When a pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail

Learning is about discovery, not perfection. | homeschool success | imperfect progress

I love Pinterest for homeschool inspiration. But for all that inspiration, my homeschool isn’t always “pinterest-worthy.” Sometimes our projects are very nearly pinterest-fails. And yet in those moments, I see my kids beam with admiration. They aren’t comparing their creativity to the perfect projects online; they are glorying in their learning success, reveling in the joy of creating something original. So why should I compare our imperfect homeschool progress to someone else’s? Learning is about discovery, not perfection. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail.

Case in point, we’ve tackled clay this year. And my kids have loved it! There is something soothing about wet, squishy clay that even my uber-sensory-sensitive child enjoys. We’ve tackled bas-relief, clay pottery, and sculpture. It’s been so much fun, and my kids will remember this year and our clay adventures for quite awhile, even though much of what they have created would not be necessarily pinterest-worthy. Our pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail; it’s imperfect homeschool progress.

 

not homeschool-fail | imperfect homeschool progress

My lesson plan was Greek pottery, but my kids had ideas of their own—including sculpting Alexander the Great (and a monkey face but somehow I didn’t end up with a picture of that one, another example of my imperfection for you). And just one week later, my daughter dropped her bowl while painting it, shattering it into pieces. Her presentation to her homeschool friends that week included how she had learned that Greek pottery is fragile.

Our display boards are another pride and joy. They worked hard on those projects and loved every minute of the journey, but few will find those images on Google and stand in awe. That’s okay! Because my purpose was not to impress others with our artistic ability. My purpose was to create lasting memories that fuel their love for learning.

Do you find yourself skipping a project because you know your kids can’t produce what you see on Pinterest or Instagram?

Are you tempted to micromanage the project to make it look better?

Are you embarrassed to share the final result?

Trust me, I’ve been there. But I’ve realized over the years it doesn’t matter; I’ve learned to share our homeschool imperfections proudly. As we cycled through history this year, I listened to my kids share about our first time through ancient history, squeal with delight when they saw favorite stories from five years ago, and recall for each other our first projects and adventures. I loved hearing their memories and realizing, this is why I make the effort at hands-on family learning. Not so that someone will re-pin our Nile River or our bas-relief, but because my kids will remember the year we played with clay and learned all about Greece and Rome. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail. No matter what others may see, we remember a huge homeschool success!

Embracing our Homeschool Differences: the value in variety

Embracing and supporting homeschool differences | homeschool methods & approaches

I’ve been in the homeschooling world a long time, nearly all my life. And one thing that really saddens me is when I discover that some of our biggest critics are those who homeschool right alongside us. We are all so different. Some of us homeschool online, some of us use charter schools, some of us adhere to classical methods, some of us embrace an unschooling and delight-directed approach to learning. And we all obviously believe in what we are doing. But just because someone homeschools differently doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it well. Our homeschool differences are our strengths, not our downfall.

This is not an easy journey, and anyone who has homeschooled for any length of time will readily admit there is a lot of fear and self-doubt, a lot of insecurity. Taking on your child’s education is a huge responsibility. We need all the support and camaraderie we can get. Variety in homeschooling is a good thing! And we can all learn so much from each other as we embrace those homeschool differences.

Each of us has something unique and special to offer, and each of us has much to learn. I can learn from Charlotte Mason how to add beauty and variety to my homeschool, how to give a short lesson with a lot of punch and effectiveness. I can learn to lay a foundation and nurture discernment and debate through classical methods. I can gather ideas for bringing in the wonder and inspiration of nature through Waldorf. I can learn how to tie lessons and learning into everyday activities, how to use life as my curriculum from the unschooler, and how to appeal to my child’s strengths and interests from the delight-directed homeschooler. I can improve my child’s education by recognizing the value of the variety in homeschool.

Personally, we choose a strong classical approach, but as I see and appreciate the strengths in so many different ways to learn and to teach, those strengths find their way into how we homeschool. My kids are better off because you’ve chosen to do things differently. I’m a better teacher because we don’t all do this the same way.

I read lots of great advice reminding us to not compare ourselves to others, but I think an equally valuable lesson to remember is to not validate ourselves at someone else’s expense. We are all on the same team. We equally care about our children and their educational experience. So let’s embrace the variety and learn from each other.

3 Simple Ways to Support our Homeschool Differences

  1. Follow blogs of those who homeschool differently than you do. Read and research about more than just your chosen method.
  2. Ask advice from those who do it differently. Ask your unschooling friend for advice on how to add real-life lessons to your curriculum. Ask your classical friend how to add logic and worldview discussion to your day. Ask your traditionally schooling friend about scheduling and planning routines.
  3. Encourage someone who takes a different approach. Let them know you admire them and that you can see value in what they are doing.

We hear so much discouragement and criticism from so many different sources. Our community of homeschool support should not be a place for more critique. Let’s be a community that embraces homeschool differences—different styles and methods of learning. Let’s be a community who sees the value in variety.

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids: a buffet of writing ideas and resources

tapestry of grace writing aids review

I’ve owned Writing Aids since we first started using Tapestry of Grace curriculum four or five years ago, but I’ve been too insecure to really lean into it as my complete writing program until this year. Writing Aids is a very different “program” from what you will find anywhere else, and depending on what you are looking for, I think Writing Aids will surprise you.

What Writing Aids Is

Writing Aids is a supplement product of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum that is purchased in addition to the main curriculum. Tapestry is a guided unit study approach to studying the history of the world in the classical or Charlotte Mason style. It integrates history, Bible, literature, writing, and art into a rich study for the whole family (K-12). Within the curriculum, then, are writing project suggestions for twelve different levels. You decide what level your child is at, what projects you want your child to complete, and how many projects seem realistic for you through the school year. From the buffet of ideas presented to you, you select what fits with your goals and learning objectives for your family and your child.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

The ideas are meant to be used in conjunction with the time period you are studying. Do a comparison/contrast paper on a couple of generals you are studying. Complete a mini-book about the people of ancient Egypt. Create a display board of the people of ancient Palestine. Research papers, newspapers and articles, book reports and book reviews, literary analysis and character analysis, descriptive papers, and persuasive papers—you name it, every genre of writing is included at some point over the entire twelve levels (1st grade through 12th grade).

Within the purchase of Writing Aids are the instructions for the suggested assignments, grading rubrics, and graphic organizers that help you to create your own writing curriculum from the suggested assignments in the Tapestry of Grace plans.

So what does this look like in use?

I can choose to teach one writing assignment to both kids—both my highly-motivated fifth grader and my dyslexic third grader. For instance, they both created display boards this year, and they both have written book reports. My fifth grader has been working on a five paragraph book report, while my third grader is working on a well-developed single paragraph. 

I can assign as many or as few projects as I think is necessary during our term. For my fifth grader, that has been a book report and a couple other writing projects each term. He’s written a personal narrative, a display board, a fiction story, a couple comparison/contrast papers, and by the end of the year, a biography and a historical fiction story. For my dyslexic third grader who struggles with incredible writing anxiety, that includes a single project each term: a mini-book of Egypt, a display board of Palestine, and her first book report. 

I can choose the level I feel is appropriate for my child, even switch levels mid-year or even mid-term, depending on how my child is progressing and which projects seem best-fitted to my child’s skill level. My fifth grader is not stuck in level 5. I can choose a project from level 6, level 4, etc.

Writing Aids provides instructions (written to the teacher or an older student) about the project, the objectives of the assignment and what a well-done project will include, the grading rubrics, some graphic organizers and a few sample papers.  In a sense, Writing Aids and the Tapestry of Grace writing assignments offer the same buffet that is offered in the history plans themselves. It’s an open buffet of ideas and resources that allows you to create your own writing curriculum.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

tapestry of grace writing aids review

What Writing Aids is Not

Writing Aids is not a weekly scripted plan for teaching writing lesson by lesson. If you are looking for something equivalent to IEW or WriteShop or Brave Writer, you may be disappointed. Though it includes some ideas for teaching grammar, it’s not a grammar curriculum or an all-inclusive language arts program. It is exactly what the title says it is: writing aids.

It is also not a course to teach you how to teach writing, as some of the other writing curriculums offer, though it provides plenty of instructions and teaching resources and grading rubrics. Writing Aids provides instructions on the genre, the project, and what to look for in the assignment, but not necessarily how to teach the skill of writing to your child. Teaching how to write a book report and teaching writing are two different things, for sure.

What I love about Writing Aids (& how I’ve used it)

I love that I can assign the same project to both my children with age-appropriate requirements and teach the same material ONCE. 

I love that I can customize my own writing curriculum. ‘Cause after all, who am I kidding? I never use a curriculum exactly the way it’s written. Instead, I pick and choose the projects we will be doing and, for the most part, the time-frame for the assignment.

I love that the writing integrates with what we are learning rather than being it’s own separate subject. This is not just one more thing to fit into the schedule; this is one more avenue to explore and reinforce what we are learning together.

I am a writer: I have taught writing and editing at the college level and in homeschool co-ops, but even I still have doubts about whether I’m doing enough or teaching it right. I’m still plagued with that dreaded question: “am I missing something?” I look at all of those other writing programs and wonder if I should bite the bullet and choose one. And in the end, maybe I will. I see the value in many of them. But I also know that teaching writing isn’t nearly as complicated as we make it. And I’ve taught all kinds, including my own avid writer and dyslexic struggling writer.

Who is Writing Aids for?

It’s for the mom who wants to customize something that aligns with her goals for her child or children. Maybe she’s not necessarily confident in her ability to teach writing but confident in her child’s ability to learn writing. It’s for the homeschool parent who wants to teach all of her kids at the same time in a whole family learning environment and integrate that learning with history. It’s for the Tapestry of Grace user who fully embraces the concept of selecting what works for her family and her child from a buffet of choices.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool year

Mid-Year is a great time to look everything over and see what’s working and what’s not. It’s a natural time for adjustments and trying out different curriculum if something just isn’t working. We’re doing a little of all of that right now: loving some things, adjusting other things, and ditching a few things as well. Welcome to our mid-year curriculum review!

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Fifth Grade

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy fifth grader has done amazingly well with all of his curriculum. We are loving our DIY science curriculum, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get to the chemistry unit in just another week or so. He’s also done very well with his independence in learning, meeting deadlines, completing assignments, and self-starting in the mornings without me. It’s a new feeling, and pretty awesome. I’m just afraid to get used to it. Don’t pinch me, please.

He’s finished his Greek Alphabet Code-Cracker book, and really doing well with the Latin for Children program. (I’m kicking myself for not using this program sooner and sticking for so long with a program that wasn’t working for us.)

Here is the full run-down of his fifth grade curriculum this year. But I haven’t really changed much, if anything.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Third Grade

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy third grader is a different story. While she is doing very well this year, and I am very pleased overall with her curriculum, her story is one of constant adjustments. I’m always re-thinking things for her. We are continuing with Dyslexia Games B for her, and nearly finished with it. She has done so well with this program! I went ahead and ordered a “fun-schooling journal” from this same company to see if it helps her continue her progress and enthusiasm in her other subject areas.

I have also added a couple of apps to help with her spelling and dyslexia challenges. Simplex has been a terrific addition for us. Though she is at an equivalent of first grade spelling, this app has really helped her to begin making progress in this area. The skills she’s learned with Dyslexia Games and the visual/kinesthetic aspect of this app have helped her to progress, slowly but surely, with her spelling. Dyslexia Quest helps my daughter with skill areas rather than academic areas, per se. Visual and auditory processing, working memory, processing speed, phonological awareness, and other areas are addressed with a series of challenging games. It also emails me a great progress report to let me know exactly how she is doing in these areas and where she needs the most work.

The other major curriculum change for my third grader is our math curriculum. And this switch has been so hard for me. For a few years now, we’ve used Christian Light, and I love it. I understand it, the lessons are the perfect length with the perfect amount of variety and challenge. But it appeals to a verbal learner, which my dyslexic daughter obviously is not. I like the curriculum because I understand it; it’s written to a third grader, so I know what’s going on well enough to explain it to her. But she clearly struggles with the curriculum, even though she is good at the math, really intuitively. As a temporary test-phase, we are switching to a Math Mammoth curriculum that I had on hand. She loves the math puzzles and the unique approach; she loves the color and the hands-on elements. (I love that I can try something out without spending any more money. Lol!) So we’ll see how it goes. I feel like we are at a point in the year where I can afford the risk. She won’t be too far behind if the experiment fails, and I’ll know enough before time to order curriculum for next year.

You can take a look at the rest of her third grade curriculum here.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Preschool

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy preschooler is coasting. We do a few activities here and there. But he’s almost created his own curriculum of sorts. He’s so funny! He bought a Star Wars number workbook with his own money, and loved it! Worked it cover to cover, and learned a ton. Additionally, he copies letters and words that he sees and uses my daughter’s Dyslexia Aid app to write his own stories. Yep, he’s writing books before he can read them. He uses a few iPad apps pretty regularly: Cursive Writing Wizard, Doodling Dragons, and Montessori Numbers. And he plays with his bathtub letters. For the most part, he is literally teaching himself, with a little (very little, as little as he can manage) input from me.

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool year

So, he’s ditched nearly all of his preschool curriculum mid-year and decided to unschool. HAH! I never know what to expect with this one. I am sprinkling in some Logic of English Foundations lessons here and there when I can. But I’m not pushing it.

Homeschool is just one constant adjustment, at least at our house. And the mid-year curriculum review is something that just kind of happens almost organically, whether I plan on it or not. It’s the name of the game. Thankfully, there are more than enough options to fill the gaps we tend to find halfway through the year.

A Positive Atmosphere: changing the mood of your home

changing the mood at home | a peaceful home | creating a positive atmosphere

Sometimes I can sense it before I even roll out of bed. The kids are awake & already screaming at each other, and I cringe in frustration. I can feel it—the very atmosphere of our home is chaos and anger and impatience. Before we’ve even started the day, we already need an attitude adjustment. And it’s going to be an uphill battle. How do I change the mood in my home? How do I combat all the negativity to create a positive atmosphere?

Creating a Positive Atmosphere

My Heart. Atmosphere, I’m learning, is not about the contrived elements of my home necessarily. It’s not necessarily how I decorate or how I clean. It’s not simply the kind of music I play in the background. All of those elements can help, for sure, but atmosphere begins with the ideas that rule my life and the affections that rule my heart.

When my children disturb my peace and upset my expectations for the day, my reactions reveal my heart. Are my affections set on things around me—my peace, my comfort, my pleasure, my agenda? Or are my affections set on something HIGHER? God is much more concerned with my character and heart than my lesson plans or intentions to have a quiet cup of coffee before tackling the day. If I want the atmosphere of my home to change, than I must allow God to change my heart and affections.

My Actions. As much as a positive atmosphere is determined by my heart and affections, the mood of my home is also affected by my character and my actions during the day. It’s the difference between “do what I say” and “do what I do”; between saying “be ye kind” when my children are in strife and actually being kind to them when they are in strife; between saying that my children are a blessing and actually having joy in their presence and acting like I believe that I am blessed by them. Do these ideas rule MY life and determine my actions?

Too many times I assume the atmosphere or mood of my home is someone else’s responsibility. I blame the kids or the mess or the space or the circumstances or a thousand other things. But it comes down to my heart and my actions. I can’t confuse aesthetics with atmosphere. I influence the atmosphere of my home, my homeschool, and my life with my heart and actions.

And in turn, that atmosphere educates my children. It’s the first element of discipleship; I’m not merely parenting my children or controlling their behavior, I’m discipling by creating an atmosphere that shapes and informs their beliefs, their affections, what they value in life. The ideas that rule my life will be the same ideas that shape theirs.

If I want a loving home, I must model steadfast love. If I want an atmosphere of joy and peace, than I must be joyful and peaceful. That doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. But it means I can’t expect those character traits to rule my home if they don’t rule my life. I can’t expect in others what I can’t live out myself. And I can’t live it out without Christ.

Practical Tips for Creating a Positive Atmosphere

  • Have a battle plan. I can’t let bad moods and negative attitudes catch me off guard. If I know ahead of time how I intend to handle “those” days, if I have a “bad day” protocol, it’s very literally half the battle.  An activity or game, a high-protein/high-fat snack, a family P.E. break, a worship-music dance party—I need to have something in mind to change the direction of our day to keep me from reacting. 
  • Make a playlist of music. I actually have a playlist entitled “Battle Songs.” Over the years, this playlist has helped me so much to battle fear and discouragement. These songs help me process my emotions and direct my attention to the One who is worth it all. Here’s my playlist:

Rise (Josh Garrels)

Even If (Kutless)

Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes)

Praise You in this Storm (Casting Crowns)

10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)

Your Great Name (Natalie Grant)

  • Create a battle station. Perhaps you’ve turned your closet into a “war room,” or maybe I stow an inspiring devotional in the bathroom; maybe you’ve turned your closet into a “war room.” Wherever it is, setting up a battle station (or escape room), a place to escape to for just a few minutes, can refocus my heart and mind when everything starts to get to me. And it gives me a chance to pray and formulate a battle plan.
  • Don’t rush in. I love the stories in the Bible where everyone expects Jesus to rush in and save the day or jump to their conclusion, and instead He takes his time. He draws in the sand or takes four days to arrive or stops in the middle of going to heal someone to ask who touched Him. I think it’s a good lesson for us. I often feel the urgency of rushing into a chaotic situation; I want to make it stop. And yet, sometimes I need to delay. I need to take my time to enter the situation and pray first. I need to settle my own heart before I attempt to correct theirs.

Ultimately, God is the source of all those things I long for in my home—love, joy, peace, stability. I can’t find those things in an atmosphere, but I can bring love and joy and peace to the atmosphere of my home if they are the fruit of my life as I’m abiding in Christ. 

Homeschool Theme Days: St. Patrick’s Day

 

St. Patrick's Day ideas and activities | homeschool theme days | homeschool learning fun

I’m only slightly Irish, but I do love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I think it’s the food. I love me some corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. And my kids love any excuse for a party, which is why I’m embracing some homeschool theme days to create some fun learning memories and create an inspiring learning environment. Need some ideas to add a little gold and rainbows to your homeschool routine?

Homeschool Theme Days:

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Idea #1: Read together. St. Patrick’s Day provides some great reading opportunities: read about Ireland, leprechaun legends, or about St. Patrick himself.