Is a Homeschool Co-op a Good Option for Your Family?

Are homeschool co-ops a good fit for your family? |

 

There are so many advantages to belonging to a homeschool co-op such as socialization, learning from others, group interaction, and support, but perhaps you are asking, “Is it a good option for my family?” and “Am I ready for the commitment?”

Socialization

The most apparent benefit of a homeschool co-op is socialization. Most co-ops meet once or twice a week, giving students a “taste” of group learning without being overwhelming. They are a great place to make friends.

Learning from Another Adult

The other parents who volunteer as teachers and helpers in a co-op serve as role models, mentors and teachers. I think it is very healthy for children to have adults they respect outside their own family. Children will learn from college professors and trainers in the workplace someday, so a homeschool co-op helps them learn from different types of people.

Group Interaction

Co-ops provide a wonderful opportunity for your student to engage in group discussions and other classes that work best in a group setting including performing plays, public speaking, gym games, and choir. These types of learning opportunities cannot be done as well in a home setting, but they work beautifully in a homeschool co-op.

Encouragement

One co-op director believes that if a co-op helps even one mother to continue homeschooling, then all the work has been worthwhile. Specifically, she tries to support parents of high school students, many of whom drop out of homeschooling because the subject material grows more difficult at the high school level.

Another homeschool co-op offers a room for mothers to eat, talk and share each other’s burdens. Mothers feel free to share their homeschooling struggles because this group understands them without condemnation.

Time commitment

But co-ops come at a cost and have challenges as well. A commitment to joining a co-op will involve your time on co-op day itself. Joining a co-op means that others are depending upon you to uphold your commitment to teach or help in a class. If you do not show up at co-op one week, someone else will need to fill the gap. If you skip too many times, you may even be asked to leave the group!

Money

In addition to a time commitment, co-ops require money. While most of the co-ops keep costs low, a co-op cannot run without charging some fees. Overall, co-oping provides tremendous benefits for the money, but some homeschoolers are financially strapped and find even a small fee difficult to manage.

There are homeschool organizations that hire teachers and do not require the parents to volunteer. The cost of these programs is significantly higher than an all-volunteer homeschool co-op. Realize that you will pay with time, money, or perhaps some of each.

Structure

Some co-ops have a very school-like structure or require agreement to rules and policies. If you are a free spirit or an unschooler, you may not feel comfortable with too much structure. Before joining, visit the co-op in action to get a sense of the surroundings and the rules. You may decide that the benefits outweigh the negative feelings of a structured environment, or you may conclude that you can live with a little structure once a week.

Belonging to a homeschool co-op can have some challenges, but can bring significant benefits. Most homeschool parents find that co-oping is worth the commitment and expense. Understand the expectations before you join in to get the best out of your experience.


Carol Topp, CPA author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out is a retired homeschool mother who participated in homeschool co-ops for over 10 years. She now uses her accounting skills to help homeschool organizations at her website www.HomeschoolCPA.com. Carol’s podcast for the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network is called Dollars and Sense.

Cybersecurity Tips for Homeschoolers

Cybersecurity Tips for Homeschoolers

Cybersecurity Tips for Homeschoolers

Homeschooling has so many advantages, it’s hard to list them all! Direct and consistent teacher-to-student interaction, a tailored education, and better teaching materials are just a few of the many reasons so many families feel drawn to homeschooling. Overall, parents have much more control over their child’s educational experience when they homeschool. However, when it comes to cybersecurity threats and computer viruses, homeschoolers are often more vulnerable and at risk than their public school peers.

 

The majority of school computer labs have some form of cybersecurity software that protects students identities, keeps them off harmful websites, and protects against malware infection. With so much homeschooling curriculum being based on the web, internet safety and privacy protection is a topic that every homeschooling parent needs to address.

 

But awareness of this growing issue is just the first step. Communication is the next one. A recent survey shows 33% of parents who named “cyberbullying” as their biggest fear have never talked to their kids about the topic. Navigating the dangers of the internet means being honest with your kids about what’s at stake. Identities can be stolen, data can be destroyed, and cyberbullies can do serious psychological harm.

 

Educating your kids and engaging in an ongoing dialogue about cybersecurity is one of the most effective things you can do to keep them safe while they learn online.

 

Be honest

Cybersecurity is serious business. Don’t avoid issues because they’re uncomfortable or complicated to explain. Instead, be honest. Tell your children some online activities are safer than others, and set ground rules for what is and what is not appropriate behavior.

 

The online world is just like the real world. Not talking to strangers at the park is just as important as not talking to strangers in chat rooms. Leaving your toys out for thieves to steal is just like telling someone too much information online. Avoid dividing the real world from the online one. Instead, bring them together by making these types of connections. Children need consistency, and keeping the rules consistent for on and offline activities will help them understand the dangers of both.

 

Being honest about cybersecurity also means pointing out the good things about online activities. Keep a balanced outlook. Emphasize they need to be cautious but enjoy the internet. It contains wonderful things to help them grow, socialize, and learn. As they learn better online habits, they will feel safer, confident, and in control. Honesty is always the best policy!

Use your creativity

Cybersecurity concepts like online identities and malware can be abstract concepts, especially for younger children. Use examples and analogies that children can relate to easily. For example, use the analogy that computer viruses work like biological viruses. Explain how one “sick” computer infects another. Personal identities are unique like our fingerprints. Stealing someone’s identity is like dressing up as that person for Halloween so you can steal all of their candy. Find creative ways to relate cybersecurity concepts to their everyday lives.

Build trust

Your child (especially as a teenager!) may assume your concerns are more about spying on their online activities rather than looking out for them. Reassure them you won’t get upset if they accidentally click on something they shouldn’t or if their device gets a virus. Overreacting will likely cause resentment, anxiety, and rebellion. These are all counterproductive to building good habits and trust.

 

For teenagers, be consistent about your concerns. Make it just as much about protecting devices and information as it is about who they’re talking to online. For small children, reinforce the notion that cyberthieves are tricky, but you can beat them by following the rules.

Go online together

The best way to teach a child something is to show them firsthand. Go online and search for a term that interests them. Then explore the results looking for good and bad websites. Take a tour of the browser’s interface. Point out the address bar, bookmarks, extensions, and the search results. Show them how to close an internet pop-up ad and what to do when they can’t find a close button.

 

Websites come in different flavors when it comes to data safety. Some talk with your browser using encryption and some don’t. Encryption keeps your data safe. Encrypted sites begin their URLs with “https”. Unencrypted ones have “http”. Browser extensions like HTTPS Everywhere identify unsecure websites from secure ones automatically.

Sit down with them and open their favorite app. Explore its social and/or messaging features. Explain what to do if they receive a message. Show them how to respond to in-app purchase and pop-up ads. If you feel your child isn’t mature enough for messaging, check to see if the app allows disabling this feature.

Use online resources

Another effective way to teach children about online safety is using online resources. Internet safety websites like the Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuardOnline has security tips, games, and other online learning resources for parents and guardians. Other sites use videos, quizzes, and other activities to teach cyber security basics to children in a fun and interactive online environment.

 

You can learn more about online threats and even download a conversation checklist to start a dialogue with your children using the Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Cybersecurity. Downloading free antivirus software will also keep them safe as they practice smart online habits.

 

The investment you put into talking to your kids about cybersecurity will pay off down the road. The digital world is here, and learning to navigate it is the reality of future generations. Your child’s future success will be tied to their online safety. Helping them create smart online habits at an early age will protect them and keep the internet a fun, safe, and educational place for continued learning.

What Can Homeschoolers Deduct on Their Taxes?

What Can Homeschoolers Deduct on Their Taxes? with the Homeschool CPA, Carol Topp.One of the most popular questions asked on my website, HomeschoolCPA.com, is, “Are there any tax breaks for homeschoolers?” Unfortunately, there are no tax deductions or tax credits for homeschool expenses from the federal government, but there may be tax deductions from your state income tax.

Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and Minnesota have educational tax credits for individuals. The tax credit is available to any public or private school student, so it is not unique to homeschoolers. Home School Legal Defense Association has a detailed explanation of each of these state programs and tax credits. Visit http://HSLDA.org and search on “Education Tax Credits.”

Clever Ideas to Find Tax Deductions (That Don’t Work)

Homeschoolers sometimes get creative and wonder they could start a business or a nonprofit organization of their homeschool activities and then deduct their expenses.

Jim, a homeschool dad thought he could start a business, hire his wife to teach his children and deduct the expenses of the business (curriculum, field trips, mileage, etc.). This won’t work for several reasons: the wife would have to report her wages as taxable income wiping out any tax benefit; Jim does not have a trade because he has no paying customers and no revenue; and finally, the IRS would disallow the homeschool expenses because they are personal expenses, not legitimate business deductions.

Jena, a new homeschool parent asked if she could receive donations to cover her homeschooling expenses. Jena can accept gifts from generous people, but they will not be tax deductible donations to the donor because Jena’s family is not a 501(c)(3) qualified charitable organization.

The IRS will not grant qualified charity status to an individual family or any organization that is formed solely to benefit the founder’s family. So, while a homeschool co-op may be eligible to receive tax deductible donations (if it has 501(c)(3) qualified charity status), a family cannot receive tax deductible donations. The best Jena can hope for is that friends and family might offer her gifts of curriculum, school supplies or cash. These gifts are not tax deductions for her generous friends, but neither does Jena report these gifts as income on her tax return.

Can Homeschoolers Use 529 Funds?

In late 2017, Congress expanded 529 college savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses, but. Congress specifically excluded homeschool expenses from using 529 funds. That seemed unfair to a lot of homeschoolers. But there may be a way for homeschoolers to use their 529 savings accounts for some K-12 expenses.

There are two conditions for using 529 funds for K-12 expenses:

1) the costs must be for tuition and

2) the institution the family pays must be “a public, private, or religious school”

Some homeschool students take classes from private schools (locally or online). The tuition payments to these schools can use 529 funds. But the cost of books, supplies, equipment, and payments to organizations that are not schools cannot use 529 funds. Be careful that the tuition payments are going to a public, private, or religious school. In my experience, most homeschool programs (co-ops, tutorials, etc.) are not schools. If you have any concern about their status as a school, then do not use 529 funds to pay for the tuition. Withdrawals from a 529 fund that are not “qualified” (i.e. tuition paid to a public, private, or religious school) then you pay income tax and a penalty of 10% on the funds withdrawn from the 529 plan.

About the Author:

Carol Topp, CPA is a retired homeschool mom and the author of 13 books including Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out. She hosts a podcast for homeschool group leaders at http://DollarsAndSenseShow.com. Her website is http://HomeschoolCPA.com.

 

5 Reasons Why Homeschool High School Works

5 Reasons why homeschooling high school works

From the Homeschool High School Podcast

Homeschooling teens all the way to graduation actually works! While you may know families who have been successful, you may not understand WHY homeschooling high school is a solid choice for many families.

Here are 5 reasons why homeschool high school works well for lots of teens

1.Teens have so many resources for academics.

High school academic work does not need to be tackled independently. Perhaps a generation ago high school work was overwhelming for some families to cover at home, but no longer! Homeschool high schoolers can choose from traditional or innovative texts, co-ops, online classes, community college courses, and more. Finding a teacher who has expertise in a field that confuses mom is easy with the internet at your fingertips.

2. Teens are able to take ownership of much of their high school experience.

A healthy component of becoming an independent adult is gradually taking on more and more personal ownership in life, accomplishing tasks and reaching goals without someone older guiding every baby-step of the process. Homeschooling high school provides an arena in which this process can unfold. Teens help set goals at the beginning of the school year, learn to manage their time wisely, learn to track their progress, and reach goals without micro-management that impedes healthy independence.

3.  Teens are able to explore callings, passions and career paths.

With less busywork, teens have time to dream, to explore the arts, to pursue athletics, to volunteer with groups that interest them. The freer schedule of homeschool high school gives teens the space in which to find out more about the passions God has placed in their hearts, the careers they might want to pursue, and the callings God has for them in relationship to Him and to others.

4.  Teens have time for personal development and character building.

Homeschool high school works well for teens who need some quiet encouragement to develop personal discipline, to more deeply understand their faith, to wrestle with weaknesses of character that could become strengths if given some time and attention. The opportunity to choose titles for the book list that encourage good character building is a wonderful benefit available to homeschoolers. Mentoring relationships can be fostered during the teen years, yielding fruit that lasts a lifetime.

5.  Teens are able to tailor the high school years toward life after graduation.

Homeschool high school can be tailored to the teen’s plans for after graduation. If a teen is college-bound in a highly competitive academic major, coursework and field-related opportunities can be selected that will set teens in a prime position for acceptance to the university of their choice…perhaps even with scholarship money attached! Career-bound teens can pass on high-level maths and sciences that may serve no purpose in their greater plans, investing that time instead in pursuits that make them stronger candidates in the work field of their choice. Electives in high school provide a wonderful space for tailoring teens’ education to their plans after high school graduation.

There’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school, but there are lots of reasons why homeschool high school works well for so many varied types of families!


If you enjoyed this blog, please check out The Homeschool High School podcast on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network!

Sabrina and Vicki are your Big Sisters as they share the experience they’ve gained in over 20 years of homeschooling. They are the talky-2 of the 6 Sisters at 7SistersHomeschool.com. They are often joined by their other sisters, Kym and Marilyn OR other 7th Sisters! When YOU join us at The Homeschool Highschool Podcast, YOU will be our 7th Sister, too! Hooray!!

Come be our 7th Sister each week for The Homeschool Highschool Podcast, Tuesday mornings at 9:00 am EST!

Homeschool Life Hacks

homeschool life hacksLet’s Make This The Best Year Ever ~ Homeschool Life Hacks

by Felice Gerwitz

Life is hard enough without making things more difficult and through the years I’ve discovered some amazing ways to make life, especially homeschool life easier with these homeschool life hacks. First, I discovered many of these ideas by accident and second, I’m not a perfectionist. Fair warning for those of you who are, therefore let it be known that I believe perfection is best left for those who do not homeschool!

I once read that successful people make their beds each day. It gives them a sense of accomplishment that carries on throughout the day. Do this yourself and teach your children to do this one chore each day. It will make an immediate difference in your life. Another great tip is to ask children to do simple tasks first. This builds their confidence early in the day and a sense of, “I can do this!”

Here is one audio on homeschool hacks and another is coming soon.

I’ve divided my ideas for homeschool life hacks into various categories. One is the home, the second is the homeschool and the third is traveling and fourth is first aid. So many times we lose track of what needs to be completed in a timely manner and with just a tiny bit of tweaking, we can make great gains in the process. One way is to fine-tune our list making. This is a great boon to any life-hack idea as well as homeschool tips and tricks along the way.

Homeschool Life Hacks: The Home

  1. Reduce clutter – the number one way to stay sane as a homeschool mom is to remember that less is more. All those great nick-nacks from field trips or your great-aunt-Margaret? Give them or store them away! Dusting these items takes precious time.
  2.  Monday is for laundry- folding and putting away, Tuesday dusting and floors, Wednesday food shopping – grill or casserole day, Thursday lessons and Friday for field trips and make-up day. Saturday is mega cooking for the week and events, Sunday a day of rest and worship. Of course, your routine may look different but keep it similar so there is less thinking and accomplishments and more doing.
  3. Work as a team. Enlist the children’s help and you will accomplish much. Or, enlist a friend with kids your children’s age. Take turns watching toddlers while another friend shops, cleans, or works on homeschool lessons.
  4. Bundle and multi-task. There is much to be said about multi-tasking if it is done correctly. Fold clothes while listening to little ones read. Make dinner while the little ones play with blocks nearby.
  5. Errands: plan them to hit different places en route and on one day.
  6. Do not over plan. Often one event per day is enough to avoid burn-out.
  7. Have kids wear socks in the house, or take off their shoes. For years when I had carpet, I never had it cleaned because we had a no-shoe-indoors policy. It cuts down on the wear and tear as well as clean up.
  8. Teach children to clean up after themselves. No towels on the floor, clean up sink in the bathroom after they brush their teeth. Make beds upon rising, etc. Minimize tasks by doing them immediately.
  9. Hang up all your shirts to keep from folding them. Use thin hangers. Use hangers with multi-clips for pants.
  10. Ask your children what chores they want to do — surprisingly my kids all liked jobs that no one else wanted to do, for example, one liked to empty the dishwasher and another sweep and mop floors, another taking out the trash! If your kids like their chores they will do them willingly.

Homeschool LifeHacks for the Homeschool:

  1. Prepare ahead. There is nothing like knowing what you are doing for the year, ahead of time. It helps for those days you are ill or can’t remember where you are after a holiday break.
  2. Stay off of social media. Yes, I mean you mom! The minute you check emails or Facebook, just “real quick” you will lose precious time. This goes for the children as well.
  3. Keep a routine for school and home. Use Monday – Friday as subject days.
  4. Divide your books by the number of days in your school year (approx. 180) to figure out how many pages you must complete daily, or pages you should read to finish a book.
  5. Spread out the subjects every other day. For example Monday – Wednesday for language arts and science and Tuesday, Thursday for history and reading. Monday – Friday for Bible daily and math. In this way, you can accomplish so much more because you are not attempting to complete each subject each day.
  6. Do not, and I stress do not leave your home on a school day. Keep errands for after school. This one tip will guarantee a productive homeschool day.
  7. Everything has a “home” … clean up your school area daily. Be sure to return papers, pencils, and books to the proper place. It makes starting each day so much more pleasant.
  8. Use a check off list for your kids. This is worth its weight in gold! You can see at a glance what has been accomplished daily and see where you need to catch up or makeup work. Show it to dad when he gets home for accountability!
  9. Allow your children to have time off each day. Set aside what I call, “Time to think.” In this way your children can develop hobbies, read or discover a passion. You may need to help little ones by providing some toys for exploration only for this time.
  10. Encourage your older children to teach the younger ones something new each day. It reinforces their knowledge and allows them to remember things better by teaching a sibling. If there is not a younger sibling you can have the child teach a friend or even another parent, aunt, uncle, etc.

Traveling Homeschool Life Hacks: 

  1. When traveling with kids, remember to pre-pack a bag or backpack ahead of time with essentials such as wipes, snacks, first-aid, binoculars, and plastic bags for “treasures” you want to bring home.
  2. For suitcases – tie a ribbon to identify yours quickly.
  3. Take a picture of a business card, or important number so you can find it later in your photos.
  4. Batteries dead? Drop about six inches above a hard surface. If they bounce once they are still good. If they bounce all over the place they are drained or soon will be drained.
  5. Put batters in squeeze bottles to pour without a mess. I use this technique for pancakes and waffles. I also freeze the leftovers for a quick breakfast when needed.
  6. The back of the door is an amazing space saver. I use clear shoe hangers to store cleaning supplies or even clothes for the kids. I also use closet storage systems to free up closet space. With little kids, put one week’s clothing all in one drawer. No thinking, just pull out the pile to dress the child. A sibling can help with this.
  7. Mega cooking. This works if you do it in this way. Every time you make one meal triple the recipe and freeze the rest. I do this for lasagna, cookie dough, pulled pork, ground beef, etc. It makes mealtime planning so easy and I do not need one entire day to cook. Use a pressure cooker (insta-pot) to hurry your meal along! Yes, you can do this with a large family. It works great. The lasagna I made in October was served through January!
  8. Use a pool noodle on the edge of a bed with a fitted sheet to keep little ones from rolling off.
  9. Use clothespins to keep chips, crackers, bread tied shut.
  10. Take a photo of your parking spot so you won’t forget where you park! Or better yet when you shop at regular locations always park in the same place, it will help you remember.

First Aid Life Hacks:

  1. Use meat tenderizer for bug stings. Even works for ant bites. Mix a teaspoon full of meat tenderizer with water and put on the bite. Watch for an allergic reaction.
  2. For ice packs: use frozen vegetables such as peas or mixed vegetables. Place it in a pillowcase. Works great. Refreeze as needed.
  3. Homeopathic remedies such as Belladonna and Aconite for the first sign of a cold.
  4. Vitamin C for colds. Take as needed. 500 mg for adults.
  5. Neem spray. Keep this to ward off mosquitoes and biting insects.
  6. Listen to HomeopathyforMommiesPodcast — great tips on natural remedies.

7 Ways to Celebrate Christmas as a Birthday

7 Ways to Celebrate Christmas as a Birthday

by Meredith Curtis

7 Ways to Celebrate Christmas as a Birthday

“Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, dear Jesus. Happy Birthday to You!” my children sang heartily as I held the pan of cinnamon buns lavished with cream cheese frosting. The candle flickered as their voices rang out. As the song ended, the younger children blew the candles out.

One more Christmas carol and it was time to eat breakfast while we opened presents.

Christmas Day starts with a special devotional. We read Luke 2, the Christmas Story, interspersed with carols. We read and sing and rejoice. It helps us to remember that Christmas is a birthday.

Would you like to celebrate Christmas as a birthday with your children?

Here are 7 ways to celebrate Christmas as a birthday:

Decorate with Balloons and Streamers

We love to decorate with balloons and streamers on birthdays, so we do it at Christmas, too. We use red and green colors to keep the festive atmosphere matching the rest of the Christmas decorations.

Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Morning

Before you open presents, sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. You can use a birthday cake with candles. We put candles in our frosted cinnamon rolls.

Singing a birthday song to Jesus reminds everyone that Christmas is a birthday.

Wrap Presents for Baby Jesus

We like to buy baby boy clothing and supplies for Jesus and wrap them up. We bring them to church where gifts are collected in a large basket and taken to a Crisis Pregnancy Center after the holidays.

Make a Birthday Banner

Using poster board or a roll of paper, make a birthday banner for Jesus and hang it in the family room or kitchen.

Make Birthday Cards for Jesus

If your family gives birthday cards on birthdays, then make birthday cards for Jesus. These are nice to read aloud before family worship. It refreshes our hearts to hear what others have said to Jesus.

Make a Special Birthday Meal

In our house, we each choose our favorite meal to eat on our birthday. Brainstorm as a family to figure out a meal that Jesus may have eaten and enjoyed. Fish from the Sea of Galilee? Bread with Honey? Dates? You might have to do some research for this one!

Play the Encouragement Game

Another things we do to make birthdays special is to play the encouragement game. Everyone in the family tells the birthday person what they appreciate about him or her. Each family member can share what they love about Jesus and then spent time worshipping Him.

May the Lord bless each one of you with the merriest of Christmases.

Warmly,
Meredith Curtis

 

 

Overcome Christmas Stress

It happens every year – we try to overcome Christmas stress! No matter how hard you plan or try to stay ahead, there is always one more thing to do, one more item on the to-do list, one more project to complete…all before Christmas. How about trying something different? Enjoy the season! Yes, it can be done and I promise not to tell you to plan ahead or do more than you can handle. I know you might find it difficult to believe me, and even I thought it wasn’t possible until I gave it a try.

Overcome Christmas stress helps with planning.

Here is what I did. I made a list of what I wanted the days leading up to Christmas to look like in a “perfect world.” You know the picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell type of painting where everyone is smiling, the house is spotless and perfectly decorated, mom is holding a turkey and all the kids look happy. And, I soon realized it was unattainable. Why is it that we set out expectations so high that it is impossible? I think we have so many expectations that we fall short and then we are stressed! Stress is something we all live with however it is what we do with the stress that counts.

overcome Christmas stress

For me, the first thing was identifying the issue. Why was I stressed during the holidays and what was the *one* thing I would avoid if I could. I usually detest lists, yes — I am one of those, and yet I learned that if I made a list it helped, tremendously. So I divided things into categories.

My List to overcome Christmas stress:

To do list that could not be avoided:

  1. shopping for gifts
  2. shopping for food
  3. decorating
  4. Christmas cards
  5. Christmas photos
  6. Christmas letter
  7. baking/cooking
  8. wrapping presents

To do list that could be avoided:

  1. baking
  2. cooking everything
  3. Christmas cards + letter + photos

The one (or more) things I would avoid if I could:

  1. Christmas card letter
  2. Christmas card

Can you do it? Can you avoid the one thing (or more) that makes your Christmas stressful?

Your list may look different, but the one thing that gave me the most stress was writing the Christmas letter. It literally took me days to write, and then another few days to lay out on purchased, Christmas stationary…then years later with a Christmas graphics border on a word processing program. As my family got older and the number of children I had climbed the list seemed more and more daunting until I dreaded it. Yet, I felt guilted into it, you know…all the relatives up north are counting on receiving an update on the family happenings. However, I decided to let it go. I refused to be held under this self-imposed pressure or guilt, and I sent out cards with photos from the year as well as the most current. This year, at Thanksgiving even with my entire immediate family here, I forgot to take pictures! Again, I will let it go–even further this time! I decided that this was the perfect year to send out beautiful, Christmas cards without a family photo. Gulp!

But, I’m doing it. I’m sending out cards to the immediate family. The remaining relatives up north, my siblings, my sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews, my married daughter and family…and that is it! What a freeing thought! I won’t even let those early cards, you know the ones that show up Thanksgiving weekend ruin my peace. I will live my life as I can, for the glory of God and let all this other “stuff” that gets in the way go!

Years ago I baked for weeks giving away homemade breads, sweet rolls, pound cakes, and delicious cookies to friends and my husband’s employees. No more. I do bake but only for the family, and give homemade cookie baskets to those who arrive at our home for meals. Another hurdle overcome.

So, in a nutshell this is what I did to avoid Christmas stress:

  1. shopping for gifts
    • Most gifts I shop for online, and guess what? The deals are even better than in person.
  2. shopping for food
    • I still shop for food in person, but many swear by online services such as Amazon, or Publix (our local chain) has a website and you can pay for delivery. I’ve used this service a few times when I’ve received a coupon and it works great!
  3. decorating
    • The kids all help and we set up everything inside in one day! Score! We also add lighting timers, and remotes to turn on and off all the lights. Another score.
  4. Christmas cards
    • no picture, no letter, only a card to the immediate and extended family.
  5. Christmas photos
    • taken on Christmas eve before Mass outside of the Church
  6. Christmas letter
    • avoided!
  7. baking/cooking
    • family can bring over a side or dessert, and I only bake for the family
  8. wrapping presents
    • gift bags go a long way to ease the burden!

Check out my podcast on the topic of stress free holidays here.

Prepare Your Child for Success

Prepare your child for success

Prepare Your Child For Success

We all want our children to grow up to have joyful, successful lives. We educate our children at home to give them the best we can give and pray that they will walk in God’s blessings. Is there more we can do to set them up for a successful life?

Yes!

DG: The Secret To Success is a message I share with teens and adults on a regular basis. It’s so simple and yet so many people miss it.

What is DG?

DG is Delayed Gratification. Yikes! It doesn’t sound that interesting or fun! But, it can turn everything around. In my podcast I talk about how delayed gratification sets us up for success in our finances, relationships, career, education, and walk with the Lord.

We do the hard work first and save the fun for last.

It sounds to simple, but in a day and age where we want instant gratification and to buy now and pay later, it is hard to resist our flesh and postpone what we want.

How Does DG Work?

If we work hard, save up money, tithe, and live on a budget, we will have money to do some of the things we long for, but not right away. We will have to forego some things to wait to do others, but we will experience the joy of financial freedom (no debt!). Don can’t wait and gets whatever he wants right away. His house is filled with computers, tablets, speakers, screens, and video games, but his credit card is maxed. His wife wishes he would practice DG.

If we wait to be married for romantic pleasures and wait on God to bring a mate who shares our love for Jesus, we will set our marriage up for success.

If we work and finish schoolwork first instead of playing hours of video games (or other distractions) and then getting it done, we will be able to reward ourselves with fun after the job is done!

Unfortunately, many teens and adults that I talk to have already build patterns and habits that are hard to break into their lives. They have to retrain themselves and I share ways to strengthen the DG muscle in my podcast: http://ultimateradioshow.com/dg-the-secret-to-success/

However, what a blessing if we can acquire the habit of DG in our young years, so that we walk in delaying gratification as a habit.

How Can I Help My Children Walk in DG?

Of course, we can model it for our children because more is caught than taught.

We can also set up our daily schedule to practice delayed gratification.

Rachel decided that she would start teaching her children to delay gratification. She moved their schedule around purposefully. “Here’s the agenda for the day (chores and schoolwork). If we finish everything with excellence (not mediocrity!), then we will treat ourselves to …. (playing a game, making cookies, doing a messy art project together, watching a short video).”

If the work isn’t finished, there is no reward. This ties hard work and waiting (delaying gratification) to a reward. Her children didn’t like the idea of first that if they didn’t finish their schoolwork, they couldn’t watch a video (their favorite thing!), but Rachel held fast and after a week, the grumbling stopped.

Sally and her kids wanted to go to the Creation Museum, so they figured out how much money it would cost. They got a big jar out and started filling it with money they earned doing extra jobs, having a garage sale, and money gifts from grandparents. When they had enough money, they planned the trip. This strategy built DG into the whole family. They were working hard and waiting for a reward. Now, Sally could have just put it on the credit card, but her kids would have missed out on an important lesson.

Of course, we don’t need to reward all hard work and we don’t need to earn every fun thing, but purposefully structuring our children’s lives in the early years to work first and play later will build that DG muscle and make it easier in the years ahead.

Setting our children up for success isn’t that hard. We just need to be purpose and proactive in teaching them to delay gratification.

God Bless You!

Meredith Curtis

Finish Well Radio at the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network

 

Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Veteran Homeschool Mom

Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Veteran Homeschool Mom

Do you have questions you’ve always wanted to ask a veteran homeschool mom?

I’ve been homeschooling and homeschool mentoring long enough I think I’ve heard every question that can be asked. Maybe.

Here’s some I’ve gleaned from around social media along with my opinion answers.

Q: What is the best form of homeschooling?

A: Whatever brings your children home. Seriously. For Christians, providing a Christian education for our children isn’t an option or even a calling. It’s a mandate given by God throughout Scripture. That being said, you want a method of education that does several things. One thing would be to uphold the authority of Scripture. Another would be to allow you to disciple your kids. If you get these two things done, you’ve done a lot. I personally used the Principle Approach method.

Q: How did you trust that in the end your child would be smarter, better off, and not held back?

A: It was really a journey. So much was riding on the oldest doing well. I mean, everyone was watching and waiting for me to mess up or throw in the towel. I had to place faith in the fact that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do (conviction), and that my method supported that. After that, what good is comparing? Each child’s an individual anyway and God had a plan and purpose for each of them- regardless.

Q: How do you balance housework, meals, laundry…etc, when your kids are young and need more direct instruction and attention?

A: Honestly? Sometimes, barely. Things like a laundromat, crockpot, and tidying as we went along helped. But, we had a lot of cereal for dinner (my husband worked nights), and held sock-mating parties for fun. You do the best you can do. Ask for help if it’s available. I promise it passes.

Q: How did you handle the high school years to make sure they would be accepted into a college?

A: By keeping on track in middle school. We looked at what they thought they wanted to do and what college they wanted to attend (if they wanted to attend college) and had a gap year to focus on any academic weak areas.

Q: What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?

A: If do-overs were a real thing, I’d not listen to what other people thought so much and focus on a strong understanding of the application of Scriptural principles. I’d have tackled more philosophy. Mainly, I’d have spent less time on things that distracted me. And I didn’t have social media to intrude! I’d pointed them to Jesus a lot more!

Q: How do you stay motivated?

A: One day at a time. Write out your philosophy of education, you’re “why” you homeschool. Remind yourself of the blessings.

Q: How do you know if you are doing too much or not enough? In kindergarten when they are starting to learn the foundation of everything how do you know you are teaching enough?

A: The best meter I’ve found for knowing this is by monitoring the stress level in the home. I had one child that hid from me when I brought out the phonograms. Turns out she had a vision issue. If I’d have insisted on her doing them, we may have harmed her love of learning.

Also, gaining consent from the child to be taught. If you have this (through relationship building), you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more schooling. This will also cover the motivation of the child.

Q: How do you shut up your negative thoughts, mommy guilt during these rough high school years?

A: Give yourself grace. Pray. Ask forgiveness when necessary. Don’t give up. God is a parent and look at Adam. It’ll be okay.

Q: How do you plan your homeschool?

A: Pinterest. Just kidding. Kinda. Seriously, though- plan with the end in mind. Think big picture to particulars. Whole to part. There are a bazillion planners for just getting the what you do on what day down. Beyond that- I always journaled my planning.

Q: What about socialization?

A: Fooled ya! You know I’m not going to answer that one!

I hope this has proven helpful to you. If you have a question I’ve not answered, drop me a comment and I’ll try to help!

_____________

Gina Glenn is a veteran homeschool mom to four {nearly all} grown children and author of the Principle Approach Primer. You can find Gina at GinaGlenn.com

Why Homeschool?

why homeschool

Why Homeschool?

By Christina Gerwitz Moss

Author, Public Speaker, Homeschool graduate and now Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling for me has always been a way of life.

I was homeschooled from K through 12th grade and loved the experience. I decided to pursue higher education and graduated from college in three years with honors. It wasn’t just the opportunities I had but the loving surroundings in which I was able to grow and flourish with love, stability and Christian spirituality. I attribute my homeschool experience as a wonderful springboard for my life and events that took me well into adulthood with fond memories.

My brother and I were not concerned about how other students would treat us as we learned.

My brother was “disabled” in the sense of the world, but I didn’t think it was odd that I, two years his junior was on the same grade level. We were free to learn at our own pace, gleaning information on topics that interested us (it seemed) at every turn during school hours or not. I later learned that my mother planned our year ahead of time and often switched topics as our interests became fine-tuned to a particular subject. It appeared to us as if the world was our school and many days we were excited to begin.

We were free to learn at our own pace

Testing was a form of a game where mom asked us questions and we bunny-hopped, jumped, or skipped to the end signifying completion. When testing became more formalized it still was a contest where we tried to beat last time’s score or asked for special “extra credit” answers that would bring us over the 100 mark. Mom was always sure to comply. My mom didn’t like testing us, but I enjoyed the tests.

Homeschooling my own children was an easy choice to make

Homeschooling my own children was an easy choice to make, especially since I have the loving support of my husband, who was not homeschooled, but had cousins who were through high school. We both want to offer our children a great education both academically as well as with the foundation of Christianity. Homeschooling we both agree will accomplish that desire for our family. I am excited knowing my children will experience the same things that I had growing up, the freedom to talk and discuss deep religious truths, question when those teenaged years come up and know that my parents never discounted our questions as childish or rude, but listened and directed with love and concern. I also love having a flexible schedule with the exception of offering my young children a little more structure than my mom gave to us. Mom is almost perfect in the proverbial “Mary Poppins” sense, is an icon of the homeschool movement, and well loved…but I can’t do everything just like her! In fact, I learned that from her. She told me to think for myself, stand my ground, and always cheered me on when confronted with tough decisions and whatever live-crisis crops up in life.

Just beginning my own homeschool journey

Several years ago, I began my journey with my young children, the oldest turned eleven in January. With almost six years of schooling completed, I have come to realize what a great undertaking homeschooling can be for the entire family. We have had the most incredible year in terms of growth, enjoyment of each other’s company, and of course the element my mom used, “fun.” We have learned much and had a few ups and downs along the way. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment and dedication. It takes a totally unselfish love for your children that supersedes what the world says is “normal” in regard to traditional schooling.

I remember a story recounted by my mom.

She had us in a high-end preschool where academics were stressed thinking that was important for my speech-delayed brother. I went along for the ride, so to speak, and made friends easily as did my mother. When it came time for school, mom decided to homeschool my brother and of course, I followed suit. She received a call from a friend one morning (I was too young to remember), who felt “sorry” for my mother. You see, she had rushed through the morning, deposited her child on the school bus, and harried was sitting down to a wrecked kitchen and a cup of coffee before she tackled the day. She told my mom how sorry she felt that she was not getting a “break.” My mom recounts, “I told her that I was sitting in bed, with my second cup of coffee, still in pj’s with two kids flanked on either side, pillows fluffed, and reading. We had completed our religion books, Bible, and history. Breakfast was long done, washed and put away, and we would soon dress, do a few more chores before we headed upstairs to our school room to tackle some math, writing and other activities.” This friend didn’t call again feeling sorry for my mom. In fact, we felt sorry for ourselves if we did not complete school by noon so we had the day to explore our world!

For the success of a lifetime homeschooler, I believe it is a decision, not something to revisit every year.

I think it is similar to reviewing your marriage and deciding yearly if it is working out for you! Marriage is a commitment and for my family so is homeschooling. We will give it our all we don’t micro-analyze it looking for an out, looking at what they are “missing” in terms of the school bazaar, fund-raisers, track and field events or the like. We feel it is ordained by the Word of God, and we know, by His grace we will continue the tradition of raising a mighty people who love and will serve Him in thought, word and deed! If you are considering homeschooling I ask you to prayerfully consider what the Lord wants for you, for your life, for your family. Do not look left or right, look straight ahead. If the Lord ordains it He will give you the blessings and grace to continue. Don’t take my word for it, take His.

Christiana is daughter of Felice Gerwitz, Vintage Homeschool Moms and owner of Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network

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