Success Habits: The Most Important Part of Your Curriculum- Part 1

As homeschool teachers, we spend tons of time teaching our kids subjects like English, math, science, etc. And while these subjects are important, many studies show that there isn’t as big a correlation as we have all been lead to believe between “straight A’s” in these subjects and having a successful and happy life.

For some of you, this doesn’t come as a surprise and you may even homeschool because of this. There are a bunch of skills, though, that you can add to your curriculum that are common among successful, happy adults.  Adding these into the way you are “doing school” could be just the key to making all of this hard work even more worthwhile. Here are the first five of 15 habits and developed skills that successful people have in common.

1. Read every day.

This is obvious, but worth mentioning. Successful adults read, listen to audio books, or have some other daily input that continues their lifelong learning. 88% of successful adults read 30 minutes or more every day. This is a huge habit that is easy to create when your kids are young.

The key for you as a homeschooling teacher is to make that daily reading time enjoyable for your kids. Personally, one of our main homeschooling goals is to raise kids who love to read. This means really encouraging them to choose things they love and are interested in as daily readers on top of the books you choose for other areas in your homeschool.  

Here is a great teaching tip when it comes to reading. For books you use in everyday teaching, or for any textbooks you are using, pick books that are at your child’s reading level. This means that they occasionally ask about a new word, but comprehension is not stalled by overly struggling to sound things out. To stretch your child’s reading skills, choose books that are a grade level ahead of their comfort level. Have them read these books sparingly. For their daily reading, have them choose books just under or even a grade or two under their comfortable reading level. The goal here, besides enjoyment, is to allow them to get lost in the books in order to build skills in the process and experience the joy of reading. If they are struggling during their 30-minute daily reading, they aren’t practicing what they know, nor are they picking up the information or story line in the books.

2.    Spend less time on the TV, Internet, cell phones, or playing video games.

Our country is seeing a decrease in attention span due to the technology crisis. Our work force is having issues with productivity and focus due to cell phone and social media use, as well as all of the other technological distractions. I could get into tons of studies and trends here, but the most telling thing I can tell you are the stats on successful vs. struggling adults and their time on devices. Two thirds of successful adults watch less than an hour of TV and spend less than an hour on the Internet unless it is work related. The people who are in charge of their lives and making a difference just don’t spend a lot of time getting lost in technology.  

You have the ability to remove those influences from your kids’ lives right now. This will be setting them up to be light years more prepared for a productive and happy life than the rest of our country. Caution: be careful not to withhold it too much or they will be drawn to it. It is best not to introduce things like smart phones when getting your kids their first phones. And don’t model heavy TV watching! I have found that the attitude of “why would you want to do that when you could do all of this” works so much better than a flat “no, because I said so.”

One statistic I found particularly interesting: 77% of those who are struggling financially in this country have the habit of spending more than 1 hour watching TV per day and 74% spend more than an hour surfing the internet.

3.    Talk less and listen more.

This is one of Covey’s seven habits, from Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This habit is a total game changer. The ratio of 5 to 1 is a great way to explain how long someone should listen in relation to the time they spend talking. Successful people are excellent listeners and communicators. They know that the best way for them to learn as well as influence others is to truly listen. Great communicators start by being great listeners first. Watch leaders you admire with the kids and notice how intently they listen to those around them.

This is a great skill to teach your kids and you can start by modeling it yourself. Up your listening time a little everyday. You will notice after a couple weeks, as you listen to them more, that they will begin to listen to you more. The best life long benefit from this skill is that the more you listen to people, the more you can ultimately help them.

4.    Don’t give up.

Successful people don’t give up. They stick to things for the long haul and use each set back as a way learn and improve. Things don’t need to be evaluated by winning or losing, success or failure.  Successful people see things as winning or learning.  

There are three common traits successful people have- focus, persistence, and patience. They do not quit going after their big goals.  Those who struggle in life as well as financially have a habit of giving up, and usually it is right before things get better.

5.    Set goals, don’t make wishes.

Kids are full of dreams and wishes. As parents, we can show them how to set goals, take those most important wishes and dreams, and teach them how to make them come true.  

70% of successful adults have at least one major goal each year they are actively pursuing. And get this: only 3% of those who struggle to make ends meet do this. To me, that says it all. Goal setting is key. It is important to mention here that these are kids. They spend their childhood dreaming of becoming a ballerina, going to the moon, or becoming president. Start small when it comes to goal setting. You are just teaching the process and how to be successful when aiming for a goal. When they find the one big thing they really want to pursue, they will have the tools to successfully go about achieving that goal.

When I first started studying all of this, I would look around and observe people who were where I wanted to be or who were where my kids wanted to be. We would point out these traits in people like Mother Teresa, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and so many more. Enjoy exploring these traits with your family.

Tune in next week for five more habits and traits of successful and happy adults! 

We would love to hear your observations below or in the Facebook group.
The stats included in this article come from Success Magazine.

5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started Homeschooling


It’s an exciting time of year! For some of you, you’ll be starting to homeschool for the first time this fall. Congrats on the beginning of an amazing adventure! For others, you’ll be continuing to homeschool as you have been for years. Here are five tips from us oldies to the newbies that we wished we had figured out in our first few years as homeschool moms.

1.    Don’t recreate school! 

I know. For most of us, traditional schooling is all we really know, right? But think about it. You pulled your kids out of school for a reason: it wasn’t the right fit. Don’t try to recreate a classroom at your dining room table. It’s a waste of time that will ultimately make you all frustrated! Do- figure out what everyone really likes about being able to do school differently. That could be sleeping in and working in the afternoon, sitting on the floor or in the backyard to work, focusing on just one subject a day, listening to music while everyone works, a field trip every week, doing the work at Grandma’s, making it a lot more hands on, or anything that makes learning more engaging, productive, and fun!

2.    Don’t try to finish it all.

Those curriculum packages have a lot of problems in each day’s worth of work. You know why? So the kids who need more practice have the extra work already there in the books. Just do the evens or odds, or even every 5th problem. If your kids remember it from the previous year, just do enough to refresh their memories and call it a day. Focus on doing more work only when they need it. That is one of the major benefits of homeschooling. Tailor the work to what your kids actually need. And if they burn out, you don’t need to finish the whole book by the end of the year. Most teachers don’t complete the whole textbook. They pick and choose. So should we!

3.    Don’t stick to only one curriculum for everything.  

So you’ve purchased a whole curriculum set and you’re all ready to get down to business. Keep in mind, though, that three weeks into the school year, you’re going to see that not all of it works for all of your kids. You don’t have to stick with just that one program! If it’s not working, go find something else that fits better. For example, most kids are not at the same grade level in every subject every year. Nor do they all learn the same way. Most programs focus on teaching in a specific style that may not match your kids. Start tailoring the work to their needs. You can find used curriculum on eBay and other places to play with as well as searching Pinterest and even Google to help you find what you need. Start with one subject that isn’t working well and play with different things. It’s more fun to find stuff yourself than you think!

4.    You don’t have to go through the curriculum at the pace that’s set up for you.  

If you can whip through the early chapters and take more time off at Christmas to go visit family, do it. If your kid is super excited about science in the fall, go through that whole years’ worth of work first and move on to other subjects later. If taking a vacation in October is what you all want to do, move things around and start a week early, double up for a while, or skip some things that aren’t necessary. This is one of the major perks of homeschooling. Enjoy it! You set the schedule!

5.    Listen to your kids.  

This is ultimately about your kids, right? They know what works for them and what doesn’t when it comes to learning. Ask them. Ask them about what they love to do, and read, and study, and be curious about. Ask them what time of day is the easiest for them to get through their work. Ask them what gets them excited. These are the clues to creating awesome, fun-filled, and productive learning days! For more ideas, download our free workbook, 5 Keys to an Awesome Homeschool Day.

Homeschooling can be the most rewarding, meaningful, and frustrating thing you will ever do. Remember, thinking outside the box, or classroom in this case, is why you decided to do this in the first place. Experiment and do more of what works!

If you know that homeschooling is the answer but you find you are not sure how exactly to create the experience or education you want to give your kids, the cart is open for a limited time for this fall’s session of Homeschool with Confidence, The Ultimate Homeschool Teachers Training. Watch for emails to get early bird pricing and bonuses!  

Here’s to an amazing homeschool year!

The 5 Stages of Learning

With the beginning of the new school year rapidly approaching, it’s time to start imparting the wisdom of the world on our kids again. So how exactly are we planning on doing that? There are so many different answers to that question. I have found that this 5 stage process will help you teach just about any skill.

For many years, modeling has been a great way for kids, and adults, to learn. You know what I’m talking about. Think back to your own childhood, watching a parent cook or work on projects around the house.  I have fond memories of watching my mom and my grandmother sew just about anything from scratch. At 6, I remember pulling out my fabric scrap collection, drawing out patterns, and creating a doll bed with bedding, doll clothing, and eventually a doll. I was able to do this because I spent hours watching my family sew.

There are 5 distinct phases to this process of modeling:

1.    You do and they watch you.
2.    You do and they help you.
3.    They do and you help them.
4.    They do and you watch (and answer questions).
5.    They do alone and you come and check the finished product.

I have found the basis of this structure in most everything I teach these days, whether it's to my kids, my employees, or even my dog.

The variations I need to apply to this process depend on how often I need to repeat each of the steps. Often with older kids (or adults I work with) I can merge or even skip a step, but when working with a 5 or 6 year old, I often find myself repeating the first three steps multiple times.  

What’s great about this process is that, while it works great when teaching a new math concept or a science procedure, it also works very well when teaching your kids to do chores around the house, for example, making their bed or cleaning their room. Remembering to keep these steps fun and drawing them out over several sessions or days will help to keep their interest and curiosity piqued.

If this tip is helpful, you might be interested in our signature course, Homeschool with Confidence, The Ultimate Homeschool Teachers Training! This course is full of concepts and strategies like this that help you teach your kids, in your unique way, the things that you want them to know. You can join the waitlist here for early access and special early bird pricing! This is the perfect compliment to starting the school year with the kids!

Here’s to a wonderful new school year!

The Most Important Thing to Do to Get Ready for the New School Year

The start of a new school year is just weeks away. In our family, these last few weeks of summer are filled with a mix of excitement and anticipation as well as a touch of (should I say it?) dread and melancholy.  

Personally, gathering school supplies, setting up our spaces, and looking at the potential in the pages of fresh, clean workbooks can get me so excited I get goose bumps!!  (Pretty geeky, right?!?) Those first couple weeks of school tend to be a dream. We’re all excited. We “play” school, it seems, and each day starts with a sense of fun infused into the whole day.

And then it isn’t fun anymore. You know what I am talking about, don’t you? By week 3 or 4, everyone gets grumpy. The new curriculum isn’t all it was supposed to be. The kids are bored or frustrated or both! You’re starting to remember all the things that went wrong last year and you’re starting to think that things won’t be better this year. You could even start having those doubts about the whole homeschooling thing again.

Why is it that this pattern happens every year?

I can tell you why! It’s the vision you all share. When you start and things are fun and happy and optimistic, everyone has a vision in their mind of how the perfect school day and year are going to look like. Each of you can’t wait to start experiencing it! But here’s the thing. You don’t have a way of capturing it, keeping it alive, and continually working towards it to keep the momentum.

Before you do anything this year, capture that excitement. When things start to decline or you’re having a bad day, visit that vision.

The best way to capture this excitement is to start answering key questions for each member of the family at those keep moments of high anticipation. Don’t bother asking if they’re not excited about things. It needs to be done when they, or you, are super eager for the year to start.

Here is a printable for you to fill out for each of you to capture your visions. { PDF }

These questions, these answers, this vision will give you the insight you need to create an amazing year and keep the excitement going.  

Insert favorites into your weeks and days. Keep mixing it up, and when something works, take note and repeat it! Do they find the curriculum boring? Don’t do every question every day. Add something more interesting for your kids. Your goal isn’t to finish the curriculum perfectly. Really, it isn’t! Your goal is for your kids to learn great stuff. What gets them fired up and learning? Field trips? Outside work time?  More science? Following their curiosity instead of the assignments? Ask them. They will tell you!

We are getting ready to launch the Fall 2016 Session of our 6-week signature program. This course is filled with ideas and insights for how you can take those frustrating days and make them easier. Its purpose is to help you transform what you know about your kids and what they need out into practical strategies for working with kids and your curriculum. 

In the course, we talk about learning styles (not just auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) and ways your kids absorb information. We talk about the types of curriculum available and who they’re created for so you can figure out the best way to use it for support instead of having it run your school day. We talk about building your vision for your homeschool and your kids and how important it is to create a life you and your kids love. And so much more!  

This course will take an hour or so a week for 6 weeks and is totally worth the investment. It’s then yours to keep and refer to every year. Whenever you need a reminder, a boost, or your kids grow into a new level, you can go in and listen to the module that will help clear your mind and actions.

Sign up now for the waitlist. The cart will be opening soon! 

We can’t wait to get started this fall!

Top Ten Must Read Books For Homeschooling or Unschooling Families

When I started homeschooling, I read every book I could find on the subject. I also devoured books on teaching theories, family and child development, and, well, anything I could find that would give me a little more insight on how to create an experience for my kids that would be worth it. I learned a TON from all of my readings. My continued, focused reading created a base of knowledge that gave me tools to do and be the teacher mom I wanted and needed to be. It also showed my kids by example that continued learning and loving to read contributed to our amazing daily life. Reading awesome books continues to be the way I get into the zone and provide what my kids really need.

These are the 10 books that over the years I have found add the juice and excitement into our homeschooling/unschooling process. The list includes the 10 books I would recommend any homeschooling mother to read. As my children grow, I find that rereading a favorite can provide me with new, needed answers. As you may know, after homeschooling for 15 year,s we have tried it all and eclectic unschooling became our primary method. These books contain the best info on why we choose, what we choose, and when we choose it.

1- Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

Wow. This book is what confirmed everything I had been thinking about and set me on this homeschooling path. It is not actually a homeschooling book, but it specifically describes everything you need to be an awesome homeschooling family. To me, these 7 habits allowed everything else to fall into place.

2- John Holt, How Children Fail, Learning All the Time, Growing Without Schooling, etc.

John Holt is one of the grandfathers of homeschooling and unschooling. Though he passed in 1985, his books created the foundation for the homeschooling movement and are a great place to get a firm understanding of why we really need to be doing what we are doing.

3- John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us DownThe Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling

I had the honor of seeing John Taylor Gatto speak at a homeschooling conference years ago. What he had to say really got me thinking. He was an award winning, New York City public school teacher who now supports homeschooling/unschooling. His books describe the purpose behind the public schools, why they were created, and what their big picture goals are in our society. It is not what you think! Worth the read for sure.

4- Peter Grey, Free to Learn

Unlike many on my list, this book was written recently. It discusses the psychology about why we should allow children to educate themselves. It is interestingly written and gives a lot to think about. He also has an excellent blog.

5- Raymond and Dorothy Moore, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook

Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy are also founding contributors to the homeschooling movement. His methods have a little more structure than many I have put on this list, but I do believe it is worth the read to include into your ideas about how to run things in your home. His percentages of focus have stuck with me as a bench mark. If you have kids that need structure (I had one) and you are trying unschooling, elements of this book will help meld those together.

6- Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life Education

This book is focused toward teens and how to unschool the high school years. Not only is it great for you as a parent, but your teen will find it interesting too. It was influenced by John Holt's ideas. Grace Llewellyn includes stories from real teens who opted to take this path. She also discusses lots of ideas on how teens can have a rich, full education without high school and still have an awesome college career. This is a classic must read for the unschooled high schooler.

7- David Colfax, Homeschooling for Excellence

Here is another of those classic homeschool books that shows the roots of the homeschooling movement and what we can achieve when we are connected to why we are doing this. In the 80's, this family received a lot of media attention by having their group of kids attend Ivy League schools after homeschooling. This family put homeschooling as an excellent option on the map. I couldn't put it down.

8- Rebecca Rupp, Home Learning Year by Year

I love this book! For the part of me that needs a structured base to build from, this book provided a guideline from which I could see where we stood and what might be missing. This book gives a breakdown year by year of what kids should be learning and reading. We didn't follow it, but I used it to make sure we weren't missing anything big in the big picture.

9- Jay Niblick, What's Your Genius?

This is another not-your–typical-homeschooling-book, but I think that is part of its value! Jay Niblick starts from the beginning talking about how we are trying to stuff our kids into learning the same things as a base line for everyone. Instead, we should do what we have done for thousands of years, take a person's strengths, and have them focus in that direction and stop forcing knowledge that doesn't fit. This book gets me excited every time I go into it!

10- Maria Chelsey Fisk, Teach Your Kids to Think!

This book is written for parents of kids in public school, showing them how to teach thinking skills. Many of these skills come naturally to unschoolers, but there is always something to learn! If you are just starting on this homeschooling journey or if you are worried that your own schooling experience could get in the way, this could be an excellent read for you. It is always a benefit to have more information and this book provides that!

How to Enhance a Homeschool Education with the Perfect Internship

Learning through doing and modeling. So many of us already see and incorporate the advantages of this form of learning into our homeschooling. And apprenticeships and internships can take this to the next level for our older kids. Have you considered incorporating this into your fall schedule? Now is a great time to explore options for fall!

You should start by examining what your teen is passionate about. Are they in love with animals, motorcycles, or starting a business? Or do they already show a yearning to become a vet or a photographer? Now is the perfect time for them to get hands-on experience in their areas of interest. For example, perhaps they don’t totally understand what it means to be a vet, to see injured and sick animals every day. Perhaps the experience will deepen their passion and motivation to help, but what if it isn’t what they expected or thought it would be? Maybe they would prefer another animal-loving profession or another path entirely. Exploring what it really means to be in a particular job before spending years in school can be a real time, money, and stress saver! Encourage your kids to try multiple types of internships. This time in their lives is for exploring all of their passions! 

I know of one young adult who chose a multiple internship track instead of graduate school. Instead of committing to a pricey program, he chose to get 12 one-month internships in his field of interest. Over the course of this year, he worked with the top people in various companies as his version of an MBA. On top of that, he ran a Kickstarter to cover the expenses. The experience and connections he collected throughout that year are amazing. I tell you this because the opportunities are out there and you and your kid can create a program that fits their needs and desires.

If your child is considering starting their own business, which is a possibility we should be giving all of our children, an internship is actually the BEST way to learn how to build and run a business of their own. I firmly believe that in our current economy and social situation, giving our children knowledge on how to create income without a j.o.b. is super important, even if their chosen careen path is leading towards working for someone else. That being said, I have heard it stated multiple times that if your teen wants to study entrepreneurship, the industry is moving so quickly that the college textbooks are out of date before they even go to print. The skills of this industry, though, are readily available online and through mentorship. An internship could be just the right first step.

Homeschooling makes this type of opportunity so easy. One of the greatest advantages homeschooling families have is our flexible schedule! Our kids can be available when most other high school and college students are in class, which allows for many more options and serves as a serious bonus when discussing this with potential mentors. Be sure to mention this in any interviews or discussions.

So how can you get started looking for an internship?  

There’s always the internet, of course, but the best opportunities usually come through people you know and who already know your kids. Let’s use the vet example again. One of my daughter’s friends at 13 was able to volunteer to help a local vet for several hours a week. At first she just swept, ran little errands, and watched. But over the next several years, her responsibilities broadened and included creating her own pet sitting business on the side. By 16, she was running the front desk as a hired employee as well as being a valued volunteer at a local animal rescue shelter. By the time she was applying to one of those highly coveted veterinary programs, she had many years of practical experience and excellent references.  

Starting to do something she loved for a couple hours a week at age 13 made a huge impact on her education. The people in their local clinic knew her passion for animals. She offered her help, just a little at first. Because they knew her and her helpfulness, the progression into a regular job was quite easy. So ask yourself: who knows your kids and their passions? Where could they start for an hour here and there helping out? This is a lesson in being proactive as well. Homeschoolers tend to be self-starters anyway. Ask yourself how this might transfer into a volunteer situation.

For older, working-age kids, it’s all about networking. Start asking around, both you and your kids, to see if they could shadow someone in a position your child would one day like to have. Don’t underestimate the educational opportunities of being a go-for and coffee-getter. These are great opportunities for your kids to be able to watch and see how things really work. Often they are able to ask questions and are in the right place at the right time to learn top-level ideas and methods. If the person is a good job match for an internship, they will jump at the opportunity to mentor someone. If they say no, it likely wouldn't be a good match anyway. Keep asking around. As a quick reminder, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, is an excellent read for guiding your teens into a career path. 

Now is the perfect time to start the conversation with your teen and with your friends about potential opportunities this fall! So let’s get moving…it’s time to start networking!

4th of July Fun with the Kids!

I love the 4th of July!  Family, summer weather, cook-outs, fireworks, everything!!  And while many of our favorite traditions are those we repeat year after year, sometimes adding in a new project for those curious and active kids is the perfect way to make the holiday feel extra-special.

Here are some of my favorite ways to mix things up with the kids on the 4th of July.
1. STEM activities including 4th of July slime, ice activities, the science behind fireworks (in video form), and much more!

2.  Food, crafting, and kids’ games (including a Patriotic Trivia Game).

3. Parents magazine always has a wide range of ideas for holidays with kids.  Here is their contribution this year.

4. This blog includes a fun discussion about festive July 4th clothing and an easy Star Spangled Ice Cream Sandwich idea.

5. A Patriotic Playlist to add atmosphere to your family celebration!

6. A list of things to talk about with kids about being patriotic. 

7. And last but not least, School House Rock’s 4th of July Cartoon.

Have a fun and fabulous Independence Day from everyone here at Homeschool with Confidence!

How to Inspire your Kids at the Dinner Table

Asking your kids quality dinner table questions can change the way they see the world.

Family dinners keep getting bad press for being a thing of the past. But one of the wonderful benefits that we as homeschoolers often have is consistent family time together at the dinner table. Time together is awesome, but we can influence the way our kids think about life at mealtime too. We just need to ask a question or two.  

Several years ago I read a book (and sadly I don’t remember which one) in which the author discussed a habit that changed her life. The author’s father asked the same question every night at the dinner table: Who have you helped today?

Every night she and her sister got to share something helpful they did during their day. This dinnertime routine quickly developed into actively looking for ways to help other people throughout the day. I love this!  She mentioned that as an adult, this was still a primary question in her life and it influenced her every day. This is something that we incorporated into our lives as well. It truly changed the tone of our lives! We still watch for opportunities to help, and I can see in my adult children the echoes of that dinnertime habit.

What question would ask you kids to change the way they see the world? Here are a few ideas!

•    What great things happened to you today?  (Shows that you care and keeps you alert to the great things that happen every day)

•    What are you grateful for today?  (Creates a life of gratitude, which is the one thing known to create happiness)

•    What interesting thing did you learn today?  (Instills active learning)

•    What is a question you have about your day?  (Instills curiosity)

•    What is great about that? (When asked after relaying a negative story or complaining, this can turn it into a positive experience instead)

•    What are you looking forward to tomorrow?  (Sets up the next day for a win)

•    What are the top three things that happened in your day?  (Great for communicating and being thoughtful)

•    Maybe you would like to create a reader. Ask them about one thing they read about during the day.

•    Ask them to teach you something to encourage active learning.

•    And of course…  Who have you helped today?

Another life skill that this helps to develop is quality listening. Being 100% present while listening to someone shows them love and respect. This tradition allows them to practice listening and be listened to as well. How awesome is that?

What is great about consistently asking the same question or questions over months or years is that the repetition of being asked and answering creates long term habits of living with that question in mind. I have also personally noticed that for a while, it can get repetitive, but breakthrough moments ultimately happen and are worth the wait. You’ll notice your son stepping up to help an older women load groceries into her car, or your daughter making sure to research something she was interested in just so she can share it with you at the table. 

What are the values that matter most to your family? A friend of ours even made laminated place-mats with a group of the most meaningful questions to feed her family’s minds while they were feeding their bodies. 
I’d love to hear about how you have incorporated one of the questions above into your daily mealtime. Or, come up with meaningful questions of your own and have those be the base for your nightly talks. And don’t forget…the parents should be answering these questions as well! 

101 Fun Summer Activities to Do With Your Kids

Summer is just about here! For many of us who don’t do school all year long, this means wonderfully long summer days full of potential (or potential boredom). Often, though, by the time August comes, it can feel like the summer just disappeared. After many years feeling like we missed out somehow, we decided to put a little more planning into our summer fun.

As some of you know, our family has a planning tradition that gets each person involved early in the summer to make sure we plan some of those special summer days in advance. You can go more in depth about the family friendly process here during the 4 Day Summer Fun Homeschool Challenge. To help give everyone in your family ideas for what would make their summer a ton of fun, I’ve put together the following list of fun summer activities!

101 Summer Fun Activities

1.    Bake cupcakes in ice cream cones and decorate them
2.    Run through sprinklers
3.    Go on a family bike ride
4.    Have a tricycle race
5.    Themed movie nights (perhaps everyone gets to choose a movie or maybe just have them pre-planned with a menu up on the wall to build excitement.)
6.    Go canoeing at a local pond, lake, or river
7.     Find and go to a bunch of summer concerts
8.    Volunteer at an animal adoption organization
9.    Go to your closest National Park and become a Junior Ranger
10.   Go horseback riding
11.    Visit grandma
12.    Bake a pie with berries the kids picked
13.    Hunt for fossils near a lake or gravel pit
14.    Have a luau in the backyard
15.    Create leis with wildflowers
16.    Get a wading pool
17.    Create an at-home art camp
18.    Go apple picking
19.    Set up a net and play badminton and volleyball
20.    Start geocaching
21.    Hold a Bigger or Better scavenger hunt for charity
22.    Play mini golf
23.    String beads into jewelry
24.    Have weekly game nights/afternoons
25.    Go camping
26.    Wade through a stream and search for minnows or tadpoles
27.    Make a giant slip-n-slide with a painter's tarp and shaving cream
28.    Make a bunch of greeting cards or birthday cards
29.    Visit a local museum or attraction you keep meaning to go to
30.    Throw a party just because
31.    Put on a play
32.    Invite friends to visit
33.    Read or listen to a book together
34.    Have your own Summer Olympics in your back yard
35.    Visit a museum you've never been to
36.    Learn how to juggle using handkerchiefs
37.    Go on a hike
38.    Learn how to knit or crochet
39.    Create a time capsule
40.    Start a garden
41.    Make paper airplanes
42.    Have a water fight
43.    Surprise Dad when he gets home from work with a Nerf gun, a note, and a house of full of hidden challenges
44.    Build a giant blanket fort
45.    Have a campout in your fort
46.    Create a family cookbook with all your favorite recipes
47.    Play flashlight tag
48.    Finger paint
49.    Get a bunch of chalk and draw on the patio, sidewalks, or driveway
50.    Play Frisbee
51.     Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents
52.    Build a tree house
53.    Have a yard sale
54.    Learn a foreign language
55.    Paint some canvas shoes with acrylic paints
56.    Get a pen pal and write real letters
57.    Go play laser tag
58.    Research your family tree
59.    Take naps on a super hot afternoon
60.    Catch fireflies
61.     Do a puzzle
62.    Have a pirate day with an “x” marks the spot treasure hunt
63.    Start a collection
64.    Go garage sale-ing
65.    Do an A-Z scavenger hunt or another type of scavenger hunt (There are tons of ideas on Pinterest.)
66.    Turn the backyard into a carnival -- set up a face painting area and games like ring toss
67.     Build a fort out of appliance boxes
68.    Decorate bikes and have a neighborhood Fourth of July parade
69.    Make popsicles with plastic cups and fruit juice
70.    Have a bonfire
71.     Fly kites
72.    Plan a massive water balloon fight
73.    Go fishing
74.    Make S’mores
75.    Go on a scenic drive and have sing-a-longs in the car
76.    Go to an airport and watch the planes take off
77.     Visit a farm
78.    Go roller skating
79.    Sketch, paint, or draw outside
80.    Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed
81.     Tie-dye some t-shirts or pillow cases
82.    Find a free outdoor movie or local drive-in
83.    Learn some magic tricks and have a show
84.    Clean up trash at a local park
85.    Learn a dance as a group like Thriller or even square dancing
86.    Have a fancy tea party
87.    Visit a cave
88.    Use face paints to transform each other into magical summer creatures
89.    Make Mexican paper flowers using different colored tissue paper
90.    Make a piñata by covering a balloon with newspaper strips and tissue paper
91.    Have a surprise birthday party for someone NOT on their birthday
92.    Set up a bike wash and raise money for a local charity
93.    Go zip-lining
94.    Make paper boats and have a race in a nearby stream
95.    Go fishing
96.    Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters
97.    Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young
98.    Set up a lemonade stand
99.    Plan a picnic with food, friends, and games
100.  Surprise the kids and forget cooking -- set up an ice cream sundae buffet for dinner
101.   Record your family summer adventures in a scrapbook or photo album

Here is a link to a printable 101 Summer Fun Activities list to hang on your fridge or wall. Use this to inspire your family during the 4 Day Summer Fun Homeschool Challenge and/or to have around to inspire the kids all summer long. Now is the time to make the most of your summer!

From my family to yours, I hope you have an amazing fun filled summer!  Please share your adventures in our Facebook Group or in the comments below.

5 Books to Help your HS Grad Make Money AND Love Life

Those of you who read my blog know that we have been exploring options that do not necessarily include 4 years in college and the debt that can go with it. Yes, I have children that have gone the college route. Yes, for the most part, it was a good move for both of them (except the mortgage sized loan and the year and a half-long job hunt that lead to a career whose monthly salary before taxes is less than is needed to pay half of that loan. Sigh.)   

Our son will likely not thrive in the college scene. Check out the Unschooling College Ideas section for more blog posts on this subject.  That being said, he has big ideas and big dreams, but isn’t sure how to get there. He knows that when his friends graduate from college in 4 years and are ready to look for a job and start paying off their loans, he plans to be in the middle of an amazing career. But the thing is, he is not quite sure how to get there yet. He has been exploring internships, but most importantly we have been looking for ways to help him think differently.  What are the ideas he needs to be thinking about to start this next leg of the journey?  I know for sure that he should NOT continue to compare himself to the college-track kids.

Here is a list of books we have put together that will help any teen get ready to choose the path to making money in their adult lives while also loving life.

1.    Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill 
This is an oldie but goodie and an absolute must read for anyone entering the work force. It was written in 1937 by a reporter who was challenged by Andrew Carnegie to study the top 100 people of their time and see what traits these successful people all have in common. I have read it myself 5 times over the years and it continues to give me new insights.  The best part is that it’s $.99 on Kindle and I have seen it for free floating around the internet.

2.    What Wakes You Up? by Justin Lafazan
This is the perfect book to help a teen or young adult get excited about the next step in their life. It is filled with ideas and exercises that will help them create a life and future path they are excited about traveling on every day.

3.    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki
I think the tag line- What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--that the Poor & the Middle Class Do Not! – says it all.  It is the top personal finance book of all time and an enjoyable read as well. This will open their eyes to the money making patterns around them. The book is about two real-life dads.  The author’s “poor dad” was a hard working educated man who spent his life working for others and just making ends meet. The “rich dad” was his childhood friend’s father who became the author’s mentor. His knowledge came from street smarts and experience and lead him to become the wealthiest man in Hawaii. This book explores the extreme differences between how each father views money, employment, and investing.

4.    4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
I just love Tim Ferris and the way he thinks! He is constantly thinking outside the box and creating new options for handling any kind of growth and learning. The ideas in this book will help the reader explore options that allow for so much more than just a 9 to 5 for 35+ years.  

5.    The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Chris takes the reader through a bunch of ideas on how to start creating money and an awesome life on $100. He wants to help the reader “reinvent” how they make a living. This is just the book to help your young adult start their journey of entrepreneurship.  

These are such great reads! Just looking at the covers inspires me. They are perfect for the young adult looking for a different option. They are also perfect for the college bound, the career type, and even homeschooling moms.  

These books will not only help your kid (and you!) think differently about what it takes to make money, but it will set them up to be ready to enter this new and changing economy where we can’t count on “getting the great job right out of college” for financial security.  

I’d love to hear about which books you love in the comments below or in the Facebook group, Homeschool With Confidence.

Traveling Off Season in the Spring

May is here and it is lovely everywhere! For our family, this is one of the main months we vacation, and no, not over Memorial Day Weekend!

As homeschoolers, we have the major benefit of traveling any time that we want.  We can shift our school schedule or even just arrange it so that our travel is part of our end-of-year schooling.

There are so many benefits to traveling in May! The country is awash with springtime color, the temps stay wonderfully moderate, and the pesky bugs are mostly not biting yet. But the major benefit is that the crowds are way down!

We have found that many attractions start to open in May (though you will want to make sure before you make any plans!), but because most schools haven’t let out yet, the crowds are way down.

Off and on for many years, we have traveled to Disney World during May. The spring-breakers are long gone and summer trips haven’t started yet. The flowers are in bloom all over the parks and the days are in the 70's-80's. It is absolutely beautiful. Many years, most lines weren’t over 15 minutes. And on top of that, I have often found lodging deals because we’re traveling so off-season. Tip: the first two weeks are the best!!  

Camping is also perfect for most areas this time of year. No mosquitos or high temps, and again, you’ll be beating the crowds.

So if the end of the school year is making things unproductive for your family, or if you are dreading the crowds of summer vacationers, plan a quick getaway in the next couple of weeks. Your whole family will thank you! Remember, one of the best parts of homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to travel during the week when most other kids are still stuck in school. Why not travel when it makes the most sense and the world is at its most beautiful? Make the most of it and plan your May getaway today!

Please share your spring travel plans in our group. We’d love to hear where you’re going!




Help! I'm behind!

Spring is here and summer is rapidly approaching. For many of us, this means we are heading to the end of the school year. That also may mean you are starting to stress about finishing your grade level “on time”.

Here are some key things you can do to make the end of the year go a little smoother.  

First, take a deep breath. Or several. What does it really matter anyway? In the goal of raising awesome adults, finishing “on time,” completing everything in the curriculum books, or even everything you wanted to do, doesn’t really matter. I have several family members who currently teach in schools. And here is the thing: teachers rarely finish everything in their textbook. In fact, I was unable to find a public or private school teacher who ever finished everything in their program or their textbooks.  

As homeschoolers, myself and other moms have on several occasions finished the whole program. This is partly because the curriculum is created with a different philosophy in mind (one to one vs. one to many) making it easier to finish. Part of it, though, is that we as homeschooling moms have this mindset about wanting to do it “right”. It is important to remember that these books and curriculum sets are created to have enough material in them to fill a whole year for those kids who absolutely love the subject and can’t get enough or who have more than the average pre-knowledge.  If that is not your kid, well, I am giving you permission not to finish!

It may very well be that your child isn’t ready to finish everything in a certain subject this year and that is why it is so hard to finish that last portion of work. Reviewing and letting this year’s gained knowledge settle for the summer might be what your child needs instead. Look through what is left and make sure they are ready and open to learning it. Pushing too hard or too soon may do more damage than good.  

Maybe your child is bored. That can create as much stalling as not being ready. If this is the case, or could be, skim through the rest of your curriculum, teach a broad overview to get the concepts out there and then give them the tests (if you do test). You may be surprised at how little of the homework and busy work is actually needed in some cases. It is key to remember that each child could be bored in some areas and not ready in others. Just because this works for one subject with one kid, doesn’t mean it will work for all subjects with all of your kids.  

This concept of teaching the overview and then testing may also be a good solution if you must finish for someone else, for example a curriculum program you send work into. But if you are in a program like that, you likely aren’t too far behind anyway!

One thing that could work really well is to take the subject or subjects your kids are excelling in and loving right now and really focusing on finishing just those. To me, the perfect compromise to getting the most out of the end-of-year learning time is to choose 1-3 subjects to pursue deeply and while doing a light review of the others. Why push what isn’t working right now? There is always next year and if they don’t end up hating it this year, they could easily whip through it then.

One last thing to think about: maybe your real learning happens away from the workbooks and curriculum. Instead of pushing harder to finish those elements, start looking at those things you have been doing instead of that work. Your kids could be learning more through their “distractions.” Log that instead and don’t worry about it.  

Most importantly, stop feeling stressed and being worried. It will work out. They will still get into college or have a great career or life even if you don’t finish those last 50 pages of the huge science program you are trying to complete. Being stressed makes them stressed and it is harder for them to take it in anyway. Enjoy your spring and get ready for summer break!

I have created an End of Year Prep Sheet just for you to help you think it through. Print off one copy per kiddo and fill it out to help you decide what needs to be completed and how to get there.

Here is a run through of how it works:

•    List out each subject and right below that area fill out your desired end date with weeks and/or days left to complete your school year.

•    The second column, Completed so Far, is where you take a tally of how far you actually are.  Fill in  ________ out of ________ .    You can do this as pages or lessons (example:  We have finished 16 lessons out of 22).

•    On a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 means your child is “stuck” and 4 means your child “loves it” and wants to do this first every day, fill out your assessment for each subject.

•    Is there any reason why this subject needs to be completed in full to get full credit from you? Maybe you have a teen taking a CLEP test and they need to finish it. Maybe you need to turn in the work to a 3rd party and they want everything in order to give a grade. Here is where you log that in. You simply thinking they should finish is not enough here.

•    Could it be better to wait until next year to pick up this subject again? In other words, does your child need some time to process before they can absorb more info?

•    Do the math. Here is where you figure out how much needs to be done per day or week in order to finish on time. Take your pages or lessons left to complete and divide by either the days or weeks left before you want to be done. This will give you an idea of what needs to be accomplished to finish everything by the date you have set. This gives you a clear idea of what the rest of the year could look like. Now is a great time to see if you want to adjust anything from your desired finish date to how much they need to finish per subject.

•    Finally, the big question here: Is it worth it? Is it? It is ultimately up to you.

Two last things to finish before you complete this End of Year Prep Sheet:

•    What else have we learned?  Fill out all of the things your child has learned that isn’t involved in the areas above. Examples include extra books read, hobbies, extracurricular activities like soccer or drawing classes, and those things they love to explore that just aren’t included anywhere. Don’t forget the things they have picked up from having the other kids around them learning as well. For example, we listened to Robinson Crusoe on audio book for my middle daughter and it was my youngest who actually really enjoyed it.

•    Finally, go over the progress your child has made this year.  Get into it!  They have learned a ton. Be grateful and enjoy the accomplishment. The rest now is gravy!

Download the End of Year Prep Sheet here!