Join me for my presentation on Project-based Homeschooling

 

I’m very excited to offer this live video chat to anyone who would like to learn more about project-based homeschooling techniques and how I have used them in my homeschool. We’ll meet for 1~1.5 hours so that there’s plenty of time to answer your questions.

If this day/time doesn’t work for you, there’s an option to purchase the class and arrange another time with me.

Please share this with anyone you think would be interested. You can download a PDF of this flyer by clicking on the word “Download” above this image. Contact me, if you have any questions!

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Homeschooling

a rare selfie 🙂

I’ve been homeschooling for over ten years, and now that I have some hindsight, it may be a good time to tell you what I love about homeschooling. Keep in mind that this is my experience; it may be different for other families. I may follow this up with a post about what I don’t love about homeschooling, but I’ll have to think about that.

So here are the top five reasons why I love homeschooling:

  1. Flexibility. Whether it’s curriculum, taking time off, or giving my kids the time they need to master a subject, I would say that flexibility has been the best part of homeschooling. We are not on anyone else’s calendar. We can sleep in, if we need it. When Life gets hectic, we can take some time off. If I end up disliking the curriculum I bought, I can toss it and try another one. My boys can take their music lessons with their teachers during the school day, so we can get a good time for that, and we can go to the park or zoo when it’s not crowded. Since my husband’s time off from his work does not correlate with the public school calendar, that is a big bonus too. This doesn’t mean we aren’t busy. It means my family gets to decide how we use our time.
  2. Out of the Box Learning. Although I try to match the traditional course of study as much as possible, I have a lot of flexibility in how I teach it, and if I can tell it’s not working for my kids, I can put it off or skip it. (If they hate it, they are not learning it.) We can learn so much in an informal way, such as through the documentaries we watch, visiting museums or conversations with knowledgeable people. My kids also like looking up the answers to their questions on the Internet, though they learn in many other ways too, such as through video games, T.V. shows, and, yes, books. Sometimes they surprise me with knowledge I didn’t even know they had. It’s amazing how good kids’ memories are when they are interested in something.
  3. Going at their pace. I have nudged, and I have challenged, but I don’t force learning, and that makes a big difference. Take, for example, how my boys learned how to read. I started them off around the age of four or five with 15~20 minute reading lessons, and depending on how well they did, I either kept going or I took long breaks from teaching it. I took a full year off from teaching reading to my eldest son when I could tell he wasn’t ready for it, and when we went back to it, I spent 20~30 minutes a day teaching him how to read. I remember getting a little anxious and stressed about it. Would they ever learn? But I knew going at their pace was better than pushing it. Around seven-years-old, they started to get it, and then at age eight, they began reading perfectly. At nine-years-old, they started reading books without being told to read. I never made them read anything outside our short lessons, and I also let them read whatever they wanted. They both started with comic books and graphic novels. Now they are avid readers, and they read long novels or non-fiction on their own time. In fact, we can’t keep enough library books on hand for my younger son! I love this, and I hate to think how different it may have turned out, if they were in public school and forced to meet certain milestones in reading before they were ready.
  4. Discovering interests unencumbered. If homeschooling parents give kids enough freedom, they have time and energy to discover what they’re interested in. Then they can begin to gain valuable skills. (If you’re lucky, this will prevent them from floundering for years as a young adult like I did.)  I don’t think you have to be an unschooler to do this. I don’t unschool, but I have used project-based homeschooling techniques (PBH), which helped me see how I could give my kids the time and tools to create and explore while also teaching them subjects I thought were important. Some kids don’t want to explore or create. They may prefer reading or gaming. Others will keep trying new things and not settle on any one thing. That’s okay! Let them do that. You never know where it might go. Other kids may find something and wham! You can see that they’ve found their vocation. That happened for my eldest son, the pianist. The flexibility of homeschooling gives my son time to practice the piano, do his lessons, and just be a kid too. If you’d like to learn more about PBH, I am offering a class on it.
  5. Close family ties. This is a byproduct I never thought about before I started homeschooling. I love how close we are as a family, and I love that my boys are best friends. They rarely squabble, and when they do, it’s amusing to watch. Since my boys are three years apart, I think things would have been very different, if they attended school. I’m grateful I have been there for every special moment and milestone, and I know my husband is too. (However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need space from each other. When we need space, we have places to retreat to in the house.) This is an unexpected part of homeschooling that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

What do you love about homeschooling? If you are considering homeschooling, what is holding you back?

July 2022 – Wrapping Up Another Homeschool Year

View from a recent hike.

The boys worked hard to finish up their 6th grade and 9th grade year, and although there are a few loose ends to be taken care of, they have much to be proud of this year. They both do work above and beyond a typical course of study because the flexibility of homeschooling gives them the opportunity to do this. At some point I’ll write a post about our 6th grade curriculum, but I will reserve the high school years for a future publication. In the meantime, you are welcome to sign up to speak to me and ask questions on Zoom! I am still tweaking my store and developing new offerings, but it’s a slow process.

My 9th grader has outdone himself this year. He spends almost 25% of his day practicing the piano and listening to music to prepare for performances and auditions. I’ve never seen him so dedicated and determined to improve himself. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know he’s just completed a summer music program, which was an incredible experience for him. He also tackled a full 9th grade course load, and somehow we made time for gaming with his brother, taking walks and watching Netflix together. He transitioned from two years of online piano lessons (which weren’t ideal) to face-to-face lessons again, and this time we’ve had to travel great distances to reach his teachers. There are always surprises and lessons to be learned on his piano journey. I know we’ve made mistakes, but he knows we’ve got his back, and in the end, I hope he’ll benefit from everything we’ve learned. He’s also matured a great deal and is able to tell us what he needs and wants and that helps us tremendously.

My 6th grader has risen to another level too. He works almost completely independently on his course work except for some subjects I enjoy being a part of. But more importantly, he has found new ways to explore his interest in birds. This year I helped him start his own YouTube channel, and he films the birds in our yard. I taught him how to do all this, and together we learned how to use Final Cut Pro. Now he can do everything on his own. He is thrilled that one of his videos has gotten a lot of attention (see below), and this is increasing his subscriber base. He wants to get to 100 subscribers.

He’s also part of an ornithology club on Outschool.com, and he’s taken other classes about birds on that platform. This has inspired him to learn more about birds, and he continues to add birds to his “life list” as we travel around and find new birds. There are many camps and classes I would like to put him in, but we can only manage a little at a time, and he needs to get older before he can do some of it. But I can hardly wait to see what he’ll do in the future.

As for me, I have been slowly working on the boys’ progress reports for this year. I have to do things a little differently now that I have a kid in high school. For 9th grade, I have created a document of course descriptions, which is 23 pages long. He deserves recognition for his work on the piano and music education, so for the first time, I have made those into elective courses that are worth a credit each. I have a transcript for him too. I have done a lot of research about what colleges want from homeschoolers, so hopefully I will have more than enough documentation.

At the same time, I’m planning for next year. I create the English Language Arts component of their homeschool lessons, and I’m so grateful that as we continue homeschooling, I find more and more quality resources for homeschool students that weren’t available when we first started! (I can only imagine what will be available when my kids have kids!) Homeschooling was becoming more mainstream, and I think the pandemic has pushed it even further into the mainstream.

I always feel like I should write a caveat to my posts because I know how easy it is to compare yourself to other people who are writing about their lives online. I write about our successes, and while I like to think of us as a happy family, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of stresses. We are constantly trying to learn how to do better. Our resources are limited, so we feel frustration about what we can’t do for our kids. We come across plenty of subtle naysayers who don’t know much about us but assume a lot, and we’re still navigating the risks posed to us by a pandemic. I hope wherever you are on this path, you have the support of family and friends.

Documentaries we’re watching:

Our Great National Parks — President Obama narrates this beautiful documentary about some of the world’s greatest national parks.

Night on Earth — I love seeing what new technology can teach us. In this documentary, you’ll see what happens at night.

Books:

My 12-year-old just finished reading Call of the Wild, and he’s also working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My 15-year-old is reading The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg. (P.S. I meant to tell you that the 15yo has some new videos on his YouTube channel too.)

I have been reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. This book is a treasure and full of wisdom from two great religious leaders, but it’s not about religion. It’s about what it means to be joyful and how to be more joyful.

I hope you are feeling joyful. Please tell me how your summer is going.

Why I changed my mind about standardized tests for homeschoolers

Cover of the IOWA Assessments that my eldest is taking.

We are almost finished taking our standardized tests this year, and for my 15-year-old, it’s the last year that I’m required to test him by law. Yay! But I’ll probably test him every year now because he wants to prepare to take the SAT. When he was in the 3rd grade, I thought testing him was a waste of time. (I still don’t think that age should be tested.) As he got older, I found it useful, and it’s a good tool for a homeschool parent. There’s a difference between the testing that goes on in the public schools and the testing I do here at home, although my son takes the same kind of test, and he does it all on his own. (Someone actually accused me of cheating since we could cheat, if we wanted to, and that’s extremely insulting to me. I would NEVER cheat, and my husband and I teach our kids to not cheat and ALWAYS be honest.) The difference is that I can create a relaxed atmosphere around the test taking.

Here is why I like administering standardized tests in my homeschool:

1. We can schedule the test whenever it works in our schedule. I always test my boys around May/June, and I test for the academic year they are in even if they haven’t finished all the coursework for that year. (We homeschool lessons year-round, if we find time during the summer.) But I can pick the week and make sure we’re free of other obligations.

2. We test over a few days, which is recommended by the manufacturers of the tests, so the boys only take one or two tests on any given day.

3. On the days we do the tests, I don’t require the boys to do any other lessons that day, although my 15-year-old did do more math homework in the afternoon this year.

4. Since all we have to do is take the test on those days, it gives us time to go for more walks and relax or do whatever those days. So it’s actually a less stressful day for us!

5. I always tell the boys to not worry about how they perform on the tests. It’s truly a tool for me to see which subject areas they may need a little more instruction in. But so far, it’s given me huge peace of mind that we’re doing okay.

6. For my eldest son, and also my younger, testing them every year starting at the end of middle school will give them practice for if/when they take the SAT/ACT. (By state law, I’m required to test them every three years starting in the 3rd grade and ending in 9th.) They already seem more relaxed about taking the tests. They like to tell me about the test and what they found easy or what they had to guess at. (The tests are written in a way that they couldn’t possibly know the answer to every question.)

Who else is giving their kids a standardized test this year?

If you have any questions about standardized testing or homeschooling general, I’d love to help. Check out the resources I offer, and if you can’t find something helpful, send me an email.

Homeschool Zoom Chats with Shelli

New! I’m offering Zoom chat sessions in my store for parents who are currently homeschooling or are considering homeschooling. There are three options:

One-on-one chat – Set up an appointment with me, and we can talk for one hour on any homeschooling related topic that you want to talk about.

Six-session Homeschool Series – I’ve created a series of six sessions where I will explain how we have homeschooled in a child-centered, eclectic, project-based way while also knowing we need to prepare our boys to apply for college. I’m hoping to create a support group for homeschooling parents, if participants are interested.

Getting Started with High School –  A one-hour session. We are completing my son’s first year of high school. I spent most of his middle school wondering how we’d do this, but it’s not that hard. I’ll share everything I know.

I don’t know if anyone will be interested in these Zoom chats, but I’m putting it out there because I have loved helping parents over the years with their questions about homeschooling. I have written long emails, enjoyed a lot of correspondence and made some good friends. I know many families are considering home education, so I want to be available to help in all ways. Unfortunately, I can’t offer the Zoom sessions for free, but I hope you will find them very reasonable.

Please help me spread this information. If you have enjoyed my blog posts and other resources, please share it on your social media platforms. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! ❤️