End of Year Homeschool Purge

by Rebecca Kelliher


Ahhh! You’ve made it through the year, and next year is on the horizon. Then you look around and see all the stuff that a year of homeschooling has accumulated. Books and papers and art projects galore! Unless you have a huge amount of storage space, it is time for an end-of-the-year purge. What should you keep? What can you throw away?


Here are some tips as you make your decisions.



Because they tend to be our most expensive purchases, making decisions about curriculum and books can be very difficult. Still, our houses have only so much space for books, and years of homeschooling can build up quite a collection. Consider these questions as you decide what can go:


  • Is it in good shape? If the book is falling apart, you might want to let it go and look for a new copy if you need it later.
  • Did you like it? This may seem like a pretty basic question, but if the curriculum wasn’t what you expected or you didn’t like it at all, it’s a pretty safe bet you won’t want to use it again.
  • Do you have a younger child who will use it? When thinking about this question, take into consideration learning styles and preferences. What was perfect for one child may not be at all what the next one needs.
  • Do I have more than one? If you have duplicates you won’t use, set those aside.

You might find a friend or co-op that you would like to donate items to. Or take advantage of HOME's Used Curriculum Sale and Expo and turn your books into cash! Put any books that you want to keep, but won’t be using for a while, into storage. The rest can be returned to your shelves for next year.



If you haven’t been regularly sorting as you go through the year, you most likely have a LOT of papers. This avalanche of homeschool papers can be overwhelming, especially if you try to keep everything. If you’ve had your yearly evaluation, or don’t need one, it’s time to deal with them. You don’t need to keep everything! Here’s how to decide:


  • If you’re student uses workbooks, tear out and keep the first and last lesson. Then choose a few lessons throughout the year that show progress and growth.
  • Keep a representative sample of worksheets or writings and other papers. Pick some from the beginning, middle, and end of the year. Again, you are looking for growth.
  • Allow your student to pick her favorites.

Now, label a file folder or file box with your student’s name and the year, and file your paperwork away. Consider adding checklists, notes, and other items to create a yearly student portfolio. If space is really at a premium, you can also scan papers and save them as PDF documents.



A year’s worth of school will leave a trail of used school supplies in its wake. This is a great project to get your kids involved in. Even little ones can sort broken crayons or check markers. Throw away the partially used construction paper, mostly-used or dried-out glue, broken scissors and rulers, etc. Give each child a collection of markers and pens and ask them to try out each one on a piece of copy paper or a partially-used notebook, then toss the ones that no longer work. Kids can be in charge of checking notebooks to see if there is enough paper left to keep, and tearing out the used pages if there is.

Put the usable items back in their proper locations, step back, and sigh. You’ve done it! You’re year is complete and your school items are ready for another successful year next year!


Used by Permission! Originally published at


With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.





Life Skills Camp

by Doug Hibbard


You’ve done it. Twelve years of school are complete. You’ve prayed, you’ve cried, you’ve done more math than you ever thought possible. Now, it’s the summer after graduation. What lies ahead? College? Military? Missions? Moving out and moving on? Staying home? All those big questions are going to be answered. For now, though, there’s a window of opportunity to squeeze in a few last lessons.


What lessons should they be? Is it time for a refresher on the Christian faith? Perhaps, and as a pastor, I heartily recommend some good reading to stretch and prepare for any challenges that might come to your emerging student’s faith. Those are not the last-minute lessons I’m thinking of here, though. Let us turn our attention to life skills and the idea of running your teen through a life skills camp in these last few months. After all, we send our kids to Scout camp, band camp, church camp, sports camp…why not “Life Camp?”



The basics of surviving as an adult in the world around us; those are the life skills we need to deal with. We all want our children to dream big and aim for the stars. We also want them to have clean clothes when they hit those stars. And we do not want their car repossessed while they are off saving the world.

With that in mind, here are some basic steps to setting up a life skills camp:

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What is a Unit Study

By Sharon Gibson


Creatures of habit . . . thats what we are. Even when there is a better, more efficient, or easier way to do something, we often resort to auto-pilot. If our child asks why we do something a certain way, we may find ourselves responding with I dont know, thats the way Ive always done it.


We see habitual behavior in every aspect of our lives, whether spiritual, physical, or emotional. Old habits are hard to break and new ones often harder to establish. The same is true when it comes to our homeschool habits. Whether you are a fledgling homeschooler or a veteran like me, each of us tends to steer our proverbial homeschool bus straight for that which is most familiar . . . textbooks. Because, being creatures of habit, we tend to teach how we were taught.


But, lets think about the original objective of textbooks for a moment. Textbooks were designed to be convenient. They were meant to help teachers instruct a large group of students, roughly the same age, the same subject, at the same time, in the most judicious way possible. Each public or private school teacher has, in fact, only one textbook from which he or she has to teach. Yet, the first thing we do is burden ourselves with a busload of textbooks for every subject, grade, and child in our family. Is it any wonder we are soon ready to pull our hair out?


Now, dont misunderstand me, a textbook can certainly be an effective, useful, and even convenient tool to use when educating our children. But textbooks for every subject, grade, and child in our family? Thats where convenience ends and major homeschool burnout begins.


The solution? Unit studies!



Unit studies simplify your life by enabling your whole family to study the same topic, at the same time, regardless of age. They accommodate various learning styles and abilities by incorporating an assortment of creative, hands-on, multi-sensory assignments. Due to their fun, experiential approach to learning, they also improve long-term memory of the material studied. Whats more, their flexibility gives you the freedom to do as much or as little as you like, as well as the opportunity to tailor it to your familys educational needs and interests.

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What About Standardized Tests?

By Stephanie McBride




Standardized tests are developed by commercial test publishers. Their intent is to provide a snapshot of the academic skills and abilities of students at the same grade level.

Standardized tests are controversial even in the traditional school world, with much debate over what the tests actually measure and whether the measurements are accurate. As homeschooling parents, the knowledge we gain from one-on-one time spent with our students is much more valuable than what we will learn from standardized testing. However, there are a variety reasons that homeschoolers might choose to have their children participate in standardized testing.


Here are some thoughts to guide you as you consider standardized tests.



Some states require homeschoolers to take standardized exams each year. This could be in the form of a traditional standardized test, such as the CAT or ITBS, or it might be a state-created test. Many states allow a portfolio option in lieu of the test.



If your child chooses to attend college, he may need to take the ACT or SAT. Taking standardized tests in elementary and middle school may help your child be more comfortable when it comes time to take the college entrance exam.



Some schools will allow your student to take standardized tests for a fee when they test their own students. If this is not available in your area, a variety of curriculum and testing companies offer testing services you can complete at home.

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Anyone Can Learn


 by Rose Focht


We recently watched the Pixar movie Ratatouille again and, as usual, our family enjoyed it immensely. The movie—the major theme of which is the motto Anyone Can Cook!—provides a positive message of encouragement and empowerment, along with a healthy dose of humor, dream-chasing, and vignettes on French cooking.


As fun as it can be to watch the story of a rat following his dreams of becoming a master chef, I think the movie also provides a valuable analogy for our educational aspirations. It’s good to be reminded that much of what seems daunting and out of reach can truly be very accessible if we are motivated by passion and a desire to succeed, especially if our aspirations are tempered by reasonable expectations.


As Remy watches his cooking shows or gazes at the fancy restaurants of Paris with longing, it’s easy to identify with the wistful sense of eagerness to belong, to aspire, and to achieve. It’s also easy to identify with Linguini’s nervousness at the prospect of cooking a meal for the famed restaurant critic, and his pessimistic certainty that his efforts won’t measure up.


You would think that this might have been a more widespread phenomenon in the early days of homeschooling, when homeschoolers were often looked at askance as oddities and outcasts, their credentials challenged, and their achievements overlooked. Nowadays, homeschooling really has gone mainstream and has gained tremendous respect in the public consciousness.


But there are still plenty of self-appointed critics and self-important experts out there prepared to lecture on the shortcomings of parent-led and home-based schooling, and it can still be tempting to feel intimidated by shiny new textbooks, imposing school buildings, and the general sense of authority exuded by the professionals. Surely they know what they’re doing! They’re the experts!


As always, appearances can be superficial and misleading. Dazzling new school buildings, expansive budgets, and expensive education degrees don’t necessarily predict a successful outcome. Time and again, it has been empirically proven that parental engagement and individualized attention are far more predictive of success than money spent on students.


The triumph of homespun wisdom, intrinsic passion, and a do-it-yourself attitude is an enduring theme, and for good reason. After all, anyone can read! Anyone can teach! Anyone can learn!


I want my children to become imbued with the conviction that determination, passion, and a willingness to learn can overcome innumerable obstacles. I want them to stand firmly on the merits of their own accomplishments and never let anyone overawe them with a vaunted sense of superior ability.


Is there a universal consensus on the best way to teach children? Certainly I think there can be some obvious best practices (phonics is a logical way to learn to read), but so much of what will work for any given family or individual is based on unique circumstances and cannot be contained in some one-size-fits-all formula. That’s why universal standards and large-scale attempts to enforce conformity in education end up producing so many frustrated, miserable students who don’t fit well into the artificial construct of the system.


When it comes to teaching your children, there really is no one right way. To extend the cooking analogy, some people are going to want to cook “by the book,” following recipes precisely, carefully buying all the exact ingredients, reading the explanations for why you must cream together the butter and sugar instead of melting it, and so on. But precision and attention to details matter more in some recipes than in others. Not all budding cooks aspire to be expert pastry chefs!


Teaching children doesn’t have to be that complicated. We are truly blessed to be able to live in a time and a place where we can choose what works best for our family’s educational needs. Combine a parent’s passion for transmitting knowledge with a child’s innate curiosity and love of learning, and you have a prodigious recipe for success.


Used by Permission: Originally published at


 Rose Focht is a homeschool graduate who now enjoys teaching her children at home (most days). Her six children range in age from ten to zero, and provide an endless source of joy, inspiration, frustration, and conversation.


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