I loved winter break as a kid, a student, and as an adult. I love the opportunity to take some time to reset, renew, and rejuvenate before the new year begins.
This time of year offers a great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends (something I think we all need more of this year). It also offers the ability to slow down; remembering this time of year is not about us.
Winter break is also notorious for creating conflict with children, turn off our brains, getting out of routine, and all-around can be a formula for disaster (something no one wants more of this year).
We have learned for our winter refreshment some simple steps that decrease conflict and increase the quality time (all while keeping our brains fresh and working for the coming semesters).
Set a routine: It is really easy to let our kids run amok during school breaks. After all, it is vacation time, right? Ture, but when you plan a vacation to Disney World or on a cruise, you have an itinerary. Why would you not have a similar concept for your stay-cations? We have found that even the littlest routine is in place, behavior and attitude are much better all around. Our vacation routine consists of ensuring all chores are completed, some reading is done, some time outside playing, and perhaps a craft is done before turning to any computer or television screen. For some more tips on screen time, check out my blog Is Screen Time Your Friend or Enemy?
2. Join a Reading Program: Words have power.Books have power. For those who follow me closely, it should come as no surprise I incorporate reading into our lives – even on vacation. A great way to incentive this (and keep our brains working), is to join a reading program. This is a great way to keep kids (and adults) reading year-round, but especially during school breaks. Many local libraries have winter break challenges. We particularly like Beanstack. This site allows you to find local reading challenges near you (or create your own). Many challenges have tangible rewards.
3. Plan at least 1 outing a week: Many are averse to this for money’s sake and others are adverse to this for COVID-19 sake. I understand both of these. However, neither should prevent you from getting outside and enjoying the beautiful world around you. For those concerned about money, many zoos and museums offer great deals for the year for family memberships. For those worried about COVID-19, a hiking trail is a great way to be outside, seeing nature and enjoying the beauty around you. Either way, getting outside your home once a week during the break prevents Cabin Fever from setting in and taking over.
4. Give a Project: This should be something they can do in the allotted time. Projects offer a way to feel productive and successful at the end of the break. More importantly, if you help your child with the project, it can be a great time for bonding and making memories. Some projects to consider for winter breaks: rearranging the room and painting it (let them choose the color and help); painting a scene or picture onto a canvas, building a new bookshelf (or re-purposing furniture). For those with younger children, some projects might be arts and crafts, sorting through toys they no longer want, writing a comic book, or a story with illustrations. If your child plays an instrument, this is a great time to give a new song to practice and then a recital at the end of the two weeks to celebrate.
5. Schedule Active Family Time: I love family time. My family tries to set apart an hour a day to just be with family – no screens, no phones, no distractions. But, that can be difficult (especially with my and my husband’s jobs). How do we manage? We set a specific time and put our phones on silent or away (we do have to keep them out sometimes due to the nature of work). Then, we let our son pick the activity. Often he picks games (we like games a lot in my family). Sometimes he picks art or going for a walk or bike ride. Then we do that. It is our time to invest in each other. Some of our favorite family games are Shut the Box, Speak Out, Apples to Apples, Quiddler, Phase 10, Uno, Pictureak, Boggle, Scrabble, Concept, Clue, and Sorry.
We are hoping this winter break is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. May these simple tips be as useful to you as they have been for us. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good break! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our family to yours.
This week I have had a significant amount of requests to discuss homeschool. Questions like “How do you homeschool while working? What curriculum do you use? How do you socialize your child?” and so many more have poured int. I will not answer all of them here (in August I will be focusing on the daily tricks for homeschoolers). Today I will focus on curriculums.
With changes in education due to COVID-19, a lot of parents are really considering homeschool. It is not an easy choice (even without the pandemic). If you are anything like me, you wonder if you will be a good enough teacher? Will your child fall behind in academics, social skills, and emotional development?
The good news is there is so much good news!
Homeschooling is not new to the world. In fact, for most of human history, parents taught children or tutors came to houses (if you could afford it). You know your child better than anyone, so you know where they struggle the most and where they can just breeze through. You can essentially create your own IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for each of your children. As my mom used to say, we have “different children with different needs.”
The first major concern is socialization. I get that. It was a big one for me. I will talk more about that next month. For those who have worked with me in editing or social media marketing, you know how much I value data. I have even used data in helping with behavior challenges with my own kid.
As any good data analysis would do, the first thing I did in answering that question was to track how much socialization my child actually got in school (note, this was done when my son was in elementary school). My son left the house at 7:30 on a bus and came back at 3:00. When I learned he was not allowed to talk on the bus, I removed any transportation time from the social component. Lunch was 20 minutes and the recess was 15. There was no talking allowed in hallways. And interactive work with children in the classroom had significantly declined – other than 1 class project a week, my son was learning next to and not with his peers. Taking all that into consideration, as well as really speaking with his teachers, my son was really only allowed to socialized 30 to 45 minutes a day. With home school, that increases so much with play dates, co-ops, small groups, sports, and so much more.
There are so many curriculums out there. And the best part of home school, is you do not have to pick and choose. If your child is a verbal learner, there are curriculums for that. A visual learner? There are curriculums for that. Learns kinesthetically? There are curriculums for that. There are so many, we actually mix and match for our son.
As a researcher at heart, I spent six months reviewing and researching curriculums prior to starting homeschool. Here are some we use, why we use them, and some we don’t but think are pretty great. Many of the below have Facebook groups, local co-ops, and more for additional help and socialization for the kids.
1. Time4Learning***: They are relatively inexpensive with a monthly fee of $25.00 and a military discount. They also use a refer a friend program that helps decrease expenses. This is a DOD approved national standard-based curriculum. This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs.
This is our foundational curriculum. This is great for military families that move a lot because it is national standards and teaches to that. They have 4 foundational courses (math, science, social science, and language arts). Their curriculum is interactive, game, and video-based teaching a variety of methods to problem-solving. They also have built-in Time4Fun (recess of fun games) and the app is mobile so it can be done anywhere.
As I work from home, and reports are due to the school district, I particularly like the freedom this curriculum gives me to work. It has so many tools for reports (attendance, duration in class, scores, etc.) It allows me to input the amount of time a week, length of the school year, and pick and choose what I think is appropriate for the mental development of my child. It then plans the school year for me allowing to change the plan at any time to add in breaks, modify curriculum, and more.
This curriculum also allows my son to have a bit more control of his learning by giving weekly or daily assignments and checklists.
2. Easy Peasy: This is a completely FREE (yes, FREE) curriculum. They recommend a once-yearly $15.00 donation, but even without the donation, you can still use the curriculum. This is a Christian based curriculum. This has all basic subjects as well as Bible, computer, PE, music, Art, Critical Thinking and so much more. They offer Spanish as a language for middle school. (Time4Learning does offer Rosetta stone at any level, but it costs a bit more). This is our supplemental program.
This curriculum also has cash prize contests for writing and science. For those who want to simulate science fairs and excellent writing, this is a great way to help develop those skills with a great incentive!
3. Adventure Academy: This is a fun exploration web-based learning curriculum. They allow the learner to take some control of their learning process. I have not used this curriculum, but I like what is offered. This allows for a more social learning environment by allowing the learner to create their own aviator and work with other online learners. They are currently having a sale of 49% off the subscription – which drops this curriculum down to approximately $10.00 a month. It is super fun! This is interactive and has a lot of visual components.
4. Abeka: Based out of Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL, this Christian based curriculum is used throughout the country and states both in homeschool and private schools. This curriculum has all basic foundation classes, reading, and Bible. They offer video lessons and standardized testing! Depending on your state requirements, that can be an essential factor. This one is more expensive ($100s to over a grand a year and increases with each grade). HOWEVER, they offer flexible pricing, accredited contents, and for those in high school, a DIPLOMA. That diploma will essential for those military families using the GI bill for their kids.
5. Classical Conversations: The basis of this Christian based curriculum based out of Southern Pines, NC is trifold: Classical, Christian, Community. The community that comes along with this curriculum is great for those worried about socialization. As you move to high school, the success on the SAT and ACT for those who use this curriculum is high. For middle school and high school, they offer trained tutors once a week. This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs! This curriculum grows both the social community and the independent investment for kids. If you are a working parent, the requirement for in-person get-togethers may be a challenge, but definitely worth looking at. If you cannot due the community part, you can still access their bookstore with great resources!
6. Liberty University Online Academy: This Christian based curriculum is fantastic. This one is pricey, but offers family discounts, military discounts, and payment plans. They offer structured and customizable learning plans, around the clock access to the curriculum and certified teachers. This curriculum does offer dual enrollment for up to 60 college credits. This is something to consider if your state does not offer this. Dual enrollment has the ability to let your child graduate high school with an associate degree as well! This curriculum also allows your student to graduate with a diploma recognized nationwide!
7. Duoling: This is not a curriculum, but a FREE learning resource. This teaches almost any language with an interactive online environment. Learning a language at a young age can help with communication, critical thinking, and socialization. This free program sends weekly progress reports and daily reminders to practice. With built in incentives of rewards and trophies (much like a video game), this allows your child to move at their own pace. We do use this, but we do not grade our son on this.
8. Supplemental Learning: I am an avid reader and believe, like Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, that learning is done through reading. For those of you who follow my son’s amazing history, you know reading taught him to speak. In addition to the above, we incorporate state level reading into our year. This is approximately ten books a year. The book is read, a paper is written and a project is done. Projects have included everything from building Lego diagrams and book reports to writing a play. This is usually a month-long process, so my son learns how to executive plan at the same time.
9. Unschooling: This is a relatively new idea. This allows teaching children based on their interests and not following a curriculum. This is often termed “natural learning” or “independent learning.” This is not a curriculum, not a method, but a way of looking at children and life. A great example of this is the movie Captain Fantastic about a family that homeschooled their children in the wood. (Do not watch this with your young kids; this is rated R and has adult themes). This type of “curriculum” is an opportunity for you as a parent to educate your child in the way you think is best.
10. Tutors: Yes, tutors still exist. They are also great resources throughout the education of your child. A quick google search will generate thousands of results for tutors near you. A lot of homeschool curriculums offer tutors, but if you choose one without that and need one for your child, this is a great resource to consider. Prices will range with each depending on course work, grade level, frequency and more. This is a great resource to have in your back pocket as your children get older as well.
The best part about homeschooling is that it is fluid. What works for one child might not work for another. What worked one year might not work the next. There are so many options out there. You do not need to feel stuck in one curriculum ever. Do what works for your family.
Know too, that this is a change for your family. Anticipate growing pains for everyone. Give yourself GRACE. No one expects you to be perfect. We don’t expect teachers who go to school for years of getting trained to do this to be perfect. Teaching your kids will be hard (teaching anyone is). I have a teacher friend who once told me, “I love teaching, but there is NO WAY I could teach my own kids.” That is a teacher. Teaching your children is not without challenges. But, picking a curriculum should not be one of them.
Go forth in decision knowing you are not alone. There are tons of communities out there to help. Reach out to me anytime. I would love to know how I can be of better service.
*****As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.