Hebrews 4:16

Let us then come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Homeschool Tidbits Week #2 ~ Tools for Homeschool Success

Psalm 127:1 - If the Lord does not build the house, those who build it labor in vain


It is the first week in October, which is quite hard to believe. We are nearly done with our first quarter of the semester and I am wondering, how are you feeling?   Are you still composed and collected, completely ordered with your day and the organization bug is still fresh and new? Or.... are you feeling a little bit overwhelmed, perhaps, even confused? 

Usually, I spend quite a bit of time in the end of the spring and beginning of the summer contemplating the year ahead, with planning to commence in July so I can start the year right away in the middle of August with a splash.   Then by week 6 or 7 we are all feeling a little overwhelmed with the slightly unrealistic schedule that my over-zealous scheduling heart wanted to force me to attend to.   Yes.. I admit it... I tend to over schedule our days and our week so I can fit 'everything' in and mark off all of the boxes.

Let me preface, marking off the boxes, is not a bad thing. However, for me, when I let it become the focus of our day it robs my children, and myself, of the blessing of home centered education.    Thinking of what I could share with you this week, I realized that one of the best things I have done through the years is establish a planning system that gave us the freedom and grace to change, if necessary, but the accountability to adhere to the educating guidelines which are important to me.

Taking a few moments to outline my ideas on one of my favorite resources, my Dry Erase Board, ( I usually refer to this as D.E.B)  I began thinking of the things that I use frequently, or even daily, in our home school.  I have a Dry Erase Board in multiple rooms in  my house(  so I can write on it no matter which room we are in), or we use portable ones, because it makes teaching a concept so easy. I can write down outlines, math problems, spelling lists, quotes for copywork, or whatever it is that I want to have the kids remember.  What I love, besides the convenience and the clutter that it prevents,( as opposed to lots of paper piles)  is the freedom it gives me to teach a lesson and move on to something else while the kiddos can sit and ponder or work quietly on their own.  By teaching them the process of learning, and letting them learn at their pace, the dry erase board has become a valuable and necessary tool in our home.

1. The most important resource, is obviously, my Bible and a Devotional.  If we don't take time to meet together in the morning and read through the Word of God and seek His face, I can expect a day of trial and tribulations which are hard to overcome.  This does not mean we will have a day without trouble or distractions, but it does ensure we have our hearts and our thoughts focused exactly where they should be.

Matthew 6:33- Seek first the Kingdom of God.

2. Binders have to be one of the 2nd most important investments I make for each school year. I usually have multiple binders for each student and a large teaching binder for myself.  
My binder includes a planner schedule, calendar, goal sheets, book lists, spelling lists, school schedules, music lessons and practice schedules, and any information which is pertinent to the student or the school year.

I usually assign a color to each student  using pocket dividers, page protectors, and file folders to individualize their school plan for the year. Essentially, it is my own little, "IEP", for each student. 

I take time to write down my thoughts, goals, and hopes for that student.  I will write out  a list of books I will need for the year, along with any extra materials that they will need.  Note: I won't always know all of this ahead of time and for the most part, I write things out in pencil so I can erase! :) ( Yes, I said erase!)

With that done, I print out a blank planner sheet  for each student. Looking over the curriculum and the plan for the year, I write down what I want that student to do for the week. This gives us both the accountability we need to work diligently.  It allows them the freedom to see what they need to do and how much needs to be completed for that week.  It gives me the opportunity to allow them to work at their pace, even if that  means that some of them work in the evening because they work better later in the day vs the  morning.

3.  The tools are important to the task.  Take time to consider what you will need to help you become successful.  You wouldn't plan a garden without the proper tools to help you take care of that garden.  Your home school is like a garden.  You are going  to till up the soil of their hearts as you prepare and instruct  your children.  The seeds of wisdom are planted in the cultivated ground of their amazing minds.  I have learned through the years that no matter what my children's abilities are, that I need to consistently remember that God's plan for them is actually prosper them and to give them a future.  ( Jeremiah 29:11) It helps me to keep my focuse on those long days when I feel like I am scattering those precious seeds on the wayside and the roadside which is cluttered with weeds.

Some of my favorite tools include:  A 3-whole punch, File folders, Spiral notebooks, Index cards, Post-it notes, Page protectors, Binders, Mechanical Pencils  ( no need for a sharpener), Colored pens and pencils ( this makes taking notes and outline both fun and productive).

4.  Bookshelves are a huge blessing.  Not what I would say is a 'must have' to have a successful home school, but it does provide such a nice place to put everything when we are done  working.   Teaching our students to put things away helps them to not only be responsible but to also to be accountable and own their work.   Putting everything in its proper place ensures you will be able to find it the next time you want to look for it.

Note:  I can't say that this happens every day in my house. It is the goal and the hope I have tried to encourage the kids to achieve.  

Each year we start with the bookshelf organized and the binders in order, and each year, I find myself re-organizing  those same shelves and binders. Cleaning, sorting, purging and organizing ...  it is all a part of the process, really. However, if you can implement a system, it will be that much easier when you need make sure your records are put together . 


5. Last but certainly not the least important on my list is the task of putting it all together.

Taking some schedules I found on one of my favorite worksheet/planner websites. (www.donnayoung.org) and putting all those tools out in front of me,(My Bible, Binders, Folders, etc.), and I stop to pray.

 Before I begin each year, I come back to the promise which the Lord put on my heart so many years ago.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

He promises to give us wisdom, liberally, when we ask for it.  He is a faithful and generous Heavenly Father, who will not leave us lonely and without the proper help in our time of need.

Early on in our homeschooling journey when my oldest was the only student in our little academy of learning, our son was just a toddler, and we were eagerly expecting our youngest to make an appearance.(9 months after we started our first day), the Lord met me in a time of frustration.  I wanted to do it all right. I was so scared that I would mess it up; that I would mess my children up.  Who was I to think I could do this thing called, Home Education?  There was very little support from friends and family and I literally knew only a handful of homeschooling families.

I remember trying to teach my dear one to read and finding both of us completely overwhelmed.  While she was playing in her room I sat on the stairs and cried out to God.  He spoke clearly to my hungry heart, the living Word that still meets my needs in resplendent abundance. 

2 Timothy 1:7 ~ I have not given you a spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

He knew my inabilities, my quirks and my faults. Yet, he still choose me as my children's momma.  Whether or not I was adequately prepared for this journey, the fact was that HE is always adequate. He is always enough.  If I choose to invite Him in, then I would never have to question the decisions that lay before me. If I trusted His leading, I can know, without a doubt, that His love and his heart for my babies was good. ( Rom 8:28)

My hope lies in the reality that He alone is the author and finisher of my faith. He is the one who makes all the experiences of my life sweet, both the good and the bad.  He is the foundation that we built our home school on so many years ago. He is the hope which anchors our soul and He is the promise which reminds us that we will finish this race with joy and victory.

My prayer for you today is that you would be renewed with a hope that is rooted in heaven's promises and like the Book of Proverbs reminds us.. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all ways, acknowledge HIM, and He WILL direct your path!




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