Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why We Homeschool

My husband and I get asked questions about our decision to homeschool even though our oldest is only in preschool right now. Choosing to homeschool is becoming more popular, but it is still unusual enough in many circles that we get all types of questions about it. I thought I would just take a few moments to list the reasons we have come up with so far about why we are choosing to homeschool.

Our cutie, our oldest, about a year ago, see how much fun he's having?
In no particular order...
  1. God desires us as parents to teach our children the things of God.
    Deuteronomy 4:9 is only one verse out of several in the Bible that illustrates this thought, and it says, "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." 
  2. As their teacher, I can give my children tailored, personal, one-on-one teaching.
    Think, personal tutor.
  3. I have the opportunity to make learning more fun!
    The crafts, hands-on activities, learning games, learning tools, and chances to experience learning are much greater in the homeschool environment.
  4. We have flexibility with holidays and family events.
    Homeschoolers can learn all year round, taking breaks as desired. We can take off an entire month in December, or allow our children a free day on their birthday, the options are really endless!
  5. Less (or no) danger from bullies, peer pressure, bus crashes, or school shootings.
  6. We have better timing/control when introducing our children to sensitive topics, like sex or drugs, etc. 
    Between friends and many curricula in schools, our children may learn more details about these types of topics too soon. Of course we will speak to them about these vital topics, but hearing something on the bus as a second grader is not the preferred timing.
  7. Our children can be trained in their character as well as book learning.
    Patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control are just as important to us as learning reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  8. We get more free time- less time spent doing school, but with the same or higher academic achievement.
    How cool is it that homeschool kids finish school in a few hours then get to spend the day pursuing other hobbies and interests?
  9. We get to spend more time together as a family.
  10. Homeschool kids are not limited by grade. We can advance or slow down as needed by each individual child with no social/emotional negatives that could arise from jumping or holding back in a grade. This is one of my favorites perks!
    We will be blessed to tailor each child's education to their abilities. If I have a math whiz (which I doubt since I stink at math! Then again, my husband was an accountant before he became a pastor... but I digress) we can use a math curriculum any grade above his/her "age grade" easily. We can also stop and stay on the same lesson for a month if necessary, to ensure that our kid truly learns the lesson before having to move on. 
  11. We are allowed to make Bible learning/teaching/reading/applying central
    Public schools ban this. Not all private schools share our beliefs, and those that do may have this as a separate class, but they do not always make it as central as we would have the opportunity to do. (Please read this as our personal beliefs, we are not criticizing any type of school!)
  12. We won't have to undo as much learning that our kids come home from school with.
    Let's face it, we are a sinful, fallen people and this has to be dealt with everywhere, not just from the school setting! So again, I am not picking on the school system. I am just pointing out that as homeschoolers, we have less to address in our kids whether it's from evolution taught in the classroom, or learning disrespect towards adults from other students.
  13. Better socializing skills, able to converse politely with all age groups, not just their own age friends.
    This one makes me chuckle a little because people wonder how our children can socialize if they are home with their families all the time. In a week, on average, my kids are in church, at  their grandparents, at the grocery store, play at the mall playground, stay 4-5 times a week at the YMCA daycare while I exercise, and have a regular play date with their friends. That is ample time to "socialize" with others of all ages. School children only socialize with their 20-30 same age classmates most of the day.
  14. There is more time for learning fun things because less time is needed to finish book work.
    We can do more with music, art, or science than in a typical classroom education because we have more time in the day available to us.
  15. We can focus on what my husband and I affectionately call Survival Skills (things like cooking, laundry, etc) which are hardly in schools anymore.
    Someday our kids will graduate and move out for college or career. We want our kids to already have practice balancing a budget, grocery shopping, cleaning house, being responsible enough to hold a job, or whatever. These things, that we may have had to learn by experience on our own, we can teach our children ahead of time to hopefully give them an advantage in life after living with Mom & Dad.
  16. Learning does not need to be test based. We are able to truly assess if our kids are learning without rigorous testing.
    Proof of learning is not always on paper with an A+, it's finding application in life, or in the joy of teaching someone else a skill or lesson.
  17. Similar to number 16, we can teach our kids to think and process, not simply regurgitate.
  18. More time to gain life experiences or develop hobbies.
    Again, with less time in the classroom, our kids will have the opportunity to travel on missionary trips, raise a goat, train for a marathon, join sport or academic teams, try various jobs, create an invention, start a business, and so on- the list is really endless.
These are just some of the thoughts that have come out of the hours of discussion between my husband and I regarding the benefits of homeschooling. This choice is right for us- so I hope you don't feel as if I'm suggesting that everyone should take this academic view, because I am not. We just get excited about the possibilities ahead of us if we get to continue homeschooling our children. And I'm open to any homeschooling questions you have if I didn't touch on them in the list above, please feel free to ask!

You can see much of our homeschooling lifestyle via Instagram (@awifenmother). 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Planner Organization

My life has been full of anxiety these last four days. If you follow me on Instagram (and I hope you do because my life is just that exciting... I really need a sarcastic font) you'll know I have been stalking my front window waiting for the UPS man to arrive with my package containing my new planner pages. I'm a die-hard planner and it has been crippling me to be 7 days into a new year and not be able to plan it out. I think I drove my husband crazy whining about them. I would have driven my kids crazy too, but they are 3 years and 2 years old so they don't even care- spoil sports. When my pages arrived late yesterday -FINALLY!-  I asked hubby to hug them with me and call them "my precious". He ignored me. I spent several blissful hours last night organizing my 2014 planner. You can say it, it's a nerd life. 

I've actually have had some sort of Home Management Binder for about 3 years now. I've previously done a series describing my 3-ring binder sized HMB herehere and here. I had varying success with this binder, and used it and other planners off and on the last few years. It is so easy for me to plan- it's the execution of the plan that is so much harder. I felt that every-other-day I needed to tweak or change my system. When you have growing babies- and I do mean babies- life constantly changes. Carrying a large binder was not at all practical for me. I tried spiral bound planners, and apps on my phone and tablets. None of them stuck. And then... I discovered Filofax and the plannerds that love them! I do not (as yet, wink wink) have an actual Filofax, but what I discovered was the world of half-sized planners. 


Isn't she pretty? I found this Day Runner at Meijer and bought it on a whim. I had no idea how much I would really use it and rely on it. The size allows me to throw it in my purse and leave it open on the counter at home. Here are the gems within:

Tab #1: Day on Two Pages


My first tab is my most used and important- it's my Day on Two Pages. Filofaxes and Day Runners come with current year planner pages featuring one week spread over two pages- most spiral bound planners do so as well. I went with this for the last few months and it was useful. As a stay-at-home mom I don't have many outside appointments so I always had plenty of room. But I did not like having a separate To Do list and Chore List under different tabs in my planner. I would rather see absolutely everything that corresponds to my day all on one page. So I ordered these gorgeous planner pages! I chose pretty pages because I found out from experience that I am not decorative (another reason to follow me on Instagram is to see my lame attempts at "decorating" my pages). So much of the Filofax cult following includes washi tape, stickers, doodles, and scrapbooking each week to make your planner pretty and useful. After my failed attempts, I thought I'd let the manufacturer make my pages pretty and I'll just focus on actually putting them to use. 

Some things you'll see on this page:
  • our hourly schedule, humble as it is.
  • the tasks I want to accomplish
  • my daily, weekly, and monthly chores for the day
  • important notes or deadlines
  • dinner notes
  • half-marathon training schedule and recorded times*
  • the memory verse reference I'm currently working on
The second page on my Day on Two Pages has two functions for me. The purple sticky note has my detailed Morning Routine and the blue sticky has my Evening Routine. These two routines helps me prepare for the next day, and start my days well. I carry these sticky's over each day instead of handwriting these on my schedule.



I also use that second page as a sort of journal (you can see my entry under the sticky notes. Also, note my manicure. I rarely get one so it's nice to have it documented). A goal I have this year is to keep track of little moments throughout the day. Neither of my kids have a baby book or photo album. Apart from photos on my phone, I have no records of their years. I don't mind this, but I do want to start jotting down cute things they do or say, milestones, and even my own personal thoughts and feelings from each day. I look forward to making notes on these pages.

By the way, having two pages for every day is a lot of paper (one of the reasons I opted to purchase rather than print off my own pages). Currently I can fit 2 months at a time in my planner. I have one tab divided separating January and February. I'm storing the rest until I need them.

*One short month ago I made an easy Exercise Tracker printable to use this year. All I wanted was a place to cross off the days I made it to the gym so I could see at a glance how often I was working out. This was before my sister-in-law invited me to run a half-marathon with her... and I accepted. So for the next 4 months I have to follow a specific training schedule to prepare for this. Thus, my own printable is useless for me right now, haha. I still offer if FREE to all of you who wish to use it. Enjoy!

Tab #2 Month on Two Pages

Seeing the entire month in one glance helps a lot with planning. You can see which weeks have a lot of activity, or where a vacation is upcoming. I make notes in the margin for tasks that are more open-ended or have less of a deadline. This is where I track:
  • reoccurring appointments or events
  • birthdays and anniversaries
  • sports and extracurriculars
  • important events
  • pay day 
  • vacations
  • small groups or Bible studies
I'm the Children's Ministry Director at church so I need to keep track of which week we have children's church (since we only do it twice a month). I mark those weeks with a dark blue "CC" in the corner of the correct Sunday. I also have an entire section for Children's Ministry which I'll get to in a moment. 

Tip: Use a color coding system. I have colored pens for different categories. Some people use washi tape and then write over it, some use small colored dot stickers, and others use highlighters to mark there categories. I say pick a method that works for you and enjoy it!

Tab #3 Menu

Last month I posted how I organize my meal plans- the easy way! I shared several FREE printables, which are still free and available to you. I continue to use this tab the same way and I have really found this to be the easiest way to plan, shop, and prep all of my family's meals.

Tab #4 Children's Ministry

I mentioned that I'm the Children's Ministry Director at our church. This tab keeps me on top of my teacher and helper rotation. I'll also note if we need more snacks, play dough, or if someone needs to switch their week. I need to add here, a curriculum log to track which books the teachers are using- but that's for another day.

Tab #5 Blog

This tab has very little organization at the moment, but as I hope to continue blogging this year I keep this place for notes. I'm sure this section will evolve as I get my bearings. Until then I have room for...notes...and that's what I use it for. Genius, I know (by the way, I misspelled "genius" and had to look it up. Then I misspelled, "misspelled". I need more coffee).

Tip: After my blog tab you can just see the notepad tucked in the back of my planner. This is handy because in order for a planner to work you need to write down everything the moment you think/hear/plan it! I keep a mechanical pencil in the pen loop now so I can jot everything down. If I suddenly think of a household chore, or appointment, or To Do that needs to be done, I jot it on the notepad (to be transferred to the correct tab in the proper color later). I carry my planner with me everywhere and make a note about a possible play date the minute the other mom and I even suggest it. I make a note immediately when someone at church tells me they will be on vacation the day they are scheduled in the nursery- because I won't remember this by the time I get home. Consult your planner for everything! It's like, a brain.

And that is how I utilize my personal planner! I adore peeking into other people's planners, so please, if you have one share a link or picture so I can drool over your personal style.