Friday, April 21, 2017

5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 5

Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  This week I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool over the past year or so to make it much more successful.  I hope sharing our story helps you as we walk through piece by piece knowing when and what to change in your school.   

Monday I shared about knowing when things need to change in your homeschool and some signs that I saw that led me to change things in our school.  You can read that post here.  Tuesday I shared about deciding what to change in your homeschool and you can read about that here.  Wednesday I shared about planning the changes in your homeschool and you can read about that here.  Yesterday I shared about how to implement the changes and you can read it here.  Today I am going to end this series with:
5 Days of Knowing You Need Change In Your Homeschool,  A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Evaluating
The last step of changing anything should always be evaluation.  There is a lot to think about when you make changes to anything.  Is it working?  Is it working like I thought it would?  Do I need to make other changes?  Is our school getting better?  You get the idea.  We have to reflect back on the changes we made otherwise you could end up in the same situation you were in when you realized you needed change to begin with.  Stop the vicious cycle by evaluating the changes you have made.

I wish I could tell you that I started the habit of evaluating our school years ago.  If I had maybe it would have saved us from having a rough year.  The truth is that in the past I didn't evaluate our school enough and we did have a rough and rocky year one year, but I learned from it.   So now I personally have started evaluating how our school is going every 6-8 weeks.  This gives me a chance to make small adjustments along the way before I have to make huge changes.  It has really helped me so that I don't feel like our school is spinning out of control anymore and I catch things before they become a big issue.  I don't have a formula or formal system of evaluation, I really just ask myself the following questions:
  • How is school going for each child?
  • Is there a subject that either child is struggling in?
  • If they are struggling, it is because it is a hard concept or is it because of the materials we are using?
  • Is there anything I can change that would make our school run smoother?
  • Am I giving out too much work?
  • If I need to make changes, do they need to be temporary or long term?  (Temporary changes would be adjusting school load due to sickness or field trips.)
I really just try to step back and look at our school from the outside.  I want it to be a nice balance between learning while being challenged and learning while having fun.  Homeschooling gives us the unique opportunity to customize our school to what works for our children and what works for us.  Don't be afraid to make the changes that truly make your school work for your family.  

I hope that I have been an encouragement to you this week.  I hope that if you feel stuck in your homeschool, you will use my topic of change this week to break out of being stuck.  Take it one step at a time and start small.  You can do it!  You aren't in this alone and I don't want you to feel like you are.  I would love to encourage you in your journey so feel free to contact me by email, leave me a comment, or reach out to me on one of my social media pages.  

This week I am participating in an Annual Blog Hop with my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  It is our goal this week to fill you with encouragement and we are all chatting about homeschooling.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the link below the button to Hop on over to the next blog and read more encouragement.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 4

Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  This week I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool over the past year or so to make it much more successful.  I hope sharing our story helps you as we walk through piece by piece knowing when and what to change in your school.   Monday I shared about knowing when things need to change in your homeschool and some signs that I saw that led me to change things in our school.  You can read that post here.  Tuesday I shared about deciding what to change in your homeschool and you can read about that here.  Wednesday I shared about planning the changes in your homeschool and you can read about that here.  Today I am going to follow that up with:
5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 4, A Glimpse of Normal Blog
All week long we have been talking about making changes in your homeschool and now it is finally time to implement those changes.  Let's put them to use and get headed towards a school that works for you and your family.  Here is how we implemented the changes we made in our school so that it started working for us again.
  • Develop a Plan - Yes, I do know we did this yesterday's post, but just in case you missed it, get a plan together before you try to make changes.  I am truly a "plan on the fly" type of girl and I get it, but this style and method doesn't usually work well long term for homeschooling.
  • Pick a Start Date for Your Changes - Like I mentioned yesterday, in my opinion it is best to start the subjects you made changes to after a break of some sort.  This break can be the weekend, a Holiday break, or after summer break.  Just be sure to pick a date and stick to it.
  • Get You Materials Ready - Since you have done all this planning, don't forget to get the materials you intend to use ready and have them available on your start date.
  • Introduce the Changes You Made - Let your student know what changes you made, what you expect from them with the changes, and be excited to try something different.  This will get your student(s) excited too.
  • Get Going on The Changes - Whatever changes you made, get them going.  Dive in and see what happens.  
  • Be Patient - The changes may not seem to be working at first, but give it a little time.  You know the saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day,"  this applies to your school too.  You can't just try the changes one day and determine they aren't working.  Give your students time to adjust while you adjust too.  
  • Don't Give Up - Sometimes change overwhelms everyone involved and that doesn't mean the change you made is bad, it just means you need more time to adjust and that is okay.  Buddy is way better at adjusting to change now than he was just a few years ago.  So even if what you have planned doesn't seem to be working, don't throw it out the window, just make what ever tweaks you need and keep trying.  
  • Adjust as You Go - I had the first few weeks of our unit study for History ready to go with our new school year last fall.  Buddy was excited to be studying the Civil War and learning about a topic that interested him, so he worked faster than I had thought he would for the first couple of weeks.  I had to quickly plan out the next steps we would take on our studies to adjust for him working faster.  Later on we were studying Gettysburg and for that I had him put together a newspaper as his project about it.  This ended up taking him longer than I planned because he was really planning it all out and perfecting his newspaper.  Again I had to adjust and move back the next subject I planned to give him more time to work.  I was okay with it because he wanted to do a really nice job and I could tell he was taking it step by step and not just dragging his feet.
  • Repeat - Keep planning out a few weeks at a time so that you are working ahead, but still able to monitor progress as you go.  In the past I totally would have told you to plan out the whole year and have it ready, but that can be completely overwhelming for you the teacher when you need to make changes.  So I suggest planning just a few weeks ahead at a time.
This is the process I used when I implemented changes in Buddy's school.  It is the same process I will use as I make changes for Little Miss for school too.  Taking school step by step and adjusting as necessary helps when it comes to making changes.  Don't let it overwhelm you because I know that if I can do it, you can too.  I have faith in you!

This week I am participating in an Annual Blog Hop with my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  It is our goal this week to fill you with encouragement and we are all chatting about homeschooling.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the link below the button to Hop on over to the next blog and read more encouragement.  Don't forget to come right back here tomorrow for more.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 3

Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  This week I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool over the past year or so to make it much more successful.  I hope sharing our story helps you as we walk through piece by piece knowing when and what to change in your school.   Monday I shared about knowing when things need to change in your homeschool and some signs that I saw that led me to change things in our school.  You can read that post here.  Yesterday I shared about deciding what to change in your homeschool and you can read about that here.  Today I am going to follow that up with:
5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 3, A Glimpse of Normal Blog
You've already recognized that you need changes in your school.  You went through the steps of deciding what needs to change.  How do you plan the changes for your homeschool?  That is exactly what we will be discussing today.  I would never want to encourage you to make changes to your school and then leave you on your own.  So today I want to walk through how I planned out the changes in our school so you can get some ideas.
  • Make Minor Adjustments Where Necessary - When we were super unhappy with the curriculum we were using, the attitudes we were getting, and every day seemed to be a battle, I looked at what minor adjustment(s) I could make to help.  I didn't want to do a major change mid-year and it wouldn't have worked because it would have been overwhelming.
  • Do the Research - When the idea of Unit Studies was given to me, I had an idea of how they worked, but I wanted to be more knowledgeable before I jumped in.  So I started researching what they looked like, what they required students to do, and how you went about finding materials for them.  It doesn't matter what curriculum you choose to use, just make sure you do the research to see if it will be a good fit for your family.  
  • Research Specific Companies - If you have a favorite company that you get your math books from (for example), research them.  They may offer curriculum in other subjects that are also a good fit for your family.  If they don't offer other curriculum, they may lead you to partner sites that do.
  • Pick a Start Date For Your Changes - We chose to start our new changes with the beginning of school last fall.  It seemed like a natural fit and we had already made minor adjustments the previous year and felt with these little tweaks we could make it until the next school year.  If you can't wait until the next school year, I suggest implementing the changes after a break or at the beginning of a new week unless you desperately need immediate change.
  • Talk Over the Changes With Your Students - We didn't always do this.  When the kids were little we just picked what we thought would work best.  Now that they are getting older and can really understand when and why we need to make changes, we do want their input.  It would be easy to be a school dictator, but that would just make my kids hate school and I don't want that.  We take their suggestions into account and weigh all the options to make sure the things we are choosing are a good fit for all of us. 
  • Plan Out Several Weeks of the Subject You are Changing - This will help you be prepared, but also give you a chance to make adjustments as you get going with the changes.  Think of it as baby steps and you just take a couple at a time.  If it is working, plan out more weeks.  If it isn't working, tweak the changes as you need to.
  • Gather Your Supplies - Get what you need to use for the changes you made.  This might require trips to the library, craft supplies, borrowing books from friends, and other ideas.  If you can get them in advance do so because it will make everything easier when you need to use those supplies.
  • Give the Changes Time and Grace - Try out the changes for a few weeks and then access if they were the right ones.  If they are not, don't beat yourself up or give up.  It doesn't mean you are a bad parent or a horrible teacher, it just means that specific plan didn't work.  Remember that each child learns differently and sometimes what we think will work, we end up having to throw out the door.  Other times the exact thing we don't think will work, is what works beautifully.  I think it keeps us on our toes.
  • Don't Forget to Pray - I prayed over our school before I made changes, when I was deciding what to change, and after we made changes.  God is an important part of our school and I do my best to put Him first in it. 
This is the exact process we went through when I switched Buddy to Unit Studies.  It is the process I plan to use this coming school year when I switch Little Miss to Unit Studies too.  Unit Studies just seem to be what works for our family.  It gives the kids some freedom to research topics they are interested in and it allows me to fit in the curriculum that works for us.  I make necessary changes as we go, but overall it works.  Little Miss is looking forward to changing up her curriculum and being able to do more hands-on activities.

Do the changes you want to make still seem overwhelming?  Walk through each of these steps and just take them one at a time.  You are not alone and you CAN keep homeschooling.  I had those days where it felt like it was all falling apart, but after I started making changes they are almost non-existent.  Don't give up on your dreams of homeschooling, take a breath, and pray.  Seek what you need to change and go for it.  As always I would love to encourage you on your journey.  Leave me a comment, reach out to me on my blog social media pages, or pop me an email.  You CAN do this!!!

This week I am participating in an Annual Blog Hop with my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  It is our goal this week to fill you with encouragement and we are all chatting about homeschooling.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the link below the button to Hop on over to the next blog and read more encouragement.  Don't forget to come right back here tomorrow for more.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 2

Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  This week I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool over the past year or so to make it much more successful.  I hope sharing our story helps you as we walk through piece by piece knowing when and what to change in your school.  Yesterday I shared about knowing when things need to change in your homeschool and some signs that I saw that led me to change things in our school.  You can read that post here.  Today I am going to follow that up with:
5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool, A Glimpse of Normal Blog, Change
Homeschooling shouldn't be a struggle, but sometimes in your heart you know that if something doesn't give, it just isn't going to work.  You see the signs and you know it is time for a change, but that thought just stops you dead in your tracks.  I know, I have been there.  

I saw all the signs that we had to change Buddy's school or he was going to hate school forever, but I was frozen.  If I changed what we were doing then I had to take on planning again and did I really have time for that?  Then God really pricked my heart and kept asking "Do you want your child to hate his school experience?" and the answer to that is NO!  So I really started praying about what I should change and how to change it.  I also had many, many conversations with my hubby because he totally supports our school and wants the best for our kids.  He also has great ideas because he can see our school from a different perspective since he isn't the one teaching every day.  I also started consulting friends, especially ones that had older students, to see what suggestions they might have.  The answer I kept getting over and over was that I had to do what worked for us.  So what did that mean?  I had to look at the following areas to find out what we needed to change.
  1. What was the biggest struggle in our school? - I had to really access what our biggest challenge in school was.  When it came right down to it the main issue Buddy had was the amount of time he spent reading each day.  When he was spending 4+ hours reading, he wasn't getting anything from it.  He had started to read to "just get it done" rather than reading to understand.  Once we narrowed down the problem(s), we could figure out a solution to the problem.2
  2. What part of our school was working? - Buddy didn't hate everything we did for school, he was just burnt out on the reading portion.  We read for 4-5 classes of our day and that was just too much.  Some of our classes were working fine the way they were and didn't need to be changed.  You know how the saying goes "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  There is no reason to change what does work, focus your time and energy on changing what is broke.
  3. Can your curriculum be modified? - I did modify our curriculum to finish out the difficult year, but modifying it every year would not make the curriculum we were using beneficial.  It is a curriculum that I felt could be modified temporarily, but to adjust it every year would mean that a quarter to half of the curriculum would not be used and that was not cost effective.  Since it didn't make financial sense to only use half of the curriculum each year, but have to pay for an entire curriculum, it didn't make sense to continue in that direction.
  4. Start Small - I knew I didn't need to change everything.  There was really only a couple of subjects I needed to change up.  I had already switched out our Language Arts thanks to a great product I found from the reviews I do.  The only other change I needed to make was to History.  I needed this to be more hands-on and more interactive since this is how he learns best.
  5. Commit to Making One Change - When I first decided to change up our History, I didn't know exactly what it would look like, but I was committed to finding what would work best for Buddy.
  6. Give Yourself Time to Change - If you can plan to make your change after a break, do it.  This gives you prep time and time to figure out how it will work.  If you need to make the changes immediately, that is okay, but give yourself and your student grace as you figure out the changes.  
  7. Adjust and Tweak as Needed - Not every change you make will work perfectly, keep that in mind.  Sometimes I have a plan in my head for our changes and it blows up when I implement it.  It happens and then I go back to the drawing board.  I adjust our plan as needed so that it keeps working. 
Are you stuck in that spot where you know the changes need to be made?  Ask yourself what is working, what isn't working, and what can be modified.  Start small, commit to making one change, and then adjust from there.  Don't let changes scare you.  Find someone that you can bounce your ideas off of and just take it one step at a time.  If you need someone to bounce ideas off of or someone to encourage you, email me or leave me a comment, send me a message on one of my social media pages, I would be happy to chat with you.

This week I am participating in an Annual Blog Hop with my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  It is our goal this week to fill you with encouragement and we are all chatting about homeschooling.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the link below the button to Hop on over to the next blog and read more encouragement.  Don't forget to come right back here tomorrow for more.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

5 Days of Knowing You Need Change in Your Homeschool: Day 1

Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  This week I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool over the past year or so to make it much more successful.  I hope sharing our story helps you as we walk through piece by piece knowing when and what to change in your school.

Today's topic is:

I think one of the biggest questions we have as homeschool parents is how do we know when it is time to make changes in our homeschool.  I know for years I wrestled with this question because I was afraid that I would try something and it wouldn't work and just end up being a waste of our money.  As I started becoming more confident in my homeschooling ability (yes, homeschool moms struggle with our homeschool confidence), it got easier for me to see that I needed to change our school to make it more successful for both the kids and I. 

Years ago when I first started homeschooling, I pieced together our curriculum and it worked okay.  It took a lot of time to plan out lessons and grade everything, but those were the early years and I was homeschooling just one child.  As Buddy got older and around third grade, the curriculum that I pieced together didn't always have books for that grade.  I found out that they switched what they did for third grade and up and it really made a headache for me.  It would have been tons of piecing curriculum together and just wasn't worth it in my book.  We also had a little one in the house at this point and I didn't have the time to be spending hours and hours putting everything together each week.  About that time, a friend introduced me to a boxed curriculum (everything comes in one big box) and it had worked great for her so we jumped on board.  We used this boxed curriculum for Buddy for 4th-7th grade.  I have also used this same boxed curriculum company for Little Miss for K-3rd grade.  This boxed curriculum is from a great company that I really do love, but in the past couple of years it just hasn't been working for us.  It isn't because the material isn't great, it is truly a great curriculum.  It just didn't work because of the time it was taking to complete school each day with each child.  School was starting to take us over 8 hours each day and really weigh us down.  Long before I realized how long school was taking us each day I started noticing other small signs that we need to make a change.  

The things I noticed that made me realize that I needed to make a change were:
  • Attitude Changes - everything about school was a big deal in our house.  Attitudes and emotions were all over the place because of school.  The project that was okay last week was end of the world this week.  The book that was horrible yesterday was today's favorite.  You get the idea.
  • Inconsistent Schoolwork - grades were all over the place, even when my kids had a full understanding of the subject matter.
  • Boredom - doing the same routine every day was producing boredom when it came to school which led to poor focus, poor grades, and poor attitude.
  • Time - School really did start taking 8+ hours every day.  Buddy would spend 4-5 hours reading and then I read with him for another hour or so in addition to reading to and with Little Miss which meant between the 2 kids over 8 hours of school each day.
  • Dread - I noticed that Buddy who used to not mind school and was happy to tell everyone he had favorite subjects really started dreading each school day.  It was long and tedious to him and he felt like there was no end in site to the day, to the work, and to the reading.
  • Lack of Enthusiasm - If I dreaded something every day, I wouldn't be enthusiastic about it either.  The thing that bothered me about the lack of enthusiasm was that it was rubbing off on his sister and making her say she didn't like subjects before she even had time to really dig in them.  It was contagious and nothing was exciting anymore for either student.  
  • Daily Battles - Not everything became a daily battle when it came to school but it was truly starting to feel like it.  It felt like every little thing in school was a battle.  When one child was complying the other was complaining and vice versa.  It just wasn't working.
As you can guess, school became a real chore.  I noticed that these things were happening more and more often.  It wasn't just one bad day because those do happen.  It was more bad days than good days.  That is when I started really looking at where and when we were going to make changes because it was clear that it wasn't a matter IF we needed to make a change, a change HAD to happen for both the kids and I.  We had to get our school back on track and I felt so burdened to help the kids regain their love of learning.  Quitting isn't an option as I know that God has called me to homeschool.  

Is this where you are right now?  Are you struggling through every day of school thinking something has to give?   Do you feel like there are more bad days than good days?  Stick around this week, because I am going to continue telling our story tomorrow.  Come back tomorrow to read about deciding what changes to make.

This week I am participating in an Annual Blog Hop with my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  It is our goal this week to fill you with encouragement and we are all chatting about homeschooling.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the link below the button to Hop on over to the next blog and read more encouragement.  Don't forget to come right back here tomorrow for more.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sneak Peek

So we have been very busy working on the living room floors of this old barn.  They are turning out amazing.  While it took us forever to decide which flooring to get and we went back and forth for what seemed like forever, I am very glad we did.  I love the flooring we picked.  We will be finishing it up today so hopefully next week I can give you a full progress report.

A Glimpse of Normal Blog, flooring, update

#ireallyliveinabarn

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Next Week Will Be Hopping...

Now that I have your attention, I am excited to tell you that next week from April 17-21, 2017 I will be hopping.  Blog hopping that is!  I will be participating in an Annual 5 Day Blog Hop with some of my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew.  This year our topic is "5 Days of Homeschool...." and we will be discussing a multitude of Homeschool topics to encourage you.  I am very excited about my personal choice for a topic for next week's blog hop because I picked it from our own experience homeschooling and we have been figuring it out over the last year or so.  I love it when I can write from real life.

My topic for the blog hop next week is:


Changes in our homeschool can seem like such a big deal, but they don't have to be when you know what to look for regarding changes in your school.  I am sharing our personal story of the changes we have made in our homeschool to make it much more successful and I hope it helps you to know when and what to change in your school.

Wednesday:  Planning the Changes in Your Homeschool
Thursday:  Implementing the Changes in Your Homeschool
Friday:  Evaluating the Changes in Your Homeschool


Each day next week I will be posting about these subjects and how it has affected us personally.  I hope you will come back and join me for the Annual Blog Hop.  I intended to come back to this page every day once the Blog Hop opens and add the link for my daily post.

Please come back next week and join me right here, each day as I discuss this topic and share our experiences on it.
5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017