Books About Homeschooling

It’s our 6th year of homeschooling and out of the past six years, I’ve spent three working for the public library, in the children’s department, no less! To say that I’ve had the opportunity to have my hands on a good variety of homeschooling books is like saying Babe Ruth had the opportunity to touch a few baseballs.

Speaking of books, when I go for a weekly visit at my best friend’s house, I usually lug a bag full of books in (or maybe just one special book) to share with her. When I discovered we could talk books together, I knew it was going to be a lasting friendship.

bookshelf friends

I’ve had the chance to see the good, the bad, and the truly ugly (and outdated). Today I’d like to share some of my favorites. Yes, I am an Amazon Associate and these are affiliate links – because that’s an easy way to link to pictures of books. Clicking on the picture will take you to the Amazon page for that book where you can read reviews by other readers (so you don’t have to just take my word for it that these are good), and often you can click on the book to read an excerpt. I love that! I want to know I’ll like it before I buy it!

Not sure where to start? Or how to turn a curriculum into an actual plan? Or how to create a schedule? Here is a clear-cut book that won’t overwhelm you with too much information too soon.
Homeschooling 101: A Guide to Getting Started.

This is still my favorite book for keeping my head on straight (homeschooling-wise … there’s not help for every problem I have! LOL!) With 330 pages, it is totally worth the cost to be able to refer back to this book over and over across the years. With sections on goal setting, figuring out which educational approach to use, developing your own philosophy of education, determining your teaching style, and identifying your children’s learning styles, you can’t go wrong with this one. (And after six years of this, I can tell you that you won’t get it all figured out the very first year, or the second, etc … can I get an AMEN??)
101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

Here is another that I’ve referred to more than once. At one time, I was certain I wanted to homeschool in a classical style. I’ve learned this is not right for my family, but I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t spent some time really exploring what it’s about (and trying it). That said, classical education IS the right fit for many families, and this is the place to start in learning what it is and how to bring it to life in your home.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)

Want to raise independent learners? Project-based homeschooling might be right for you. Learn more about this method and ideas for implementing it through this great book:
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Interested in getting a realistic, honest look at homeschooling and answers to the more emotional and practical questions you and your family have? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with these easy reads that come from the heart. These are also good to read when you hit a speedbump on your journey. I love Amy’s highway metaphor … so accurate.
The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick

The Homeschool Highway 2: Further Down the Road

I found this book inspiring and enlightening regarding preparing children for college. Is this the track my own children are on? No, but reading about the Harding Family’s experiences encouraged me to expect more from my kids.
The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve

Starting to feel overwhelmed by the burden of homeschooling? Check out this quick, easy read to discover secrets of simplifying your homeschool.
Simplify Your Homeschool Day: Shorten Your Day, Sweeten Your Time

Let’s stop here while we’re ahead. I’ve given you more than enough for one week’s worth of reading! LOL! When it comes to books, I’m slightly passionate. I hope one of these books brings you hope, encouragement, inspiration, or a roadmap … whatever it is you’re looking for.

Let me know if you have a favorite book I haven’t listed yet.
Happy homeschooling!
~ Courageous Jane


A Homeschool New Year

Happy New Year! This is the day I’ve been waiting for … time for a fresh start. Time to plan for the second half of our school year, establish new routines, and figure out a rhythm that will work for us! I’m so excited!

As a family, we’re not all what I would call highly-disciplined. My husband is probably the most consistent of the group, but I happen to be very flexible with my schedule and my time, however, my kids have been homeschooled by me and have therefore learned my habits.

I’m the type who needs some alone time at the beginning of my day to get some caffeine pumping through my blood, some kind of printed words in front of my eyes and into my head, and quiet. My ideal day starts with my coffee, my bible, and a good chunk of quiet. More often than not, it starts with my son getting up before me, turning the noise box on for company, and the dogs asking to be let out of the crate … all before the coffee is done brewing.

As the totally unstructured days of the holiday break are quickly falling behind us and I’m craving some order in our life, I’m coming to the realization that we need to, again, establish some consistent routines … I need to work in time for our school work, chores, basketball, and my writing, reading, meetings, and the ever-present appointments that must be kept. We’d also like to make time to get to the Y for some exercise. I feel like it’s nearly impossible to work all of that in! But I’m giving it a good try.

To begin with, I finally got smart enough to realize I can’t do this myself. As my kids get older and more independent (and independent-minded!), I’m finding it harder to maintain command of our schedule and routines, so I finally figured out that I should talk to God about this. I prayed for His help, asking for guidance, support, and strength. Not long after, things began to come together in my brain.

Thankfully, we’ve already got our materials and books, so I don’t need to go down that road right now. I can focus strictly on what needs to be accomplished and what time is available to do that.

After prayer, I turned to *a great planner created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She’s offering the one I’m using (Arrows) for free in the month of January, although she has created some others that might be more appealing to you for only $5 each! That’s a huge bargain compared to anything you can buy in the stores, and it includes TONS of homeschool forms that will help you throughout the year. Plus, it’s all downloadable … no need to run to the store before getting started, and you only have to print what you’ll actually use. (For instance, I use a different Notice of Intent form, so I won’t print that.)

Confession of a Homeschooler Lesson Planner Arrows

Arrows Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

After downloading this planner, I made a quick list of the subjects we need to cover, added “chores” and “YMCA” to the list, and printed just one copy of the page called “Weekly Schedule Overview.” This page has hourly time slots for each weekday. Then I penciled in our meals (we aren’t even consistent on mealtimes, for goodness sake, and I often forget that we haven’t eaten yet!), our scheduled basketball practices, piano lessons, church activities, and the weekly bible study I attend.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. Since the kids are still on their “break,” I didn’t want to sit and talk with them quite yet. However, I’ve now done the beginnings of my part, and my next step is to pull them in and start a discussion about time management. We’ll reflect on how our time is currently being wasted, what our goals are for the next five months (my oldest daughter is getting married at the beginning of June so our school year will end in May this year), and how our schedule can work with “who we are.” We don’t need down-to-the-minute planning, but we need to establish routines that work within the time frame created by our outside commitments.

After our little talk, I’ll let them help me figure out what times would be best for each subject … would math be better in the morning or afternoon, and why? We’ll pencil everything in so we can erase and move things as needed until we find something that works.

Once we start, I intend to keep track of how well we do. I don’t expect that we’ll hit everything all the time, but if we’re making an acceptable amount of progress (guidelines set by my husband and I), settling into a rhythm and routine, and I’m not missing any appointments, I’ll consider it a success.

I’m so excited to get back to “normal” around here and have enough time set aside for all we need to do!

Have you already found a system that works well for your family or are you starting fresh with the new year, too? Please click on the little conversation bubble at the top of this post (by the title) and share your own story. Let’s learn from each other.

*I am in no way affiliated with Erica other than being a fan of her writing and her creations. I am not being compensated for writing this … I’m just sharing what I’m using and what I like. 🙂

Advice for the Overwhelmed

I was feeling completely overwhelmed and confused. You’re probably thinking, “Been there, done that.” I know I’ve been there before. Thankfully, after years of  meltdowns … or rather, “experience” … I knew just what to do about it. Blather my complaints to others. right?!? No, no, no! Pull yourself together, Jane!

Despite 4 years of homeschooling, and as much research as I could fit into those four years, I’ve still never settled on one perfect solution to all our homeschooling needs. Have you found something perfect yet? Since I still seem to be looking, the research, the decision-making, and the angst continue.

So what constitutes “perfect?” Because we’re trying to put our best effort into this, we don’t want to settle for curriculum that’s just mediocre. We want outstanding. We want memorable. We want “mentionable” … something we’re happy to tell everyone else about. We want “braggable” … something that brings forth results that make us look good. And of course, we want affordable.

Lately, it seems like I spend every waking minute reading curriculum reviews and poring over catalogs and websites.

Oh, the choices!

Oh, the choices!

I keep going back to our stacks of school books and flipping through them again and again, trying to decipher why I might have thought something wasn’t working.

I’ve finally decided that it’s time for a break. I’m not actually making any good decisions at this point. I’m tired and grouchy and bored. There are so many worthwhile activities I could be enjoying if I could just let this go for a while.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, too, take some advice from another mom in the trenches:

Shut it down. Don’t just walk away. Shut your computer down completely and make a choice to do something, anything, different. It’s time to let the brain rest.

Do something outside that allows you to savor the moment you’re in. I hate gardening, so that’s not what I would choose, but I love to walk in the dark, when it’s quiet and I can hear the nighttime noises of nature. Sometimes I like to just sit on the porch and watch the world go by.

Breathe consciously. That’s right … think about your breathing. Just enjoy the thought of air being pulled into your lungs and oxygen coursing through your blood to your brain. Imagine any built-up stress being swept out as you exhale. I close my eyes when I do this and experience an instant release of tension.

Take a nap. Allow yourself the luxury of feeling like you’re on vacation, even if you’re not!

Pitch a tent and spend some time in it. Take a break from the world of electronic noise … air conditioners, appliances, tvs.

Ahh. Peace and quiet.

Ahh. Peace and quiet.

Read a book. I’m not going to say that it can’t be related to homeschooling, but the goal is to give my brain a break from thinking about school stuff, so a novel is better medicine at this point.

Get some exercise. Even the tiniest bit helps. My kids were playing “Just Dance” on the Wii this week. I went in the room and danced along without actually playing the game. Dancing helps me every time, as long as no one’s taking pictures!

These are only a sampling of ideas. Boring maybe, but that’s the point. We all need to give our brains a break now and then. After taking a breather, it’s easier to go back and dive in again. Next time I will take notes, keeping track of the pros and cons, prices, etc, for each choice I’m interested in. Then when I need to take a break again, I won’t have to start over completely when I come back.

What helps you to settle your brain when you start feeling overwhelmed by choices? Share in the comments section below.

Just for fun, check out the Homeschooling A – Z posts! They’re not what you might expect!

You can start with A here: “A is for …”

Do you Facebook? Be sure to like Courageous Jane Homeschools!

Fearlessly and Without Regret

The title on this blog proclaims “Courageous Jane Homeschools … fearlessly and without regret.”

It’s true, I don’t regret homeschooling my children. It has been amazing and wondrous to see them learn from me, and on their own. They’ve learned, regardless of my failings. They’ve learned, even when I wasn’t teaching. They’ve learned when I wasn’t looking. They’ve learned on the days they thought they weren’t having school!

Dissecting owl pellets

Dissecting owl pellets

I can remember one time when someone asked Annie how she likes homeschooling (and I suspect the person asking thought she was going to say she hated it). Annie answered with “I love it. We hardly ever do school.” Ha! That’s seriously what she thought.

It’s true that we don’t do much that looks like a typical school day from my own childhood or what my kids see as “school” on tv. We don’t do a lot of learning through textbooks. They haven’t had to keep notebooks full of notes. You would be hardpressed to find a typical schoolroom-style textbook in our house. But we have tons of learning materials at our fingertips and they can tell you all manner of interesting facts.

I have always felt that what I teach my children should be useful in some way. Sometimes the usefulness is in the fact that it’s building their brains, making connections, helping them to understand the world at large. But just because something is great for growing their brains doesn’t mean I feel they need to have it memorized for life. Some things are useful to have memorized, such as math facts and how to spell words and where certain countries are found in the world. Others are less important in my eyes.

I’m remembering the brief period of time when we experimented with an online public school as our choice of homeschooling methods for Annie. One of the chapters she was to learn was about “biomes.” (For those unfamiliar with current educational terms, we grew up calling them “habitats.” Why has the word changed from habitats to biomes? Does the word “Biome” somehow make the idea more clear than the word “Habitat??”) I won’t address that method experiment in this article, but I’ll admit: I haven’t made my kids memorize the names of the different “biomes” of the world, where you would find each, what their characteristics are, or what animals you’d find there.

The main biomes in the world.

The main biomes in the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s right. I haven’t made my children memorize them, do reports and create examples of each, and pour all their knowledge of biomes back out onto a worksheet and a test. Will they suffer for my apathy? I think not. We study a lot of different subject matter. They know how to find information. They are working at learning to explain their findings to others. The difference is they are learning those skills using information they find interesting. (If you find facts about habitats and/or biomes interesting, forgive me if I’ve offended you!) FYI: as I type this, I’m finding that the software I use to type this article doesn’t even recognize the word “biome!” I knew it! Someone just made that word up!

I have no regrets about following our own path. We aren’t learning the same things as their peers at the same times, but we ARE learning (and I do mean we), and I am confident that my children will go on to become successful adults. I don’t have the luxury of knowing what professions they might pursue someday, but I know this: if their profession requires they know anything about biomes (or habitats!), they will know how to find that information, how to memorize it if it becomes important, and they’ll know how to present that information to others, either verbally or in writing, if necessary. That’s what the test will be: not “Do they know it?” but “Can they know it?” and “Can they share that knowledge with others?”

The title of this blog also says “… with an eye to the future …”  Here is my real-world vision: if my child becomes a mechanic, he/she will need to know how to learn how to fix many different vehicles in an ever-changing industry, and should be able to explain to their customers (or boss, or co-workers) what is wrong with a vehicle, what needs to be accomplished to fix it, why one fix is better than another, which fix is more cost-effective, etc. The world needs mechanics — knowledgeable, ethical mechanics. If my child might become a mechanic someday, I want him/her to be prepared to be one of the best! Can you see how this scenario can fit any profession? Hairstylist, chef, seamstress, nurse, doctor, teacher, parent, engineer, artist, carpet-layer, farmer, police officer, librarian, market researcher, grocery store manager, church pastor, tree trimmer, pharmacist. The list goes on, but the skills are the same.

I don’t regret following a different path, and I try to do it fearlessly (always a challenge for this girl!). I don’t follow this path simply because I think it’s a superior path (sometimes I do believe that), but because I believe it’s the better path for our family. I have a gazillion reasons why we have chosen to homeschool, and spending our days learning in a way that’s different from traditional schools is one of our reasons. I’ll address other reasons later. For now, we’re heading back out to learn something else that’s useful and interesting!

What did you learn today?