Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Help! I Can't Fit It All In!

When you think of scheduling High School do you run around the house screaming AACK!, AAUGH! or something similar? Looking at a layout of High School classes for your student may not be what sends you running, but often we get tripped up by fitting those courses into our already full lives.

Here is a valuable tip ~ They won't do it all.

Seriously, they won't.

Even with all the well-meaning books, college-prep websites, and heart-felt blog posts telling you they can  ~ your student is just not going to have time to do everything.

That's why you need to make sure they know HOW to learn before they graduate. You also need to sit down as a family (Dad, Mom, soon-to-be-High-Schooler,) and talk about what are the MOST IMPORTANT things for your student to learn during their four or five years of High School.

Stop trying to be just like everybody else.

Please stop.

What does God want YOUR student to study? Then that is where you begin. Choose a path for success in life, not just to get into a certain college or to pad a transcript. If you and your student think they are going to be called into a field that requires college, by all means - make sure they have the necessary classes. Then look with care at what else they invest their time on during the High School years.

If it is necessary for your teen to have a job during High School, you'd better make sure they understand time management, or they'll never finish Algebra 2. If they want to play a musical instrument - same thing - time management. In fact, whatever your student wants to do - teach them time management!

Teach time management early and teach it often! If you yourself struggle with time management, now is the time to buckle down and learn to plan your own days better. Set an example, or learn alongside your student - either option works, but this is a skill that simply must be taught.

What if your student isn't planning on college? Talk about careers they might enjoy. Help them out by exposing them to a wide variety of people and places. If you live in a rural area, you'll have to be more creative to do this - but it CAN be done.

When you have some ideas about careers or interests, work on exploring those in the times around and between the core courses like math, science, and literature. Include time learning about the career and its necessary skills for electives in High School.

Think outside the box!

If service to others is important to your family, then you can incorporate that into their High School career as well. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, food pantry, local museum, or nursing home are all valid uses of your High Schooler's time.

Our daughters participate in a lot of what would traditionally be called extra-curricular activities. We have chosen to incorporate most of them into their High School experience, and many of them are included in their transcripts. You do need to be a little creative at times figuring out where to assign the credit, but it can be done. History that they learn and share with others is history they will not forget. Working on a community project for Civics class teaches them about group dynamics, and government in action.

How have we fit in what is important to us? By thinking outside the traditional 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. timeline. Our girls usually don't start their schoolwork until around 8:30 a.m. They work on each day's assignments until they're finished. That might be 2:30 or it might be 5. Bookwork and traditional classwork are assigned Monday- Thursday. 

Friday was always Field Trip day when they were little, so we've continued to leave it as our open day during High School. From April through October our girls volunteer at an outdoor living history museum. This usually occupies three Fridays a month, leaving us a Friday  each month for a Field Trip. We take more Saturday field trips now than we did when they were little, but we still fit them in.

Each week our girls usually have at least one or two afternoon or evening events to go to - either for school, or for fun. It might be Literature Class, a choir performance, a community project, a 4-H meeting, or park night with their friends. They understand that they cannot attend the extra events if their bookwork and housework aren't completed. Wanting to spend a couple hours at the park playing Ultimate Frisbee with your friends is a big motivator for a High Schooler to finish her algebra lessons!

It is important to us that our daughters learn how to complete their math and literature assignments, but it is MORE important that they learn to be doers of God's Word and not just hearers. They are learning about serving others, about sacrifice, about being a citizen that cares for others in their community. These goals require finding a balance. They require caring more about what God thinks than about what others think of them.

High School can be a time of quality growth, deep conversations, and family fun. Don't try to fit it all in. Choose carefully what needs to be included, and leave your High Schooler, and yourself, some time to enjoy High School!

Read more on How to Fit it ALL in while educating in the high school years:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful Thursdays ~ 11/19/15 ~ Friends

I have great friends. Each one is unique. Each one enriches my life. They challenge and encourage me daily. They also do wonderful things like pick the girls up for an event if I'm still at work, or invite us over for dinner.

The old saying is true ~ to have a friend, you have to be a friend. There is not always time to do the things for my friends that I wish I could, but there is always, always time to pray. I pray for my friends often, that God would meet their needs, and encourage them in their daily walks.

If you've been blessed with great friends ~ tell them so! Friends are a true blessing from God!

Monday, November 16, 2015


Every year, we members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew vote on our favorite products from the review year. Everyone gets to vote... even the little kids! As our family votes on our favorites, we always wonder what everyone else on the Crew loved best. Today is the day that the Crew announces the Blue Ribbon Award Winners.

We're here to tell you about some of the products and vendors we voted for. There will be a lot of posts about various families' favorites, plus the actual awards. If you're wondering about any of these products, you can visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew website and read all the reviews from earlier in the year.

Now, our favorites:

We reviewed two awesome titles from Heirloom Audio this year: In Freedom's Cause and With Lee in Virginia. Both of these audio dramas are top-notch productions that draw you into the story, and make you want to stay. Our whole Crew is eagerly awaiting their next release!

I adore Koru Naturals! Their Emu oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream has transformed my days. My shoulder joint is so much better after using this for the past two months! Their honey and propolis soap is a family-wide hit, and Emily and I are still using the Skin Clear Cream. Earlier in the year we reviewed their emu oil - it is such a great moisturizer, and their lanolin lip balm. Try this stuff - it's awesome!

This was Emily's top vote. This year we reviewed Illuminating Literature, Mrs. Watson's newest offering. If you're looking for a way to get your High Schooler interested in Literature - choose this one! In the past, we've also reviewed her Writing Fiction in High School curriculum - also a gem. Emily not only loves the curriculum, she enjoys talking with and emailing with Mrs. Watson, who loves to hear from her students!

We reviewed two titles from this year: Unbroken and Do You Believe? If you're looking for family friendly, faith-based movie, look no further! I also enjoyed watching the first season of When Calls The Heart (which I won in a giveaway on a friend's blog!)

Arlene helped me review The Book of the Ancient Romans this year. She enjoyed how it was presented as a story, instead of just a collection of facts or short paragraphs. We've reviewed other titles from Memoria Press in the past, and every one has been a solid, quality option. Whether or not you're a Classical Educator, Memoria Press is a great destination for finding educational gems!

*Special Mention*
Every year, one of the categories is "Best product I didn't know I needed." For us this year, this was CursiveLogic! We loved how it helped Arlene's writing. Be sure to check it out for your family! 

Out of 30 reviews we've done for the Schoolhouse Review Crew just this year, these 5 vendors comprise eight of our favorites! Want to know who won the overall awards? Click on over!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thankful Thursdays ~ A Day at the Beach

It has been a while since we've posted a Thankful Thursday. Life has been full. We've been finishing up a lot of reviews, and we took little vacation. We went to the beach.

We are all really thankful for a few days at the beach. 





No clocks

Perhaps the reason why a day at the beach is so relaxing to me is the loss of perception of time. At the beach I don't glance up and see the minutes ticking away. At the beach I can be completely in the moment. 

I can just be.

Our camera card is full of photos from the beach, among other places, and eventually we'll get them all sorted out. You'll probably notice a lot of beach photos on the blog in coming months. They'll be there for you to enjoy . . . and as a reminder to me to just be.

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How Will I Teach High School?

Many parents shudder when they think of teaching High School subjects at home. Maybe it's the whole idea that your little children are now teenagers, or maybe you're just dreading a particular subject that you didn't do well in yourself. Whatever your concern, we're here today to let you know teaching High School at home doesn't have to be scary.

If you've been teaching your children at home , it helps if you spend part of the Middle School years helping them transition to being independent learners. With each child this works differently. Your goal should be that they can at least begin or end each lesson by themselves. If you've been very hands on as a teacher, use these Middle School years to start letting go and letting the student have more responsibility. Don't plan to lecture-teach during High School, you will set yourself up for disappointment, and your student for boredom. High Schoolers should be working on learning the material themselves, not being spoon-fed.

I truly think that Homeschooling High School is easiest if you've been following a Charlotte Mason, Classical, or Unit Study approach. Though High School can be taught at home with any teaching style, you'll want to make it as easy on you - the parent/teacher as possible. 

Some parents have concerns about a specific subject. What if you did poorly yourself in Math or English? Good news ~ you can either learn alongside your student or find another teacher for that subject. Co-ops are popular around our area for High School because the parents who feel confident in higher level Math, Science, or English can teach those classes while their own students learn from someone else in other subjects. We have not been involved in traditional co-ops during High 
School, yet I know several friends who say they are a great boon for them.

For those who aren't part of a co-op, or who are still unsure what to do for a particular subject, start researching. There are a wealth of options for online or DVD based courses. If a particular subject makes you cringe, budget yourself some extra money for that subject. If you're a pro at English or Art you can do more of the work in that subject with your High Schooler from a less expensive resource. English can be taught completely from books available at our local library. Check your own library to see what resources are available in your area.

For our own daughters, I could have taught them their High School math myself from an older textbook. Instead, we ended up using online and DVD-based courses for them. We had reviewed these course with The Schoolhouse Review Crew and they worked so well for the girls that we had them continue with them. Arlene understood Algebra well using Math-U-See's curriculum, so we ordered their Geometry for her to use as well. Emily has used VideoText Interactive's Algebra (a complete level 1 & 2 course.) I am still available to help explain any concepts that the girls get stuck on, yet I have more time available for other things they need me for.

High School is a four or five year experience for most homeschoolers. Before you begin Homeschooling High School you should spend some time finding out about your state's requirements for a diploma. How much of each subject is required? How are credits recorded in your state? In our state each semester is recorded as a credit, whereas most states give a half a credit per semester. Also talk with your teens about their goals for after High School. If they plan to attend a college or trade school, you'll want to make sure they are covering the correct subjects in the necessary amounts.

If your student is wanting to do an internship or take dual-credit classes you'll need to plan for that as well. 

High School can be a great time to homeschool. The conversations you can have with your children are so much more varied and surprising. Your students can amaze you with how much they understand, and how much they need to talk to you! It can be challenging to have High Schoolers, sometimes their internal clocks are so very different than the rest of the family's. Work with some boundaries, and some freedom, on this part of the planning. Some days they just need to sleep in, but they also need to know how to fit in when they get a job with set hours. Require them to complete their assignments. Encourage them to always do their best work, but be ready to help them when they struggle.

Overcoming High School Fears

High School is a wonderful time to incorporate field trips in your schedule. Your older students can get a better understanding of what is being portrayed at historical reenactments, and they often enjoy a leisurely stroll through the art museum ~ especially if they can take a friend along! Your older students can develop deeper relationships with their peers, and they can enjoy some freedom in their class schedules. You are raising young adults. Help them understand time management. Classes first, jobs and family responsibilities second, and free time third. (Of course, sometimes life demands family responsibilities come before Algebra or English!)

One last thing . . . your homeschool during High School should be unique for your family just like it was when your children were younger. Think outside the box. Use a variety of resources. Watching a history documentary while exercising or listening to an ebook while cleaning the house can be just as valid of a part of an education as reading a textbook. You cannot cover everything, but you do want to make sure to cover those essentials needed for a diploma.

If you're wanting to read some more about our out of the box learning, pop on over and read herehere or here.

Our friends have been sharing about their Homeschooling High School experiences. Click on the links below to read their stories!

  •    Leah from As we Walk Along the Road shares Help! I Can't Homeschool High School: Facing Your Homeschooling High School Fears 

  • Saturday, October 31, 2015

    Beauty in the small things

    natural beauty, small things

    Find beauty in the small things

    They are all around you

    You simply need to slow down, take time, and look.

    Thursday, October 29, 2015

    The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics ~ A Crew Review

    The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics, Music CD

    Note: Tchaikovsky has always been one of Emily's favorite composers, so I asked her to write the beginning this review. From Emily (17):

    The Nutcracker on CD, from Maestro Classics, is a beautiful retelling of the classic Christmas story. The story is narrated by Jim Weiss, the professional story teller whose voice  is familiar to many. Mr Weiss tells the story piece by piece with great skill to help you see the whole story happening in front of you. All of the dances, music, and familiar characters are there, from Clara to the Sugar Plum Fairy, with everyone in between. The CD is produced as a chapter a song, beginning with an introduction to the story and a brief biography of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The story goes on in good style after this, with both Mr. Weiss’ narration and the music itself. You will find yourself recognizing many of the songs and enjoying the colorful tale they tell. It’s definitely a good car trip story.
    The CD comes with a booklet that contains a description of each scene, a very basic piano piece ‘Overture to the Nutcracker’, and pages about the harp, ballet, and Tchaikovsky, along with word puzzles based off of the story.
    The story is good for all ages, from younger children who will love the magic, candy, and magical creatures, to older students who can appreciate Tchaikovsky’s genius in his music. Definitely family friendly and lots of fun, this is a great addition to any CD collection.

    From Carol (the Mom)
    Maestro Classics CD’s are recordings of performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They focus on the “Stories in Music(TM)” and have a dozen titles to choose from. The Nutcracker CD is an adaptation of the original score, and runs just under one hour. The original is about an hour and a half. The Cd is geared towards children 5 and up, and families. Our girls are 15 & 17, yet they still enjoyed this masterful production. It has been a couple of years since we’ve been to see The Nutcracker ballet performed, and not far into our first time listening to this CD did one of the girls ask if we could go see it again this year.

    Having Jim Weiss narrate the story behind the music helped me tremendously. Either I didn’t know, or had forgotten, parts of the story. The narration opened my ears to the details of what I have seen performed onstage. Even if you’ve never experienced the ballet of The Nutcracker, your whole family can enjoy this CD. We have listened to it in the car several times, and recently, I’ve been hearing one or both of the girls playing some of the music on our piano. Tchaikovsky has always been one of our favorite composers. 

    The booklet that comes inside of the CD case includes several things to help your family understand the story and more thoroughly enjoy listening to the beautiful music. It includes a listing of the 16 scenes of the ballet, and what occurs in each one. Next is a section giving a brief history of ballet. It also includes a simple 8 measure section of the Overture to The nutcracker, as well as information about the harp, and Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky. The booklet concludes with a couple fun games for younger children, and the listing of the length of each track on the CD.

    Overall? We loved this retelling of The Nutcracker. Not only do I foresee us listening to it time and time again, I expect the girls will probably pack it in their bag when they go to kid-sit. The Cd retails for $16.98 and includes free shipping, or you can purchase the mp3 for $9.98, and receive the booklet as a PDF download. This was our first experience with Maestro Classics, now we know why they're a favorite of so many families! They provide free curriculum guides to go alongside each of the Maestro Classics CDs. These can help you incorporate music into almost every subject.

    The Crew also reviewed Peter and the Wolf from Maestro Classics. Click the banner below to read all the reviews.

    Maestro Classics Review

    Crew Disclaimer