Confident Homeschooling

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

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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!

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!

 

 

 

How to be the best Homeschool Mom you can be

What is the real reason you started to or are deciding to homeschool? Social reasons? Religious reasons? Academic reasons? A little of all of these?

While all of these are true for me, none of them are the number one reason we started to homeschool. Let me share our story… and be prepared because you may see a little of yourself in it, too.

When my oldest kids were just starting the schooling journey, we decided that in order to be good parents we needed to send them to excellently rated grade schools. Right?  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do to be good parents? These schools had some of the highest ratings in the country. We signed them up for extracurricular activities like soccer, ballet, and foreign language. We helped with homework and volunteered at the school. But you know what? Even though we were doing what our peers had repeatedly told us to do to be great parents, we both knew something was seriously missing. And so did our kids!  

BOTH of our kids who attended public school asked to be homeschooled before 2nd grade. Even they knew it wasn’t working! Our whole family wanted more. We wanted an extraordinary life. We wanted a life with each other, loving each other, loving life, and learning, We wanted something real. Going through the motions wasn’t it.

After we started on our homeschooling journey, we really started to figure things out. Not only did our whole family experience coming together in an amazing way we never dreamed possible, I also set a goal for myself to truly become a sensitive, tuned-in educator for my kids. I read everything I could get my hands on and became an expert on the various learning and teaching styles. This enabled me to adapt my approach to each of my unique children so that I could give each one exactly what they needed to reach the pinnacle of their learning potential.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned. 

Happy, healthy, successful families/people/homeschoolers tend to have a series of things in common. 

WHAT DOES MY STORY MEAN FOR YOU?

Whatever your reason for homeschooling, I know that if you are searching for more, sharing with you what I’ve learned during my 15 years of homeschooling may help you get clear on what you desire from your own homeschool journey.  If you are still struggling to find the right curriculum or you find that much of the time your kids are not excited to learn, this will give you the answers, direction, and peace of mind you are looking for.  I’m sure it will cut months, if not years, off your journey to finding your family’s sweet spot.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned. 

Now is the time to start having that homeschool experience you always hoped for!

Interviews with Homeschoolers

It's time for another exciting installment of the Interviews with Homeschoolers series! In this series, we share stories of awesome homeschoolers and homeschooled kids out there who have so much to share about their journeys in homeschooling. I was excited to get the opportunity to learn more about Teresa Bondora and her journey as an unschooling parent. Read what Teresa has to say about her children’s adventures in unschooling and how they are applying their childhood passions to their future careers!

My daughter will be 23 this week. She spent her teen years on the computer all the time watching Disney Movies, going to the mall to the Disney Store and concerts, and mostly showing no interest in anything. The time she spent on the computer was spent looking up random useless facts about Disney until she became an encyclopedia of “useless” information. This went on for years and I secretly worried that while she was a good reader and knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, she wasn’t really doing anything that resembled anything like working toward any career or skill. I saw visions of her with kids, being left a single mom and not one skill to support herself. Or maybe she was going to live with me until she was 30. Or maybe she’d move out and back in repeatedly. Then she told me, she wanted to work at Disney World. “Great”, I thought. “A part-time, minimum wage job pushing a button on a ride.”

At 16 she got a job at a pizza joint but spent her off time talking about going to Disney. Meanwhile, her brother started playing Minecraft. All. The. Time.

Okay so, she’s working at a pizza place, he’s watching YouTube videos, and she’s saving her money for an annual pass to Disney World when others her age are saving for college. My unschooling experiment was failing right in front of my eyes, but this was their entire life that I was failing. 

I had traditional schooling, taught high school science, wrote books. I had a life because there’s a reason for “school” and I was going to go down as not loving them enough to “care”. I can’t tell you how much I worried and cried and had anxiety.

I didn’t want to discourage her but seriously, an annual pass to Disney World when we didn’t live close to Disney World? She didn’t even have a car. But she was determined. At this point my son wanted to attend Minecon and it was held in Orlando so of course my daughter was coming. She got off work and we left for Orlando. Each day I dropped her off at Disney and my son and I went to Minecon. She was in heaven. While we were there she told me one day she was going to be a concierge at the Grand Floridian.

So one night we took the monorail to the Grand Floridian and I asked her to stand in front of the concierge desk. I took her picture there in that place in case, one day, she really meant it and needed some encouragement. She said I was silly.

When we got back home she hit the computer again, and this time more useless information. The history of Walt himself, his brother Roy, what the numbers on the doors on Main Street meant, the Google earth view, the roads there, Youtube videos on abandoned things, what happened to the parts of the 10,000 Leagues ride. I mean, seriously, deep into details of everything. She learned about the passes you can get, what they cost, how people are hired and paid, what jobs are there, details of the dates places opened, who designed what and how. She watched Disney movies from birth over and over and continued to do so until her brother finally just said no. I think it was after the 10th time Rapunzel played in the den he just said, “Enough!”

But then he couldn’t stop about Minecraft.

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For me, though, I did love Disney. I took her there while pregnant with her. At age one, she picked out a Mickey Mouse shirt. She loved Pocahontas and we sang Colors of The Wind hundreds of times.  Now I found myself looking back at that little girl and I started singing that song again. I was starting to think that if she lived with me until she was 30, that would be okay. And I got happy again about the way I chose to raise my kids.
 
So one day, she bought a bus ticket to visit her best friend in Florida for a few weeks. I drove her to the bus. She was more clingy than normal when we said goodbye. I got a sick feeling as the bus drove away. And then I got the phone call. She decided, if she was going to ever work there, she had to live closer. She told me she was moving in as a roommate with her friend in Pensacola and getting a job. Before the week was out, she had a job in the mall and she wasn’t coming home.

I sank. She was just gone. I cried, I worried, I had to listen to her not have enough money, to hear her complain about work or worry about transportation. And I couldn’t hug her or see her. This was my worst fear coming back to haunt me. Then she bought that annual pass.

No, not a car, an annual pass. And still with the Minecraft, my son, just obsessing over every modpack, every crafting thing you can do, just nothing but Minecraft. And here I am, a shining example of real work, people. I am an author. I have real books. Why did they not DO something? I accepted her new life and struggles, listened, helped where I could and over and over more Disney facts.

So one day she decided living in north Florida wasn’t fun and she didn’t like her job. She and a friend decided to go to Disney World, use her pass and sort of scout out the idea of living there. So she quit her job and went on a road trip. Yes. She QUIT her job. What in the world could she possibly be thinking? Normal people ask for time off, they don’t just quit!  But since I had committed to this way of schooling and life and supporting her completely, all I could do was tell her how happy I was she was going to be in her favorite place and to please send me pictures.

I hung up and cried. I cried so much. I worried so much because now, NOW when the reality of not having any money, no job and can’t pay rent sinks in, she will come home broken and I will have to sit down and apologize for failing her in the most profound way a mother could ever fail her child.

Each day I got these amazing pictures of her, she was just so happy, smiling and happy. And unbeknownst to me, while there, she applied online to work there. And she decided, yes, she was moving there. Within a few hours of her application she got an interview online. Within a few days of that, she was asked to please come to Disney property and interview in person. It was her last day there. When her interview was over they said they were so impressed with her knowledge that they sent her to interview for a position that was harder to get and paid more. When that interview was over, they told her how impressed they were with her vast knowledge and hired her.
 
When the phone rang, I was thinking I would have to hear about how sad she was that her time there was over. And instead she told me she had 2 weeks to report to training in ticketing at Magic Kingdom at Disney World. And in that moment, I burst into tears for all the years of fear and terror and sadness and worry and all the joy any mother could feel. And in that moment I knew that she knew she was always okay.

That was 2 years ago.

Today she has moved into operations training and development, parades, and calls with more happy news about how much she loves her job.

About a month ago she called to tell me that a new position for a concierge opened up and she applied for it. As time went on and we didn’t hear anything we figured, “oh well.” Then last week she got a call. She got an interview. She didn’t know which resort. She was so nervous, she finished the interview and at the end of it they told her how impressed they were with her performance in those 2 years, her knowledge, the kudos from guests that went in her file, the things her superiors had to say about her and that she had the job. She doesn’t know which resort but in 6 months she can apply to any resort concierge desk she wants. And when that day comes and she’s standing behind the desk at the Grand Floridian, I will go there and I will take her picture. I will put the one from years ago beside it and I will cry more than I’m crying now. I worried for most of her childhood about her obsession with "meaningless" trivia and useless information. But it wasn’t meaningless for her. It was life training! To hear her voice on the phone and how happy she is, there are no words...I leave in a few days to celebrate her birthday with her in her magical world! She loves her house, she pays her rent, she has her car, and she loves what she does every day.

And today, my son has learned about chemistry from Minecraft and wants to go into physics. He and I are co-writing a book on the chemistry of Minecraft that I have wanted to write but didn’t have the Minecraft knowledge he had. Together we will forge a future into the unknown, one day at a time. And as one lucky mom, I get to play in the playgrounds of my children’s creation. What more could a mother ask for?
 
Teresa Bondora is the author of the Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book and lives in Atlanta, Ga. She speaks on education and the sciences. You can find her with a cup of coffee, mostly in her car.
 
The opinions and thoughts expressed here are purely those of the individual, and do not reflect those of The Walt Disney Company.


So Your Child Isn't Reading Yet

So, my child isn’t reading yet...

Wow.  This is such a big topic for some parents right now.  One of my children was a late reader, like an almost-12 late kind of reader.  Anyone related to any school system either told me or diagnosed him as dyslexic.  Ok.  Let’s give it a name and we all feel better.  Nope.  

After a ton of research, here is what I found out. First, I was not a failure and totally letting my kid down.  We as homeschooling parents can go there pretty quickly, can’t we?  The thing is, all kids are different.  They learn at different times and in different ways.  That is part of why we decided to do this, right?  We didn’t want our kids doing exactly what the school wanted them to do when they needed them to do it.  It was about our kids and what they needed most to thrive.  

This is where we need to shift how we are thinking.  We are homeschooling specifically so we can do what is best for our child.  That includes encouraging them to read in their own time.  We get to be grateful we don’t have to push them to go through the frustrating tasks of learning to read at such a young age.  I’m not bashing that at all.   One of my kids read at 3 and that was cool, too.  It is all about how your kid is made.  

Think about this for a moment.  Why do kids need to be reading by first grade, or kindergarten, or second grade, or whatever your school district decides?  So it is easier to teach them later.  How are they going to be able to do their worksheets?  Read their textbooks?  Take their tests?  How is a teacher supposed to function if all of her students aren’t reading what she is giving them to do?  It is not the teacher’s fault.  It is how the system is set up.  The school then sets standards based on their system and if the kids aren’t reading to level it messes with the testing and then everyone is failing.  Now we have a society that believes a child must be reading by a certain age and we all lose sight of what the child needs or is capable of doing at a particular age.  

The science behind this, according to Dr. Raymond Moore, shows that children can learn to read as early as 3 and many as late as 8 or 9, especially boys.  It is not uncommon for some boys to wait until 11-12 when there is a key developmental change in their brain.  Check out the book Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education.  He discusses all of this there as well as in some of his other books.  The key is that there is a huge difference between teaching your child to read and being a lifelong reader.  We can usually force a 5 or 6 year old to functionally read, but is there enjoyment or even comprehension? Our goal is to raise a lifelong learner, not a rushed reader.

What should you do with a child who may be, according to some, a late reader?  That is easy!  DO NOT make them feel bad about it.  It is normal and stress will make it harder and convince them that they will never enjoy being a reader.  
Here are several other tips:

1.    Read to them often and/or turn on audio books.  Hearing and experiencing the process will help them to enjoy it later as well as get there more easily.  

2.    If you are worried about them getting behind, teach them to “write” a paper verbally.  There are so many apps that can turn words into writing these days.  Use them to create a rough draft all while teaching the basics of an Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.  This is a great skill to have anyway.  Your child will end up being a great speaker as well as a reader/writer.  

3.    My son was very adept at memorizing as well.  Build on their strengths!  Maybe you have noticed that kids often develop quickly in one area and while that is happening the other areas can take a back seat.  Think of a baby learning to walk.  Usually their speech stalls for a while until they get all of that gross motor stuff figured out.  This way of development doesn’t stop after they are done being babies.

4.    You can totally find other kids in the same situation.  Let your child know he is not alone.  Check your local homeschool groups or check for other families on Facebook, for example.  Having friends or even knowing about them can be a huge help.

5.    If your child is feeling down about the whole reading thing, start focusing on what they are awesome at.  Usually they are really good with at least one other thing, if not several.  My son could describe a black hole in way I didn’t even understand two years before he was a regular reader.  Find out what they really know.

6.    The real key to all of this is that the whole reading thing is really not the huge issue we’re all afraid it is.  It really isn’t.  Search for your gratitude and show your child and yourself that you’ve got this and know that this is just part of the reason you chose to homeschool in the first place!

I would love to hear your experiences with teaching your own children to read. Leave a comment below!

Win a Scholarship to Homeschool with Confidence

As we were planning 2016 here at Gauthier Group headquarters, giving was one of our predominate themes.  How can we give more this year?  How can we give more to the people who matter most to us, to the people we want to serve, and to the things that matter most in the areas of change in the world we are dedicated to serving?  You probably already know this because you do it every day when you homeschool, but giving is the main aspect of an outstanding life.  If gratitude is the special sauce, giving is definitely the main deal!

We came up with some amazing plans for 2016 and I cannot wait to share!  Our first idea is this right here and we hope you will love it!  We are giving away not just one but TWO scholarships to Homeschool with Confidence – The Ultimate Homeschool Teachers Training!  

The Scholarship Prize

A full benefit registration to Homeschool with Confidence, The Ultimate Homeschool Teacher's Training.

Here's how to win

Create a video following the directions below:

1. Make a short video. In it, answer these questions:

  • Who are you, where are you from, and why do you love homeschooling? You can also share anything you'd like about your kiddos (or not as you see fit!)
  • Why do you think Homeschool with Confidence, The Ultimate Homeschool Teacher's Training is a must for your homeschool?
  • Why can't you wait to start?
  • Feel free to be creative!

2. Post your video on the Juli Gauthier Facebook Page

3. Share it! Share it in at least one place - Facebook (on your wall or in a group), Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. Be sure to include #homeschoolwithconfidence. Bonus points for each share (See below for more information.)

4. What else do you want us to know? You can interpret this in any way that you want. You can post this with your video on our wall. No emails will be considered. Sorry!

SOCIAL MEDIA BONUS POINTS

Wanna boost your chances of winning? Spread the word about The Homeschool with Confidence scholarship contest on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram!

Some sample copy blurbs to get your creative juices flowing:

I can't wait to transform my homeschool when I win a spot in @Juli_Gauthier Homeschool with Confidence http://bit.ly/1mTuTGx #homeschoolwithconfidence

I am so ready to win! @Juli_Gauthier Homeschool with Confidence http://bit.ly/1mTuTGx #homeschoolwithconfidence

This scholarship contest has my name on it @Juli_Gauthier Homeschool with Confidence http://bit.ly/1mTuTGx #homeschoolwithconfidence

You can share your Homeschool with Confidence yearnings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram up to three times per day, and use any wording you like. But all Tweets and FB posts must include the #homeschoolwithconfidence hashtag and the official shortlink to this post: http://bit.ly/1mTuTGx (Instagram is kind of a pain like that, so do whatever you feel is best.)

Here's everything you need to know about this contest:

1. You can enter to win with your video post. And YES, it's got to be public - no email entries will count. 

2. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram shares get you bonus points. And they must contain #homeschoolwithconfidence and a shortlink to this post: http://bit.ly/1mTuTGx

3. The entry deadline is 5pm EST on Friday February 5, 2016 and the winners will be announced on Monday.

4. No purchase is necessary to win.

5. We are the judges and our decision on the two winners is subjective and final (but we really do love and appreciate every single one of you, and there's nothing but love coming your way).

Remember: We’re looking for heart, creativity, kindness and the ability to follow directions. Show us your commitment and how this program can help you reach and exceed your dreams for your kids and homeschool. We can’t wait to see all of your entries and social media shout-outs!

 

 

 

Celebrate your Kids' 2015 Successes

Welcome to the New Year! A great way to get back into your regular work pattern is to reconnect with why you are doing what you are doing and learning what you are learning this year. I have a super fun 2-part exercise you can do with your kids to boost the second half of their school year!

If you haven’t already, and even if you already have, celebrate everything that went well last year. The goal here is to come up with 30 to 50 different things that your kids learned last year―you know, those things that they are proud of! It can be little things or big things, but the goal is to get them to see how far they have come and everything they have learned.

Have the kids work with you or another partner that is encouraging. Or they could get out their journals and you could be a partner to all of them at the same time, guiding them through the exercise. Start with the phrase “I am proud of…” and have them start writing down a list. It could include anything big or small that they have learned in the last year. Have them think about what they were studying a year ago, or even at the beginning of the school year, and compare it to where they are today. What do they understand or know now that they didn’t before?

Take it a step further. What are they proud of in their lives that was hard for them? How about standing up for themselves or others? Or a tricky situation that they handled well or even not so well but learned from? How about new character traits that they have developed? Or even inches that they have grown in the past year? (That is hard work too!) Did they hit any goals this year? Read a particularly challenging book? Learn a new sport, instrument, or language?

As they are writing things down they will hit a block, often at around 5 items. This is where their partner should quietly ask “What else?” You can make general prompts if they truly get stuck from the list above, but try to refrain from telling them what you are proud of. You can always do that later. 

They should write down anything that comes to mind that they were proud of over the year. Anything goes! This is their time to celebrate all of their accomplishments.

Now for the second part, take some time to cheer, congratulate, and really honor and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Here is where you can share things you have noticed in each other! Show them how wonderful 2015 really was.

This will totally get them pumped to keep moving and learning in 2016!