Thursday, December 31, 2009

Homeschool New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again when we all sit down to set goals for the New Year! This can be a great thing if done wisely but it can be a very negative experience if we aren't careful.

If you homeschool you are apt to set goals for what you want to accomplish during the year. Some homeschool families make these goals at this time of year and some make them at the beginning of a new school year. Regardless it is extremely important to only set realistic and reasonable goals that you can attain. It does not help you, nor does it set a good example for your kids if you set goals that you cannot reach. After all, you don't want your children to start early in life by making goals and then never being able to reach them. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about realistic goal setting and what it can do for their self esteem if they can stick with what they put their minds to.

Here are a few keys to setting goals:
  • Look back at the past year and review what goals you made and where you stand with those. If you even made some progress in the right direction give yourself kudos! Don't beat yourself up, there is nothing you can do to change the past year now, all you can do is move forward.
  • Write down your priorities in life first thing. Take into account your values and start with what you ultimately want in the long run. If your goals don't get you to this ultimate end then they have no place for you.
  • With your priorities in mind make a list of goals that you would like to reach. Be as specific as possible. This will make the other steps a bit easier. Most people say things like: lose weight, change careers, make money, finish school. Be more specific: how much weight, what career change, how much more money, what classes do you need to finish?
  • Take off of your list those items that are not within your control. Also really analyze and if they truly are not reachable within 12 months get rid of them. As an extreme example, you probably shouldn't set goals that your 8th grader will be ready for the local community college by next year. You get my drift. And chances are none of us will lose 150 lbs. in the next 12 months. Doesn't mean we can't aim for 40 lbs.
  • Take your larger goals and break them down into lists, just like a "to do" list. So for example: I may want to lose those 40 lbs. so I would list the daily things that I know will get me there such as shopping smart, eating smaller portions, eating healthier foods, exercising three times per week, etc.
  • Make it official. Most of us will take our goals more seriously if we post them on our bulletin boards or let others know our goals and ask for the help and support. This doesn't mean that we need people nagging at us or to be our keepers but it would help to have a support system. With a weight goal this can be helpful because those around you may help you by not inviting you over for fried chicken but they may serve a healthier option to support you. Take what help you can get.
  • As you make your list of things to do for each day keep your goals in mind and see how your everyday actions can help you accomplish the larger picture.
When homeschooling it is particularly important to realize that you have many variables to deal with. If you have multiple children you don't know how every day will go. You may have a general routine but we all know that the more children, the more chaos. Maybe one goal is to remain flexible but to get back on track as soon as possible without being too rigid. Finding this balance can be one of the hardest aspects of homeschooling.

Some goals (very general that you would have to break down for your individual family) for homeschool may be:
  • Start a homeschool support group
  • Be involved in a group
  • Take part in more extra curricular events and activities
  • Complete all course curriculum even if another percentage is acceptable
  • Milestones for you students such as: Mary will be reading "I Can Read Books" by summer's end.
  • Being more organized
  • Incorporating more arts into our curriculum
These are just general ideas but the list could be endless. Just keep it specific to your family and your goals and not what other's ideals are for you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homeschool Holiday Break

If you are like a lot of homeschool families you probably take a break from homeschooling during the holidays. For my family this means keeping about the same schedule as the public schools in the area. We don't always do this but it is really fun for the kids to be out of school and available during the time that their friends are out of school and available to play.

Even while taking a break for holidays there are so many opportunities for learning during the holidays. There are opportunities for learning about how some homes have their lights synced with music or how they have their music broadcasting on a radio station for people to hear while they look at the lights. They can learn about the Christmas Tree industry and a bit about our environment while they are at it. They can learn the history as written in the Bible about the origins of Christmas and how other religions and countries celebrate. And as many parents can imagine, there are countless arts and crafts to go with the season!

Another fun way to look at the world and other places is to study how each country celebrates the New Year or when they have New Year's. These customs are fascinating and can help your students with geography as well as civics and other subjects. It can even be fun to make some of the traditions you learn about part of your families traditions.

The great thing about homeschooling is that every day can be educational if you just look at the ordinary things you are doing and talk about them or take them one step deeper. It's amazing how much learning can be done just by living through each moment and seizing the opportunities to explore that are naturally around us. Homeschool provides the perfect atmosphere to foster your child's natural tendency to explore and inquire.

Have a very happy holiday season and we hope your New Year is a very successful one!

Monday, December 14, 2009

K12 Curriculum Review

In this post we will look at the K12 curriculum. There are pros and cons to all programs so it is wise to shop around before signing up for any particular school or purchasing any curriculum products.

K12 is an innovative approach to home based learning. They offer curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grades. You can buy this curriculum on your own and pay privately but it is pretty pricey. The elementary grades average about $1200 per year. You do get almost everything you need but you will have to buy certain things for science projects and typical school supplies. What I am getting is that they do not provide your pencils and notebooks. It's like normal public school in that respect.

Another option with K12 is their Virtual Academy programs. Available in most states this is an extraordinary program and most are publicly funded. This means that in the states available there are programs where you student is actually enrolled in the public school system in your district and then they receive K12 curriculum at no cost to you. You just buy the few homeschool supplies that are needed and you do have to have a computer and Internet connection. You then have a teacher assigned to you through your school district that works with you to help you accomplish the educational goals you have for your student.

The great thing about the Virtual Academy programs is that they allow for some great resources like a teacher to contact and there are extra curricular activities, clubs and more. The support of a teacher is a great bonus because no matter the skills you have as a teacher there will be times where you present information in every way that you know how and a particular student still won't understand a concept. A teacher can just step back and give you a fresh look. It should be noted that the teachers in this program are not there to breathe down your neck and be task masters but you are accountable for attendance and you are required to do standardized testing through your state department of education.

Overall K12 is a great company. The math has had a few complaints because the program does not seem fluid and organized but my understanding is that they are building a new curriculum for their math program at this time because the users have spoken up and K12 listened. There is a lot of online support and the online school interface is easier to use than a simple email program. It is wonderful. If you can get the publicly funded version I highly recommend it but it is well worth the money if you have to pay out of pocket.