Being Intentional

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At the end of a challenging homeschool day, my husband is the first to remind me of our vision for our children’s learning at home…

  • a love for God
  • a love for His Word
  • a love for others
  • and a love for learning
How can I keep that in my thoughts?  How do I keep that focus? 

As a homeschool mom, I see two clear strategies that can assist me in staying focused on our goals.

1) Being intentional in spending time with Jesus…

The first way, and probably most obvious, is to personally stay close to the Good Shepherd.  I need to make sure I am making time to meet with the Lord a priority.  Am I reading my Bible each day and meditating on what He says through His Word? Am I taking time to pray and listen from my Savior?  Am I leaning on Christ and letting Him direct my thinking, words, activities, and day to day?  If I neglect this most important relationship, my vision begins to wane and I can gradually lose the focus of ‘love for God, love for His Word, love for others, and love for learning’ – turning it completely to academics and the stress of trying to do more and more, and entirely missing the heart.   How do I know this?  Well, sadly, it is because it has happened frequently to me along this homeschool journey.  I need a constant reminder to sit quietly and rest, to lean on the One who has called me to this journey, and to abide in His Word.

2) Being intentional in sharing Christ, His Word, and biblical truths with our children…

A second way to attempt to stay focused is to incorporate more of God’s Word and learning through using the Bible during our school days.  When choosing curriculum, I try to look for (or create) resources that are founded on and transmit a biblical worldview.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates,  so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
~Deuteronomy 11:18-21

It’s about being intentional in what we choose to use and do
during these short years we have been given with each of our children.

Some academic areas are easier than others to find materials that meet that criteria.  For example, we have discovered numerous science and history curricula that integrate the Bible and subject matter quite well.  Other areas, however, seem to be lacking and seem much more difficult to integrate.

Can aspects of language arts be taught using the Bible?  Yes!  One example is teaching spelling skills, handwriting, capitalization, spacing, and punctuation using verses of Scripture.  Joyful Heart Spelling Skills uses this method and was developed from a desire to incorporate God’s Word with the learning of spelling skills for early elementary students.  Joyful Heart Spelling Skills focuses on 73 spelling rules, starting with three letter CVC words and gradually builds and progresses with more difficult skills.  Each spelling skill is practiced during the duration of the skill focus through use of copywork, dictation, word sorting, building words, color writing, and a variety of hands on suggestions for forming words using a different medium or practicing the skill in a more hands on way.

Teaching spelling in this manner allows us to gain one more time during the day in which we can intentionally set His Word before our eyes, write it, think about it, and talk about it – enabling us to learn both academically and spiritually.

 

Want More Information about Joyful Heart Spelling Skills?

Spelling – Bible Copywork and Dictation
Spelling – A Rules Based Approach
Spelling – Build It
Spelling – Write It a Different Way
Spelling – Making it Varied
Spelling – When to Start

To succeed in keeping our focus and vision before us involves being intentional.  Staying close to Christ and in His Word as well as utilizing resources with a biblical emphasis can help us stay the course – instilling a love for God, a love for His Word, a love for others, and a love for learning.

Closing Out Our School Year

At the end of another school year, our kids’ course loads may be slowing down, but my mind is racing with things I need to do for closing out the year.

Closing Out Our Homeschool Year (1)

What’s on my End of the Year ‘To Do’ List?

1) Year End Celebration

Although some may say that I tend to go a wee bit overboard on our first day of school festivities, I prefer a much simpler end of school celebration.  It may be playing in the sprinkler and squirting water guns at each other followed by popsicles or taking everyone out for ice cream and making sure to take time to make a summer bucket list.  Of course, many years, we have also just let the last day quietly slip past and delve straight into summer.

Squirt Gun Fight
Want some fun ideas for commemorating your school year?

2) Required Record Keeping

Each state has different requirements for homeschooling and recordkeeping.  For the end of the year, our state requires us to file student attendance and a final grade or academic progress report.  So, I will be figuring our student’s final grades and registering those online with our accountability group. I also have a paper report card for each child that I save with their portfolio. (See my 3rd ‘to do’, below.)

Homeschool Report Card

Free Printable Homeschool Progress Report

3) Filing Away Student Work

I have a vinyl expanding document file organizer for each child in which I store their first day Growing in Grace Sheets and first day notes, completed compositions, subject area tests, artwork (if it fits), any awards, standardized test scores, their progress report, etc. that I have collected over the course of the school year.  Once all individual coursework is finished, I also gather their completed Daily Progress Sheets, science notebooks, and completed AWANA books.  I also print out a list of curriculum each child used to study content in each subject area. 

After all of these materials are gathered, my task becomes to organize it in manila file folders, label each file, and place them in a bankers box – one box per family per school year. (Some years, the materials have fit a bit more snugly than others!)  I label the outside of the box with the school year and all the kids’ names and grade levels.

Inside the front of each year’s box, I also store a file full of curriculum receipts and expenses procured for anything school related.

Then, I just store these portfolio boxes away in a closet.

Yearly File Box

4) Cleaning and Reshelving

Now, if I wasn’t so obsessed with needing things to be clean and organized, my end of the school year ‘To Do’ list could almost be complete.  =)  However, my kids know that they are not completely done with their school year until their desks and workboxes have been purged and cleaned.  This step is purely for my sanity…and they do it (most with a willing spirit) because they love me. 

While they are cleaning their desk areas, I am reshelving the past year’s curriculum into our school closet (um, and probably reorganizing that closet while I’m in there).

It helps tremendously to have this step finalized before the influx of new curriculum materials arrive!

5) Document Memories

After putting away the old year’s work and materials, everyone starts to breath a little easier and the kids can begin to thoroughly enjoy their summer break.  For me, I have one more important task to accomplish.  I take time to download and organize all of our photos of family learning for the school year.  I then spend a couple hours each day for about a week devoted to reminiscing and creating our homeschool yearbook.  There is so much value in recording and documenting memories from the school year!
Yearbook 4

6) Rest, Reflect, and Pray

Resting.  That can look different for each person.  Some may enjoy just curling up with a good book, swimming, sleeping in, walking, etc.  Me, I simply enjoy having more unscheduled, unhurried time, a time to just ‘be’ with my kids, as well as an opportunity to do a few projects that have been neglected during the course of the school year.

 Reflecting.  Although we do make adjustments as needed throughout the school year, I try to take time to meet one on one with each child at some point shortly after the end of the year to get their final take on their learning experiences from the past school year…

  • What did they think was the most memorable activity from this past school year?
  • Which subject or materials did they enjoy the most / least?
  • What do they think worked well for them? Why?
  • What areas may have felt challenging for them?  Do they have any ideas for how we can make it better?
  • Do they have any interests that they may want to pursue more in the new year?
  • Are there any extra-curricular commitments that they have been faithful to complete that they no longer desire to be a part of?
  • And a final question to reflect on with my husband… Do they have a love for learning and a love for God and His Word? (This one can be answered by reflecting on observations you made during duration of the school year.)

 

Praying.  This never really stops, does it?  But, it seems that my most focused time of praying for our homeschool is towards the end of one year and before the start of the next.  There are so many decisions to be made and the weight of choosing wisely and providing well for the academic, spiritual, social, and emotional needs of each our children, in my human frailty, can feel quite overwhelming.  I need Christ’s strength, His wisdom, His direction, and the encouragement from His Spirit and His Word to find true peace and rest in Him.

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
~Proverbs 2:6

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
~Romans 15:4

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:4

7) Start to Formulate a Plan for the New Year

Yes, wrapped up into the process of closing out one school year is the planning for a new one!  As I come across curriculum that I think I want to use with our kids, either for the new school year or at some point in the future, I mark it down, in pencil, so that I don’t forget it.  I like to try to make a curriculum map of sorts for each child (especially as children approach the middle school and high school years).  But, since it is all written in pencil, I can easily change it to reflect our children’s new goals or interests.  The map just helps me to get a big picture overview of our homeschool years and assists me in getting my thoughts organized in one handy spot.

Curriculum Mapping

Free Printable Curriculum Mapping Sheets

Well, that about rounds out my end of year ‘to do’ list.  Now, maybe I can focus on the last few days of school!

The Importance of Rhymes

Importance of Rhymes

Why is the use of rhymes so important during the early years?

Activities that involve children in rhyming help to develop their…

  • listening skills

    (paying attention to details, words, and sounds)

  • auditory discrimination

    (the ability to tell the difference between different sounds)

  • oral language expression

    (learning to use oral language to communicate wants, thoughts, and ideas, meaningfully within sentences and with correct grammar)

  • ability to manipulate language

    (making strings of rhymes, inventing their own nonsense words that rhyme)

  • vocabulary

    (expanding their use and meanings of new words)

Rhyming experiences
lay a firm foundation
for learning to read!

 

At a young age, children need to have opportunities to engage in rhyming experiences.  They need to be able to have chances to hear, recognize, reproduce, and manipulate the sounds of language in a playful manner.  Rhyming, and specifically nursery rhymes, assists in accomplishing this goal.  Nursery rhymes are short, funny (and sometimes nonsensical), usually have a repetitive beat, can often be sung, memorized, and easily acted out. Since they are oral, you can invite your child to participate in rhymes with you wherever you may be!

Below are two FREE Resources involving rhyming…

Letter and Rhyme Cover

While teaching Kindergarten, I implemented the use of Letter and Rhyme a Day at the beginning of our school year.  It was a quick, fun review for some children and an interactive way to introduce nursery rhymes and rhyming to others who had not been exposed to this foundational skill.  I’ve recently updated the printable Letter and Rhyme sheets.  They now have updated graphics and are easy to download in one document!  

Nursery Rhyme Charts Cover

I also created new Nursery Rhyme Charts!  There are over 40 colorful charts that you can print and enjoy.  Feel free to use them in your classroom or at home.  Maybe print them for ‘read the room’ or place them in individual nursery rhyme folders for kids to take home and share with their families.  

Please note that this Nursery Rhyme Charts booklet contains all of the rhymes used in Letter and Rhyme a Day as well as the ones utilized in our Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme preschool curriculum.

For additional free rhyme ideas at Hubbard’s Cupboard, please check out the following…
Nursery Rhyme Olympics – fun for a classroom or at home on a spring or summer day
Kindergarten Rhyme Time – a Nursery Rhyme themed Family Night
Nursery Rhyme Artwork
and, for children who are ready, Word Family Printables

 

Homeschool Yearbooks

Homeschool Yearbooks

IMG_8025In high school, I had the opportunity to work as part of our yearbook staff.  It was before everything went digital.  So, I gained experience taking and developing photos, using gridded paper to design layouts measured in picas and using the rule of thirds, as well as writing copy and captions.  I absolutely loved it!

Quite a few years later, with the birth of our first child, I was able to step back into that realm somewhat with the creating of a first year album and family scrapbooks.  Again, though, it was pre-digital and everything was done on scrapbook pages, utilizing real photos that needed cropped with tools, choosing paper backgrounds, borders, and other embellishments such as buttons and stickers to dress up each page, as well as adding sticker letter headlines and handwritten captions.

Jump forward to starting preschool at home and adding more sweet blessings … My time for having free nights and weekend scrapbooking parties with other mom friends became less and less and the albums came to a screeching halt as my responsibilities increased.  There was just no time available to keep creating albums for our family.

Well, now, all of my photos are digital and are taking up space on my phone and computer.  Rarely do the pictures get printed in order to be displayed in our home and they never get printed to form a memorable scrapbook.  It..just..takes..too..much..time!

But, the photos have not stopped.   I am still constantly taking pictures of our kids. 

And, having a scrapbook or photo album for our family to refer to is still very beneficial!

So….

We now create digital homeschool yearbooks!

Yearbook 4

One of the last things I do as our family wraps up an end of a school year is to make a homeschool yearbook.

Why?

  • shared memories

    As a homeschool family, we spend a LOT of time together – singing, reading, playing, and  learning. So much growing and changing is going on each year!   It is important to have a way to help remember these days.  Our kids look at the different homeschool yearbooks made over the years and rehash what they did, where they were, and what they learned.  The shared memories always bring smiles and laughter!

  • a record of the past

    I admit it.  I’m forgetful.  I need a place to remind me of the important events and activities in our busy family’s life.  We record holidays, birthdays, the first day of school, our 100th day celebration, any field trips, co-op experiences, photos of artwork, etc.  We also make sure to capture the everyday learning that is taking place.

  • a sense of accomplishment

    We all know that homeschooling is hard.  We never feel like we are doing enough, being enough, providing enough for our children.  And, we tend to question ourselves (at least I do sometimes) as to whether it is really all worth the time and effort as our days blur together throughout the course of the year. Somehow, seeing the pictures of our children at the end of a long, challenging school year, can be just the thing I need to re-spark the joy of schooling at home as I can visually see the web of learning that was taking place.  It provides a much needed sense of accomplishment – for myself and our kids!

An online photo book editor makes the process of creating a homeschool yearbook so much easier than previous years of doing a book all by hand!  We have been using Shutterfly, but there are other online options available.

IMG_7998

You first choose the size of album you desire and select an overall style or theme.  Next, you upload photos.  They can either be preplaced randomly or, if you are like me, you can organize them by page.  Then, the fun begins!  You can choose background patterns and colors, customize your layout, resize and crop images, and insert graphics and text for each spread!  Tinker and polish to your heart’s delight (and perhaps shed a happy tear or two as you see how much your kids are growing). Once you think you are done, you’ll want to carefully edit your text and picture placement.  Then, hit ‘add to cart’ and check out.  (Tip: Always make sure to look for coupon codes and specials before ordering.  They run deals frequently.  So there is no need to pay full price – unless you are in a hurry.) 

We have found the most difficult part is waiting a few days for our package to arrive in the mail! 

Yearbook 1

But, oh, when it does arrive, watch your kids’ faces light up with excitement!IMG_8020
IMG_8023

I love observing them pour over the new book each year and watching them bring out all of the others… saying, “I remember when we did that!”, asking questions, and talking about events.

IMG_8027IMG_8026Yearbook 2

It’s a wonderful way to celebrate a year of homeschool learning!

Story Book Lessons

Preschoolers and Kindergarten aged kids LOVE a good story.  How do you know if it’s a ‘good’ story for 3-6 year olds?

1) They will request it to be read again…and again…and again.

Although you may be tiring of reading the same story over and over, try to keep your enthusiasm!  Multiple readings increase your child’s vocabulary, improves listening skills, and builds a sense of story.  It opens up opportunities to briefly discuss story elements (sequence of events, characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, etc.).  Most importantly, rereading books generates enjoyment and positive memories/experiences of interacting with you and books – creating a foundation to build the love of learning for years to come!

2) They aren’t completely quiet as you read.

Do you hear your child trying to chime in on some of the words or phrases as you are reading? That’s a wonderful sign that you’ve found a perfect book with engaging text! The text in the book is probably repetitive, predictable, contains rhyme, or silly/nonsense words.  It may even be able to be sung. 

3) They ask questions and/or make observations.

Are your kids making connections between the illustrations and what is being read aloud in the text? Are they making predictions about what they think might happen next?  This shows they are interested and making connections!  They may be able to relate to the characters (people and animals) and look forward to turning the page and seeing what happens to them!

4) They continue to refer to the story long after it is over.

Do you overhear your child spontaneously retelling the story to someone else? Do they make statements in their play and everyday living referencing some connection back to the book? Do they desire to act out parts of the story?  These are positive indications that you’ve found a great book for them!

Whether teaching in a Kindergarten classroom or reading to my young children at home, these were the signs that a ‘good’ book had been discovered!

Over at Hubbard’s Cupboard, I have listed more than 25 ‘good’ books to use with preschoolers and kindergarten children.  Each book link gives ideas for rereading the book over a period of five days and lessons to accompany each story. May you be able to adapt these story lesson ideas and use them within your own home or classroom to encourage a love for reading!

Ten Red Apples  It Started As An Egg  Caps For Sale

Story Lessons

What are some books that your 3-6 year olds ask to have read again and again?

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