Pour a Cup of Tea and Take in the Encouragement!

Optimal Illusions

by Rose Focht


Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.


While this aphorism represents some good advice for those seeking balance in their lives, it hasn’t ever really been a challenge for me to heed, because I’m not naturally inclined to perfectionism. I like things to be nice and tidy, of course, but I’m fond of shortcuts and simplification. So generally I’m perfectly fine making peace with “good enough.”


Where I do struggle in setting goals and boundaries, though, is in knowing when I’ve hit “good enough.” It often seems that a better way is just over the horizon, and I find myself searching for it like an optimistic prospector who suspects that a lode of gold is just beyond the next hill. I may not be driven by the need to strike it rich, but I figure that any scope for improvement is surely a goal worth striving for.


For instance, some of the ways I see this mindset at work in everyday life include the following:

Read More

5 Things I Wish I had Known as a New Homeschooler

by Sara Jones


Dear Homeschooling Parent,


As I think back to the day I sat down with my oldest daughter and opened our first real schoolbook, there are a few things I wish I'd known:


1. Do things your way. We're surrounded by voices telling us the best way to "do" homeschooling. But what's best for someone else isn't necessarily best for your family. Want to finish all school before noon and devote the rest of the afternoon to creativity and extra stuff? Great! Or maybe you'd rather start later in the morning, do some subjects over lunch, and finish them after supper? A lot of teenagers would be up for that (mine are). One of the perks of homeschooling is its flexibility. Enjoy it!


2.Pace yourself. While you might feel like you have to cram in as much as you possibly can during your school time, I'm here to say . . . Pause. Breathe. Slow and steady gets you where you need to be. 


3. Make room for yourself. Being a parent is an intense job. Being an educator is an intense job. Put the two together, and your life is intense-squared! I highly encourage you to cultivate outside, non-school interests for you and your family. Home-based education lets you make space for family relationships that last long after the schoolwork is done. 


4. Don't try to do it all yourself. Directing your child's education is a big job, and you can't do it all on your own. From the very beginning, seek out people to help you in this journey. Involve your spouse or partner in the homeschooling process. Find support groups, co-ops, tutors, counselors, and friends. Be intentional about building a community to make this homeschooling journey the best it can be. 


5. Your kids won't always love school. I think this was my biggest mental adjustment. Homeschooling doesn't guarantee that your kids will be engaged every moment. Kid's will cry, complain, or dismiss the entirety of earth science as "boring." When this happens, you aren't failing; you're just living real life. And every now and then you will see that blaze of excitement and love of learning. Homeschooling lets you be there for these moments. 


As the new year begins, you've got a lot of discoveries, challenges, and joys ahead of you. HSLDA is here to support you at every stage of your new journey. Best wishes from a veteran mom— and if you're new, welcome to the homeschooling community. 


Used by Permission: Originally Published at HSLDA 


Sara Roberts Jones grew up in Mississippi and married a Canadian; they compromised and live in Virginia. In among homeschooling their four children, Sara writes, visits friends, takes long drives, and finds stuff to laugh at.

Covering Maine Studies Using HOME's Unit Studies

By Raylene M. Hunt


So, it’s that time.  Your students have reached the sixth grade (or higher) and you have to cover Maine Studies.  But how, and with what will you accomplish this?  After all, your student just isn’t a textbook kid, right?  You need something more hands-on, more interactive or more engaging.  Well, it turns out that HOME is here to help.  For the past six years, HOME leaders have been researching and writing unit studies.  When used alone or combined, these studies can form a Maine Studies curriculum that is tailor made for your student.


Let’s take a walk through the currently available titles, and I’ll give you some ideas on how you can mix and match them to cover Maine Studies.  But first, let’s take a look at what a state study might cover.  While learning about the state you live in, you can explore the geography, history, economy, natural resources, tourism, government and famous individuals from or residing in the state.  With this in mind, let’s explore HOME’s unit studies to see how they can help you create an individualized Maine Studies program.

Remember - every HOME unit study is designed in a way that illustrates how a subject of interest to your student can be explored in a manner that will cover most, if not all, of the required subject areas.  With this in mind, you will find that most unit studies include a Maine Studies section.  You can use one unit study or a combination of units to suit your own needs and goals.


The following headings help to break down areas of study and corresponding units.

Read More

Nudging Them Forward:Facillitating Independence

by Rebecca Keliher


All of my children resemble me in some way.


The resemblance may be visible in our eyes, our smile, our manner of speech, our interests and talents, or a combination of these features and others. But we are also each unique. None of my children is just like me. That means that they need to explore their own strengths, discover their own weaknesses, nurture their own talents, and develop their own skills.


As homeschoolers, facilitating opportunities for our children comprises a large portion of our responsibility. We spend hours exploring the best curriculum options, searching out field trip adventures, and seeking opportunities to help our children explore sports or the arts. We curl up on the couch for read-aloud time so they are exposed to great literature from an early age. We walk them through difficult concepts to ensure that they truly grasp what they need to learn.


There is an additional component to learning, however, that much of our facilitation tends to neglect: the intentional nurturing of independent learning.


In a way, independent learning occurs naturally among homeschoolers because one child learns how to teach herself while Mom works with another child. Or our bend toward encouraging our children to explore their own interests nudges them toward independent exploration and experimentation.


At some point, though, our children’s growth toward independence maxes out as long as we remain their facilitators.




Read More

6 Ways to Motivate Your Teen

by Sara Jones


“How do I motivate my teenage son to do his best?”


This was the question that came up most often when I asked some friends about their homeschooling struggles. I have a 15-year-old son—and an 11-year-old daughter—who are pretty comfortable with mediocrity. I’ve thought a lot about this question.


I don’t really have any answers, to be honest. But I do have ideas.


My first idea isn’t anything you or I do with our student. It’s what we do for ourselves:


Idea #1: Get Rid of the Super Teen.

The Super Teen is a mythical boy or girl who lives in our head and skews our perception of how our actual teenagers ought to be performing. The Super Teen is usually featured in Facebook videos about how he/she designs robots, leads a social action program, or starts a business selling custom socks. You’re pretty sure this teenager also has good handwriting, is socially adept, and is in the middle of a brilliant research paper that will win scholarships.


It doesn’t help that older people tend to remember teenagers in their own time as Super Teens, and wonder what’s wrong with “teenagers today.” The Super Teen sets an impossibly high standard, and our perfectly ordinary teenagers fall woefully short.

With the Super Teen removed from his/her pedestal, the following ideas have been effective for us:


Idea #2: Reward good work.

Darren and I have no qualms about offering rewards to make the work more palatable. Money is extremely inspirational. So are extra privileges. Last year, we set aside one night every week as a family D&D night, on the condition that kids completed all their school. Darren would even award in-game advantages to kids who did a good job in school. Generous rewards can motivate even the most reluctant work.


Idea #3: Build lessons around what interests each teenager.

Obviously we can’t customize everything—geometry and earth science are still on the docket even though nobody is passionate about those subjects. But we let them have a say in their course load, and we work with them in the way they learn best. Sometimes that means that I just sit on the couch next to a kid who otherwise can’t focus on the math lesson.


Idea #4: Keep lessons short.

I’m a big believer in many small lessons rather than a few long ones. Starting in the elementary years, my kids do, say, four math problems instead of all 10. We answer many review questions orally. We skip chapters in history that I know they’ll pick up later. In handwriting, that bane of my homeschooling career, I require them to write one or two sentences at the time. As they get older, the lessons necessarily get longer—but we still keep them to manageable portions. It’s very motivating to be able to see the end of a lesson.


Idea #5: Let somebody else push them sometimes.

Joining a co-op or a finding a tutor can make a lot of difference in your teenager’s motivation. Sometimes they need someone other than Mom or Dad to explain, encourage, and inspire.


Idea #6: In time, they will take ownership of their own future.

When I was in middle school, I was a sloppy student and a lazy worker. In high school, I went through American history on my own, and tried to teach myself chemistry. (I failed. But I tried!) The difference was that my future had become my own, and it was up to me to shape it.


We’ve seen this change in our own teenagers. At 13, our son did the bare minimum work with as little thought devoted to it as possible. Two years later, he engages with the material and analyzes what he’s learning.


We still have to push, and our teens are still unenthusiastic at times. But their work has a depth that wasn’t there before. They care more.


I’m still anxious when I think of launching my kids into adulthood. I know they’ll have to fill in gaps that we’ve left open. But the above ideas have served us well so far; we’ve seen our unmotivated kids grow into more responsible, more serious students.


In fact, I have to say that they’re pretty super teens.


Used by Permission: Originally published at https://blog.hslda.org/2018/04/06/6-ways-to-motivate-your-teen/


Sara Roberts Jones grew up in Mississippi and married a Canadian; they compromised and live in Virginia. In among homeschooling their four children, Sara writes, visits friends, takes long drives, and finds stuff to laugh at.

To read more HOME Blog posts, visit our Blog Archives.