lot of the same ideas for motivating an intense child will also work for the anxious child (our anxiety is usually emotionally intense), there are a few things I do differently when dealing specifically with my daughter’s anxiety.

5 steps for motivating your child with anxiety

  • Reassure first. Don’t reassure with logic! (I’ve mentioned before that I am really working on this.) Know your child and what that child needs. Reassure with affection and sentiment: “I love you and it’s okay. We will get through this together.” I think, perhaps more than anything, my anxious child needs to be reminded that she’s not alone, that I’m there supporting her through all her struggles.
  • Validate her feelings and assure her that you will do all that you can to prevent her fears from becoming reality. “I can see how that would be devastating, but I will not allow anyone to laugh at you.” “I can see why you would be terrified, but I will make sure that [whatever the fear] doesn’t happen.” While my natural instinct is to tell my child that what she feels will never happen and logically explain why that fear is absurd, this just doesn’t have the same outcome as telling her that I will not allow that fear to occur. Sometimes, I can’t make that promise. It’s not in my realm of protection. In those cases, I reassure that if it were to ever happen, we would overcome it together, that she wouldn’t be facing that situation alone.
  • Be for her, not against her. I mentioned this in my post about motivating your intense child. Of course, we are “for” our children. But it is easy to default to an “us against them” when the work isn’t getting done. By positioning myself as the ally, I and my child work together against the obstacle or natural consequence, instead of against each other. I am not punishing her with the consequences; the consequences are hers. But I want to work alongside her to find a strategy to help her make good decisions and avoid those consequences.
  • End on a positive note. Humor, a secret code word between the two of us to reassure her in anxious moments, a treat (food heals the soul), a hug—anything that seals the deal and provides a little nudge of momentum. 
  • Set up the learning environment to reassure the child the next time you encounter that obstacle. When we begin a subject or an assignment that I know my daughter is naturally anxious about, I begin by going over what we’ve discussed before, and remind her of what we are doing differently this time to make sure that her fears are not a reality. Reading used to be our anxiety-subject; then it became spelling. For a long time, she would burst into tears and shut down at even the sight of an assignment that required spelling. Slowly, we’ve worked through the anxieties from both of those subjects. And the other weekend, she picked up a spelling book on her own on a day off to work through some of the activities! Talk about a miracle! Though she is not completely confident in spelling, we’ve definitely come a long way. 

Motivating a child with anxiety takes an enormous amount of patience. And I have to remember that even though the fears don’t always make sense to me, they are very real to my child. I’m not always grateful for these moments. I’m not always patient. I’m sure, at times, I’ve aggravated and intensified some of those feelings by handling it the wrong way. But as I look back over the weeks, and think about what God is doing in my life through this journey, I appreciate so much more how God handles my fears.

How illogical are mine most of the time! I have an almighty God who knows and cares: what do I have to be afraid of? And yet, God doesn’t launch into all the reasons why those fears don’t make sense. Instead, He assures me—”Don’t be afraid!” And He’s there for me—”I will never leave you or forsake you.” In the end, these are the verses and promises that both my child and I have to come back to. She and I are both scared, anxious little sheep, but He is the good Shepherd of us both.

Your new favorite homeschooling guide: Big Book of Homeschool Ideas, vol. 2 (review)

homeschooling guide | answers to homeschooling questions | Big Book of Homeschool Ideas | iHomeschoolNetwork

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary pdf of both volumes of Big Book of Homeschool Ideas in exchange for my time and honest opinions. I have not been compensated for a positive review, and all opinions are my own. See my full disclosure here.

There are a lot of homeschooling resources out there. It’s overwhelming. But if you want a single homeschooling guide to address just about every question you could possibly ask about homeschooling, that would be the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas, volume 2, from iHomeschoolNetwork.com.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas (v.2) is written by 38 different homeschooling moms from all over the globe, and covers 58 different topics. The printed version is 484 pages! That’s a lot of homeschool info! But with a clear table of contents, I found it very easy to navigate. As a homeschooling guide, you don’t necessarily have to read through it in one sitting (though you will want to). Think of it like a reference manual. If you have a question on how to handle transcripts, socialization, homeschool doubters, or learning styles? Pull that bad boy out and flip right to the answer.

Big Book of Homeschool Ideas 2 | table of contents

Homeschooling Guide to middle school and beyond

The Big Book starts with topics related to homeschooling middle school through high school. (If your kids are younger, hang on! There’s something for you, too.) I loved this section because its exactly where I’m headed. Sixth grade is looming ahead of me next year, and all the questions about electives vs. extra-curricular, transcripts, dual credit, etc. are all becoming more relevant. I also appreciated the in-depth article about independence and what it looks like. As homeschoolers, the end goal is always to teach our kids to be independent self-learners, but I didn’t realize how abstract that could be until I read Heather Woodie’s article “Teaching Your Teens to be Independent Learners.” She breaks it down into small steps that helped me to evaluate exactly where we are at and what we need to work on: self-starting, identifying and solving problems, coping, and more. Other articles in this section covered topics about the changing socialization needs of our older kids and how to help your child explore career options in fun, creative ways.

Homeschooling Guide to learning styles, methods, and resources

The second section of the book covers general homeschool topics, everything from learning styles and education methods, curriculum recommendations, fun learning ideas (including learning with board games), to “how to stay the course when the school bus looks tempting.” Then, five more sections provide learning resources for different subject areas, special needs, and unique homeschool situations. The authors even covered the hot topics of socialization and how to deal with anti-homeschooling family and friends.

While the Big Book is thorough, it is not overwhelming. The short articles allow you to easily find what you are looking for, read for 5 minutes, and come back again for more later on. The unique situations and perspectives of so many homeschooling moms also makes this a really terrific resource, collective wisdom from collective experience. Rather than a dry, reference manual of facts and lists, reading this book feels like you are sitting down with your homeschool mom buddies over coffee, discussing how to teach subjects from living books or how to do nature study in the city.

For the handful of questions that might not be in volume 2, there is also Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas, volume 1 (55 moms on 103 topics). This volume is your homeschool resource guide for homeschooling preschoolers, homeschooling with babies and toddlers, elementary specific topics, home management, and tons more.

Big Book of Homeschool Ideas 2 review | homeschooling guide | answers to homeschooling questions

I can’t recommend these books enough. Nothing I’ve picked up has covered the ins-and-outs of homeschooling as thoroughly as the Big Books. You can pick up a copy of your Big Book of Homeschool Ideas (volume 2) on Amazon:

Big Book of Homeschool Ideas, vol. 2—Kindle

Big Book of Homeschool Ideas, vol 2—print copy

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary pdf of both volumes of Big Book of Homeschool Ideas in exchange for my time and honest opinions. I have not been compensated for a positive review, and all opinions are my own. See my full disclosure here.

Display Boards for whole family learning

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace

We’ve had so much fun with display boards recently that I just had to give you a peek at the action. As part of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, we’ve been learning about the cultures and people of ancient Palestine during the time of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. I love doing as much of our learning together as we can, so I assigned both of the older kids this display board project for their writing assignment. Immediately, they were all on board.

Preparation for the Display Boards

My preparation, overall, wasn’t bad. I printed off the Teacher Notes from our curriculum and highlighted the portions for them to read through for the writing part of the assignment, picked some images to print from Google images, and picked up some display board supplies at our local supply store. Each child picked their board, including Littlest, my preschooler. He wanted in on the action, and I figured getting him his own poster board would keep him from “participating” in the other kids’ projects in ways they would not prefer.

Directions for the Display Boards

We chose four cultures that had the most information available: Canaanites, Hittites, Philistines, and Phoenicians. And I gave them 3 weeks to work on it.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

For my fifth grader, I assigned a paragraph for each culture. Other than providing his materials and showing him a few sample projects, I really did not do much more for him. He likes his independence.

For my third grader, I only required a couple of sentences for each culture. Because of her skill level and dyslexia, I helped her quite a bit more. I read the information to her rather than have her read it, and she used a new favorite app of ours to write her sentences. (Dyslexia Aid allows her to speak her sentence into the app, and it gives her the text for her to copy into her projects.)

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

dyslexia app | dyslexia aids for writing

For my preschooler, I gave him permission to use any left-over photos the big kids were not using. He got his glue stick and scissors and went to town. I love it! The red scribbles are his map of Palestine.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards | preschool

In Love with Display Boards

Seriously, we are in love with display boards, and I keep asking myself why I haven’t tried this sooner. My daughter has already asked about a hundred times if she can make another one. And it was an easy way to incorporate everyone at their own skill levels, interacting with the same information, which after all, is why I love Tapestry of Grace to begin with. I love whole family learning, and I love getting to put that learning on display.