{Homeschool Tips} Using Screen Time (Guilt-Free) in a Homeschool Setting

This post contains one sponsored link.*

For all the fretting, hand-wringing, and mommy guilt that appears when the topic of "screen time" comes up with parents, more and more homeschool parents are relying upon iPads and computers to fill up hours in the school day.

Is that a good or a bad thing?

Tough call.

If like me you balance work and homeschool with a minimal social support system, then technology can be a real lifesaver, er, job saver.  I know in my career, as a writer and consultant, there are some weeks when technology is utilized more than others. High volume technology weeks for our son track with my deadlines and appointments.

I believe that the issue of "is computer/screen time a good or bad thing" is a question with too many variables to warrant a pat answer.

For me, responsible use of technology hinges upon two central questions:

1. Does the technology involve age-appropriate content that moves the child forward in a desirable area?

We have deleted apps and restricted access to website that we feel are inappropriate. For the most part, our kid uses iPad applications that reflect academic or social goals. Oh, sure, we have Angry Birds but the apps that hold his interest the longest tend to have some sort of educational bent to them.

Note that "educational" doesn't have to mean games descended from Frogger but with cutesy language lessons incorporated. In fact, some of the best options bring real world experiences into the virtual world. Take for example the Bookboard subscription service* and Dragon Box. Both are dynamic, modern spins on old-fashioned experiences: reading books and learning the underpinnings of algebra. (These two particular apps are so popular here that I actually keep them, together with MindSnacks, on our lesson plan rotation.)

2. Are parental and child attitudes to technology positive?

If you want to have kids that have responsible attitudes about technology, then you need to start nurturing those attitudes from the moment you allow access. For example, use a timer or schedule to keep track of who has been online for how long. With older kids talk about how it feels physically when one stays on too long. Ask them to compare that sensation to running, swimming, or playing or other outside, physical activities. (That conversation will clue you in to what your kids need more--or less--of.)

Parents, if you work out of the home--and if your job involves heavy computer use, be sure to visibly take breaks--in other words, model healthy usage--in your own routine. Kids don't really grasp that Mom is making money from writing. Much of what we do looks like it could be play to them as well.

Parents: I'd love to hear from you on this topic.

How do you navigate technology use in your homeschool setting?
What mistakes have you made?
What have you learned?

* FCC Disclosure: I am a brand ambassador for Bookboard and receive compensation for referrals to the site through my social media accounts, including this blog. The opinions expressed here are my own.

{Homeschool Tips} A Message of Support for Parents Who Aren't "Loving" Their Homeschool Experience

My friend Brenda has a post up on her blog from a reader who is hurting:

I don’t know how to fall in love with homeschooling like you and everyone else. I enjoy reading your blog because you seem so relaxed about the chaos, but you seem to be in love with homeschooling.

Am I the only one who hates it? I don’t want to put my kids in public school, but I feel like I am doing them a disservice when deep down I don’t even want to get up in the morning and face the day. I am overwhelmed and not sure what to do.

Brenda offered her own advice, and then she invited her readers to weigh-in.

Here's my response, which I left in comments:

When I work with new homeschool parents–or established homeschoolers who are seeking to reinvigorate their commitment, I often find that unease comes from using techniques and approaches that aren’t well suited to the learning style of the parents, the kids, or both. It may be time to reconsider one’s approach to home learning or even take a break from it and embrace unschooling or something close to it for a few weeks. (The holidays are a great time to do that because math abounds in recipes and crafts and cultural history abounds, whatever your faith.)

I’d also be curious if you have the kind of intellectual stimulation and social support in your life to energize yourself. Sometimes I find we get so focused on our kids’ learning outcomes and “socialization” that we forget that we adults are learners and social beings, too. I’ve got a small tribe of women and men who keep me going, and they aren’t all homeschoolers, either. 

Hope this helps. Good on you for speaking up and not suffering in silence.

Do you ever struggle with "not loving" homeschooling? How do you handle it?

And if you haven't already heard, I've created a new private How to Work and Homeschool group on Facebook where parents can work through challenges like these. This is in addition to the public page. You are welcome to join both or either of them.

5 Reasons Why You May Need to Earn Money While You Homeschool*

*Hint: It's not just about the money.

Penelope Trunk wrote a provocative piece on why one need not earn money while homeschooling. I encourage you to read it, especially since I have heartily recommended her blog in the past. She's a compelling writer, that's for sure, even when I disagree with her.

In light of her comments, I've done some reflection on what I've learned in my research into the lives and experiences of working homeschoolers.

Five of the most common reasons why parents chose to earn money while homeschooling include. Do any of these sound like you and your situation?

They need healthcare.  If you've listened to the news lately, healthcare is expensive. Full-time working homeschoolers are in the minority, but many of them do work to get or pay for medical insurance. Parents of kids with special needs who require a range of doctors and experts are common in this group.

They are single parents. Some of the most passionate homeschoolers I've encountered have been working homeschool parent who believe that their children receive the best education at home, for whatever reasons. Several of these parents I count as personal friends. And, no, they don't all have alimony checks to cover their needs, so they learn to succeed at working while homeschooling.

They intend to homeschool only for a little while (or a little while longer). Over the last two years, there's been a trend in my neighborhood for parents to homeschool only for junior high school, to get their kids past the enormous peer pressure common with pre-teens. Other parents, especially those of gifted/"2E" kids may homeschool until a better school option can be found. Still others homeschool while a child works through a grave illness, or, in the case of military families, to round out a semester in which a move has taken place.

I also have encountered moms of pre-teen and teenage kids who want to ease back into the work world. A part-time job can make that adjustment easier and give the adult something new to think about as the kids become more involved with the larger world.

They "fell into" homeschooling and have yet to make substantial adjustments to their lifestyle to accommodate the choice. For those of us with a few years of experience under our belt--and with flush bank accounts, it can be easy to forget the folks who stumble into homeschooling and have to play "catch up" with learning the joys and worthwhile sacrifices inherent to the experience. We fell into homeschooling because of a food allergy. Others come to it because of bullying, poor schools, frustrations over standardized testing, etc.

They appreciate the challenge. In my experience, most working homeschoolers are part-time employees or own their own business. I am in this demographic myself and find the intellectual pursuit keeps me grounded in the adult world.

The Take-Away: The reasons for why people work while homeschooling are as diverse as the homeschooling demographic. If you find yourself needing to work and homeschool, then know that others have gone before you and everything turned out fine. Meanwhile, we seasoned working homeschoolers should seek to further showcase those realities.

{FAQ} How to Homeschool When Both Parents Must Work Full-Time

This blog post was published in 2013.

As you might guess, this question is a common concern for prospective working homeschool parents.

Since I (and a few readers!) just answered it on the How to Work and Homeschool Facebook page, I thought I'd share it here for anyone else facing this challenge:
".... I'm curious how people handle childcare when both parents work during the day and homeschool. My job requires that I work school hours, and I really couldn't find another one that pays as well for working part-time. Want to be able to keep my options open for ds, but I can't put our family into debt for it. Any advice would be welcomed."
And here is my response:

While researching the book I found parents in similar situations:
  1. relied upon family members or friends who were available to child-sit;
  2. changed their schedules or work location (telecommute) so that one parent was home at all times;
  3. downsized homes, cars, etc.;
  4. opted to afterschool rather than homeschool;
  5. opted to only homeschool for a short period of time to address a specific need (ex. pulling a child out for a few months to a year in order for them to then re-enroll in a new school or special program).
Some did a combination of the above.
Note that daycare is the BIGGEST hurdle for most parents, making afterschooling the most common solution.

Keep in mind that when homeschooling a child does not spend an entire day working. So a caregiver during a parents working hours need not be responsible for schooling.

Experienced and veteran homeschool parents: tell us how you do integrate full-time employment with homeschooling in comments!

{Homeschool Tips} Homeschool Curriculum Choices for Working Homeschool Parents (Pre K to 2nd Grade)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com.

Publication date: April 2013

With the academic year gearing up, I have received several questions about what sort of curricula we use in our homeschool setting. In the wake of my new book's release, I also get the question "What curricula work well for working parents?"

Today I will answer both questions with one post by summing up our personal experiences. Note that I also have two Pinterest boards, one for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school year, that may be helpful, too. (I update them as we move forward through the year.)

Preschool & Kindergarten

When we began homeschooling during our child's preschool years, I gravitated naturally toward the child-led Reggio Emilia method. That approach worked brilliantly for us through most of first grade. In fact, even as we begin second grade, we continue to include RE methods, although now I refer to it as project-based homeschooling. It's a wonderful middle-ground between traditional, seated homeschool pedagogy and unschooling. It's also very compatible with working since children are taught to take initiative and let their passions drive them.

Reggio Emilia is still new here in the states. When I started out, I had to piece together how-to information from reading online and picking up books written for early childhood educators. Nowadays Lori Pickert's book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners  is available, and it's an outstanding introduction to the concept. Lori demonstrates that the approach works well for older kids, too.  I recommend her book constantly to my clients/workshop participants and in online forums.

For parents who need something more structured--or for parents with younger kids who want to "do school" with older siblings, June Oberlander's Slow and Steady Get Me Ready will work until the start of Kindergarten.

First & Second Grade

Now that our son is older, and although project-based learning remains at the core of our learning, I've come to embrace the idea that workbooks offer us a chance to practice executive function skills daily (see video below).

For example, our son "earns" computer time during the week by completing workbook material during two short "schoolwork sessions" daily.  The overarching lesson in this work, for us, is that "we do our work first and play later" not "you will master every page in this book." (We do tend to skip around.) Moreover, I need prompts to integrate topics such as science and math into our day. Workbooks help.

We've experimented with different brands, but I have to say that we're both sold on the Spectrum curriculum materials  by Carson-Dellosa. The text is clearly written and the pages are colorful without being cloying. I anticipate we will continue to use them through 8th grade. I've read where public school teachers have praised Spectrum for grabbing the attention of energetic, curious learners who bore easily. This doesn't surprise me one bit. (Homeschooling tip: Doing a portion of the workbook lessons orally helps keep the momentum up, especially for gifted kids with writing skills that lag; just be sure to leave ample time for handwriting practice daily. Spelling and math are good topics for this if you have a kid who is handwriting resistant.)

When it comes to history, I'm enormously picky and I have yet to find a packaged curriculum or guide that impresses me. We currently use two history encyclopedias from the UK (prepared by a team of scholars) and generally let project-based homeschooling guide our sequence of study. We also refer to the the popular What Your [Child] Needs to Know Core Knowledge series on occasion for reference.

Last year, we studied French and Spanish simultaneously. This year, we're dedicating a semester to each at our son's request. This will allow us to go into greater depth and (hopefully) move beyond simple vocabulary. First up is Spanish, for which we'll use Spanish for Children, a collection of CDs by McGraw Hill, and Side by Side Grammar. For texts, I like the small, blue Skill Builders Carson-Dellosa language books  but--much as with history--I find that language workbooks for kids come up short, being little more than a repetition of vocabulary. (If you're interested in French, you can see a round up of my favorite affordable apps for the language here.)

We supplement with the Life of Fred series and Logic Links by Mindware for math. On the technology front, the Brain Pop and Brain Pop, Jr. apps are great on our iPad. I'm also loving the e-book Let's Play Math: How Homeschooling Families Can Learn Math Together and Enjoy It! as a means of helping integrate math into our lives more organically.

That's our curriculum round-up, which of course is subject to change as we move forward with the academic year.

Now I'd love to hear what works for you--especially if you have older kids--in comments or over on Facebook.

Looking for more great curriculum ideas? Be sure to check out  Curriculum Week, part of the iHomeschool Network (Not) Back-to-School Blog Hop.

{Blog Book Tour} How to Find a Job After (or While) Homeschooling

This week, as part of the How to Work and Homeschool blog book tour, I'm discussing how to start a job search after you've taken a break from your career.  The host for this week's stop is Jen of Laughing at Chaos. (Thanks, Jen!) Here's the intro:

Although many families are turning to homeschooling while the parents continue their existing jobs and careers, there are far more parents (primarily mothers) who seek to find a part- or full-time job after having homeschooled exclusively for several years. In most instance their children are older and are therefore more independent and self-directed in their studies, or the kids have left the proverbial nest altogether.

Sometimes these veteran homeschoolers wish to return to an old career path; other times they may want to give some thought to changing fields. For parents in this situation, it’s beneficial to employ tried-and-true job search techniques. Yes, if you ever used your college career center, then this material will sound familiar.

If you’re in this situation now–or anticipate being in it down the road, I’ve designed a series of steps to get you started. {More}

What Successful Single Homeschool Parents Have to Teach Us

When I began my researching working homeschool parents, I made a special commitment to spotlight the "unsung heroes" of home education: single parents.


For starters, I was struck by the fact that their demographic is given so little attention in "how to homeschool" manuals. This type of marginalization is unfortunate because as more and more families choose to homeschool, we inevitably will attract more single parents to the home education sphere.

As more and more single-parent homeschool families appear at our play groups and homeschool co-ops, how can we--as a community--help them succeed if we don't know what works for their particular family structure?

Second, and anecdotally speaking, single homeschool parents (mostly women) are more likely to work outside the home and therefore have a unique perspective on the homeschool lifestyle.  In other words, I think that they can teach the rest of us a thing or two about the work/live/play/learn balance.

In my experience and research, I've learned that single homeschool parents succeed by:
  • Putting education first. Not only do they prioritize education on the weekly calendar, they make it a priority in their own intellectual lives. Several of the single parents that I encountered while researching the book pursued their own degrees or professional development in tandem with homeschooling.
  • Building communities of support. Be it through online groups or within their communities (and ideally both), these folks know that to succeed with home education, kids and parents alike need a steady flow of encouragement and nurturing in order to flourish. 
  • Practicing excellent time management. Since most single homeschool parents are also working homeschool parents, the successful ones keep a watchful eye not only the calendar but also energy levels. They look to create a balanced schedule and work to evade burnout on extracurricular activities.
  •  Embracing innovation. Technology is a boon to home educators, be it through access to online courses or through the use of iPhones to monitor what's happening at home from one's desk at work. For single parents working outside of the home, technology--used wisely--can be a useful tool.
  •  Keeping a level head about homeschooling in general. Successful single homeschool parents tend to approach home education one day and one year at a time. They tend to resist "all or nothing thinking" and are open to other alternatives, including traditional public or private schools. This mindset is less stressful and more realistic. After all, one just never knows when change in life might require a change in schooling, and it's wise to have back-up plans in mind--even if one never uses them.
Is it any accident that these descriptions fit successful homeschoolers in two-parent households? No. A resilient, determined spirit is a resilient, determined spirit, whatever a person's current relationship status.

Coming Soon! The "How to Work and Homeschool" Book Tour

The "official" release date for How to Work and Homeschool is still a few days off, but I'm pleased to announce some upcoming events which I've added to the site calendar. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for additions/changes.

August 12, 2013
Blog Book Tour Stop: Jimmie's Collage

August 5, 2013:
Blog Book Tour Stop: Laughing at Chaos

July 29, 2013:
Blog Book Tour Stop: Slow Family Online 

July 22, 2013
WOAI San Antonio Living (television appearance)

July 19, 2013: 
Blog Book Tour Stop: San Antonio Mom Blogs
#GTCHAT on Twitter @ 6PM CDT with @GTCHATMOD  (Find and follow me at @RedWhiteandGrew )

July 15, 2013:
Official book release date (subject to change)

July 8, 2013:
Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop

{Homeschool Tips} Why Homeschoolers Need Not Fear Tests

We've lost touch with the idea of testing as "assessment" of student understanding (rather than simply progress) and the evaluation of teaching effectiveness.

In the homeschool community, that problem may be compounded when families opt out of traditional schools because of frustration over standardized testing. They just don't want to deal with testing at all.

Yet, done right, testing can be invaluable in the learning enterprise.

Yes, friends, testing has its place in homeschool settings! You just have to figure out which type to employ, when, and why.

In my latest homeschool workshop, a teacher-turned-homeschooler reminded me of the two types of assessment, formative and summative.

I share here the definitions with you, courtesy of the Association of Middle Education:

Summative Assessments are given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what students know and do not know... 
Summative assessments happen too far down the learning path to provide information at the classroom level and to make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. It takes formative assessment to accomplish this.
Examples of summative assessments include end-of-chapter tests, end-of-unit tests, and standardized exams.

Formative Assessment is part of the instructional process. When incorporated into classroom practice, it provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure students achieve, targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame. Although formative assessment strategies appear in a variety of formats, there are some distinct ways to distinguish them from summative assessments.
Examples of formative assessments include things like pop quizzes but also include observation, dialogues with the child to determine progress, and even portfolios.

Formative is especially well-suited to homeschooling because we have a uniquely close relationship with our pupils.

Remember: sooner or later, be it for college or grad school admission, to pass the bar, get a driver's license or to qualify for a government post, our kids will encounter tests. 

We'd be remiss as home educators not to prepare them for that inevitability.

So I wonder... how do you use testing in your homeschool setting?

Image created via Behappy.Me

{F.A.Q.} Can We Both Work Full-Time and Homeschool?

As word has spread about my new book, I have begun to receive some version of this question regularly:
We love our jobs, and we do not want to give up salaries and insurance. But we think we want to homeschool our kids. Can full-time working parents do that? If so, how?

Here's my answer:

Yes, it can be done. Parents are working full-time and homeschooling their kids. 

My forthcoming book includes a list of schedule options for full-time and part-time working parents. The schedules will help you visualize how to accomplish what you want to do. I also talk at length about how single working parents homeschool their kids.

You can watch this page for updates on the book's release. It is due to be published by GHF Press in July 2013. The price will be under $6--a real value for working parents.

If you need additional support transitioning to the homeschool lifestyle--or if you just can't wait for the book, I offer workshops and private consultations for a fee. Some people express surprise that I charge for consults. I charge because, as a working homeschool parent myself, I generate revenue through my writing and coaching. (Click here for details.)

Childcare is often the single biggest hurdle for working homeschool parents. On that topic, I also suggest that you look for a copy of The Four-Thirds Solution: Solving the Childcare Crisis in America Today at your library or via Amazon.com or another retailer.

Finally, please be sure to take a look around this site and follow me on Facebook.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate-links for Amazon.com.

{Homeschool Tips} You Don't Have to be a Math Whiz to Homeschool Your Kid

Supper... or a study in fractions?

Many would-be homeschool parents are afraid to dive in because they project 2, 5, or 10 years out and think "I sucked at X so I can't teach X and therefore I can't homeschool."

Note this well:

 I'll say it again, because it bears repeating:

Just because you homeschool doesn't mean that you must always be your kids' only teacher.

You can outsource all kinds of lessons and topics via your network of friends and family, tutors, or for-profit learning centers. Or, you may learn like I did, that if you change up your approach to a topic--releasing yourself from how you learned it--you may find new ways of teaching that work better.

Whatever you decide to do, and however you decide to do it: more power to you!

This post originally appeared via my feed at Sulia.com, where I frequently write about homeschooling and other lifestyle topics.

{Homeschool Tips} Simple Stealth-Schooling Strategies

This post is part of a blog hop sponsored by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. (Links to other blogs appear at the bottom of this post.)

We love stealth schooling here.

Except of course that our kiddo doesn't know the term or that we do it as often as we do.

Our roots in stealth schooling--or "sneaky teaching"--go back to his preschool days, when we wholeheartedly embraced the Reggio-Emilia approach, a child-led educational method. ("R-E" is a basis of the popular "project-based learning.") Back when he was a preschooler,  I would make a point to listen and look for what interested him and then make materials related to that topic accessible to him for exploration.

This is how, when he was 5, he came to love a pretty sophisticated app on the human immune system designed for much older children. He'd voiced an interest in the topic, and I kept providing him resources on it. Eventually he became proficient at explaining things like how T-cells work, making a short video on the subject by using the Show Me app.

Remember: our children's brains crave information and if we pay attention to their words, actions, and behaviors, we can tune into what they seek. Stealth schooling builds upon our awareness as parents, creating meaningful, lasting learning for our kids! 

 Here at home, I find that when I listen to what my son's interests and try to meet that demonstrated "need to know," then he is not only more receptive to the information but also more likely to remember it.

If you'd like to incorporate stealth schooling strategies into your homeschool or afterschool setting, here are some simple ways of so doing.

Make materials accessible: Books, art supplies, media, and other materials on topics of interest can be selected for their age appropriateness and made readily accessible for independent exploration.

Conversation: While one doesn't want to inundate a child with too much information on a topic, conversation--free-flowing, two-way chat as opposed to a one-way lecture--is a marvelous way to determine what a child knows about the topic already. (You might be surprised!)

Show and tell: When it comes to topics like character development or basic life skills, children learn by watching us. So, if your child shows an interest in cooking, get in the kitchen with him or her and collaborate on a project.

Can you think of other stealth school tips?

If so, I'd love to hear them in comments.

More About the "Stealth Schooling" Blog Hop

Be sure to check out the other bloggers writing on the topic of "stealth schooling" this week. A complete list can be found here, but I will continue to add links to this page as the posts come online.

Wenda Sheard
Building Wingspan
Mommy Bares All
Little Stars Learning
A Voracious Mind
Chasing Hollyfeld
Cedar Life Academy
Thea Sullivan 
Buffalo Mama
Sprite's Site


Facebook Office Hour TOMORROW Night!

On Tuesday (May 7, 2013), I will be taking 
your questions about working while homeschooling. Details are on my Facebook page.

{Homeschool Tips} Part 2: Working With Your Family's Personality Palette

A few weeks back, I talked about True Colors® in relation to homeschool families. You might want to review that article before proceeding.  Note too that it may be worthwhile for you to pursue a formal assessment by a True Colors® consultant. Visit www.True-Colors.com for details.*

The most common conflict that I see in homeschool families involve clashes around curriculum or home education philosophy between bright Green kids and bright Gold parents—and vice versa. Oranges and Golds as well as Oranges and Greens can have difficulties, too, but in my experience not to the extent of Golds and Green. (Visual learners: For a wonderful breakdown of teaching and learning styles that you can "see," refer to the chart on this page. You'll need to scroll down.)

There are ways to work with the strengths of both colors in a Green-Gold clash, but to do so requires extra work on behalf of the parent, especially when it comes to selecting curriculum. Traditional workbooks and modes of learning may feel familiar and comfortable to a Gold parent or child. Conversely, hands-on child-led learning activities (including project-based homeschooling and unschooling) may work better for Greens, especially if Orange is their secondary color. Parents in a Green-Gold dynamic may want to “split the difference” and find ways of performing and documenting work that makes both student and home educator content.  Doing so will increase the odds of a successful experience for everyone.

After reviewing the True Colors® types described here previously, dedicate some time to considering the following questions:

• Which colors are expressed in your family? Are there any natural alliances or clashes that may be a result of personality similarities or differences between siblings? How might understanding these differences help minimize misunderstandings, especially in a homeschool setting?
• Look at each child and their teachers, educators, your spouse or co-parent, and your own personality. Are there natural conflicts that may result from personality or temperament differences? How might you work to minimize those conflicts?
• What sorts of challenges and opportunities does your family’s unique color palette present to your plans to homeschool?
• Reflect upon your own school experience. Try to guess the True Colors® for your favorite and least favorite teachers. Do the same for employers and supervisors. What might this mean about your own learning style? How might that impact your teaching style?
• What does an awareness of your own True Colors® hue tell you about your lifestyle and work choices? In other words, what can you build upon?

*Remember: While I am not certified True Colors® consultant, I do offer individual consultations and workshops to help you puzzle through the realities of homeschooling. 

• Have a question about working and homeschooling? 
Register NOW to participate in my FREE Facebook Office Hour on May 7, 2013 •

{Homeschool Tips} You Can Learn How to Homeschool Your Kids This Summer

This post originally appeared at RedWhiteandGrew.com. If you're interested in learning how to homeschool your kids this summer, I'd really love to help you prepare for the experience! 

There's much to be said for good ol' summertime--the weather, the fun, and the much-needed vacation time.

Yet summer can be, for families contemplating homeschooling in the fall, a wonderful opportunity to explore educational options and prepare mentally for the road ahead.


Well, I can think of five reasons of the top of my head:

1. In the summer, our regular routine is broken. There's freedom in that, chiefly because we look at our lifestyle choices with fresh eyes. We see what is working... and what isn't.

2. The change in routine reminds us that we can adapt. The rest of the year--our calendars busy with to-do lists and set schedules, we parents tend toward pessimism and entropy thinking modifications to "the way things are" are impossible. It's worth noting that in the summer many families--especially those who struggle with the idea of how to work and homeschool--find that there are resources available to them for daycare. Or they figure out how to cobble together a workable solution.

The reality is that, in many instances, similar opportunities are available (or can be made available) year 'round.

3. June through August, museums and cultural organizations offer more outreach programming geared to youngsters. That's no accident. They are doing it on purpose, to generate ticket sales. But per this post, many are starting to see the wisdom of targeting homeschoolers (including unschoolers, a sub-group) throughout the year. This is a trend that I've seen in our community. Again, you can use the summer months to scope out options that might supplement your family's curriculum during the school year.

4. You can "try before you buy" a bit of homeschooling and see what works. Take a week out of the summer and do some intentional curriculum planning using free lesson plan workshops. You can go DIY or even pick up a workbook from the bookstore. (BrainQuest is a great, reliable series.) You can also visit your library to pick up homeschool-related books. (A collection of my favorites are here.)

Keeping in mind that you don't have to schedule a full 8 hours to "teach" your kids, see what happens if you intentionally allocate some time to learning. Truly, even 15 minutes a day playing a board game will be helpful (especially if you are inclined toward unschooling).

Remember: keep your expectations in check. There will be some trial and error. That's natural, especially as you figure out what works. Yet with practice you will likely discover that homeschooling is a lot easier than it sounds.

5. Whatever the outcome, experimenting with homeschooling in the summer helps with learning retention. Let's say that you decide to return your child to public school in the fall, even after you've tinkered several weeks with homeschooling in the summer. Odds are that your kids will remember a bit of it heading into the fall. Yes, even if you just focus your energy on practicing skills that they learned the year before, your "pupils" will be better prepared for returning to the classroom.

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{Homeschool Tips} Mobile Homeschool Lessons

As the only child of a disabled elderly adult--and as someone who has her own autoimmune disease, I have spent a fair amount of time in doctor's office waiting rooms over the last few years.

On those days--and assuming that the topic of the appointment is age-appropriate, I take our homeschool kiddo with me. This gives him a glimpse into the role of caretaking without placing burdensome expectations upon him. More often than not, we bring along or encounter a hidden lesson tucked into our shared experience. For instance, I've noticed in the time that we've accompanied my wheelchair-bound mother places, he's become more sensitive to and respectful of the physical limitations of others.

Homeschooling "on the road" works well for us. We're eclectic homeschoolers which means that we're fairly free-wheeling about our schedule. Lately we've become fond of educational iPad apps, which are highly portable by nature. We also "carschool" a fair amount, discussing ideas, experiences, Minecraft, and listening to French and Spanish language CDs in our commute.

We regularly bump into other homeschool families while at appointments as well as during the course of our everyday errands. (Our community has so many homeschoolers in it that I've joked on occasion that we are incubating the idea of "mainstream homeschooling"  here in Central Texas.)

Just because we homeschoolers live in the same place doesn't mean that we all have the same approach. Many families here are strict traditionalists who utilize workbooks heavily; I call them "traditionalists" because they largely model their school days after traditional public/private school models. Yet they can be as mobile as they need to be, too. When we've encountered them "out and about," their kids often use a rolling carry-on bag, small suitcase, or backpack to transport items. One parent I know drives her children to the park and has them finish their lessons prior to play-time! Other parents find that "getting the wiggles out" in a park, followed by a light snack, is the perfect way to prep for school en plein air.

A person's comfort level with mobile homeschooling, while tied in part to one's teaching/learning style, grows through practice. Basically, the more you do it as a family, the more comfortable you become with it.

The Takeaway

Homeschooling is as portable as you need it to be and can be interwoven into your day to the extent that you're willing to allow it.

Disclosure: This post contains a link to my Amazon.com store, through which I receive a small compensation when items are purchased.

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{Homeschool Tips} What to Say to Your Skeptical Family about Homeschooling

This post originally appeared on my Sulia page in early 2013.

It’s quite common to encounter skeptics and naysayers of the decision to homeschool.

Yet when you’re starting out as homeschool family, the negative “static” can interfere with your gaining confidence.

Some of these pooh-poohers and their rants or “friendly, desperate pleas” aren’t worth more than a smile and friendly nod.

But if it’s YOUR Mom or Dad (or inlaws or adult siblings), then things get tricky.

Here’s the best way to handle this situation:

Arrange to talk privately with dear ol’ Mom and Dad (or sis). Tell them to vent all of their worries. Listen. Take notes. Then tell them that you will revisit this conversation once a year with them. But between those annual meetings, they are to withhold criticism of your decision–especially in front of the child–either in person or via computer or phone. (That’s right–no passive-aggressive behavior on Facebook!)

Tell them that if they violate that rule, then they cannot give you annual feedback during your family’s homeschool years.

That’s it. Most skeptics want to be “heard” and will let up. Many of them will be persuaded over time that homeschooling works.

And the hardcore dissers?

Odds are that they diss MOST of your parenting, so it’s just one more thing to bug them.

Carry on!

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{Homeschool Tips} Part 1: Working With Your Family's True Colors® Personality Palette

Developed by Don Lowry in the 1970s and drawing upon personality composites that date back centuries as well as twentieth century clinical psychology, the True Colors®* personality identification technique provides homeschool parents with a framework for understanding what makes us (and those around us) tick in a variety of relevant settings: home, school, and work. A greater understanding of personalities, differences, and worldviews helps diffuse conflict and point the way to richer, more meaningful interactions. Ultimately, you can enhance your understanding of what all parties need to have a satisfying, customized home education experience.

The four colors in the True Colors® model are Blue, Gold, Green, and Orange. When one is working with these personality descriptions and attempting to determine which one most accurately describes an individual, it is helpful to list them in descending order (1 to 4) from most pronounced to least pronounced. The ranking reminds us that we have all the colors and the attending traits within us, to varying degrees. In reminding us of our similarities, we are less tempted to "bash" colors different than our own.

In my how to homeschool workshops, when I've assigned online readings (such as this one) on the topic of True Colors®, parents have responded favorably. As the participants have shared their family's "color palette," I've noticed that there are certain composite color characteristics of homeschool parents and children.

Synthesizing what I have seen recently together with my experience as a career counselor in a university setting that used True Colors® as a coaching tool, I've typed up the following brief descriptions, color coding them to make it easier for visual learners to perceive the differences.
Blue: Blues are the peacemakers and peacekeepers, prone to want to please. For better or worse, they seek harmony and like to minimize, defuse or even outright avoid tension unless a major principle is violated. They can be passionately assertive if provoked! Blues enjoy helping others and appreciate being noticed for their caretaking efforts. As homeschool students they are among the easiest to teach; most Blues are comfortable with everything from workbooks and large-scale projects (both group and individual). In the working world, they are found in a variety of worlds, including caretaking and creative professions.

Gold: These folks are the traditionalists, taskmasters, and keepers of order. They thrive on clarity, routine, and structure and they like to have a clear sense of measurable progress. As students, they are most comfortable with clear-cut curriculum, including workbooks, that presents instructions in a step-by-step ("stepwise") fashion. As homeschool parents, they may struggle with how to do homeschooling "right," when in truth there are many good paths to success. Golds gravitate toward working in institutions and in organizations heavy on honoring hierarchy and with meticulous rules about behaviors and procedures, including the military. Not surprisingly at least one researcher has noted that they are highly represented among today’s K-12 teachers and school administrators.

Green: Driven by thoughtful curiosity Greens are prone to question authority and defying convention not to be argumentative but rather because they have a keen eye for weak rationales. Many of my parents with gifted/2e kids have described their children as being Green. These individuals will respond positively to people and structures that they respect and believe to have integrity. Greens typically enjoy being self-directed in their educational pursuits and are apt to carry intense passions and interests into adulthood. Project-based learning is terrific for them, and some homeschool children thrive with unschooling, too. As adults they gravitate to work and hobbies that rely heavily upon the strength of their reasoning abilities and their deep need for intellectual stimulation.

Orange: Vibrant by nature, Oranges are prone to extroversion. They enjoy trying to juggle a crowded schedule and may be “movers and shakers” socially. They are playful learners (“class clowns”), employees, and parents, but they can be fiercely competitive and tenacious as well. Oranges thrive on interaction and action and relish hands-on activities from childhood to adulthood, making them good candidates for project-based learning and unschooling (like Greens). They long to connect with others in a way evocative of Blues, but in a more robust, even irratic fashion. Oranges tend to gravitate to artistic fields, especially design and performance, or they find ways to integrate creativity into their otherwise seemingly ho-hum lives.

If you'd like to delve further into the topic of personality in home education, come back on April 29th for Part 2 of this post. At that time I'll talk about which colors on your palette--if present--are most apt to clash in a homeschool setting. Between now and then, I will share a few posts that lightly touch upon  temperament in homeschooling. [UPDATED: For Part 2, click here.]

Also, if you'd like to learn more about True Colors® in particular,  I strongly suggest that you look at Mary Miscisin's web site, where you will find a terrific free online personality assessment. She also has a great section of her site dedicated to "color lingo in the classroom" which can be useful in a homeschool or afterschool setting.

*Remember: While I am not a certified True Colors® consultant, I do offer individual consultations and workshops to help you puzzle through the realities of homeschooling. I'm comfortable coaching families with bright, colorful palettes who are struggling to establish themselves as home education or experiencing personality clashes. All conversations are confidential.  Let me know if I can help you.

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{Career} Books for Parents Who Want to Work at Home

Thinking that you'd like to cut down on time in the office and spend more time working from home?  Or maybe you've been homeschooling awhile and want to generate some income.

Thanks to a prompt from a great comment made on my Facebook page, I've just placed two books in my Amazon store on these topics. Note that neither book is written with homeschool parents particular in mind, but the information on locating and securing a desirable "at home" job is still useful.

The first one, Work From Home Handbook: Flex Your Time, Improve Your Life, is most suitable for adults with established career who would like to telecommute part-time or more with their existing jobs. The data is a few years old, but much of the content is potentially persuasive to employers, even while working at home is being hotly debated.

The second book, Work at Home Now: The No-Nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-based Job, Avoiding Scams, and Making a Great Living, is ideal for people who want to shift their working life to the homefront completely. The book is written by the founder of RatRaceRebellion.com and another book, The 2-Second Commute.

Bear in mind that with these types of books, some information (including web links) may be outdated. You'll also want to invest time and energy to do additional research online on recommended work-at-home companies in the event that their credibility has been damaged publicly since publication.

You'll find both books in the "Career" section of my Amazon store. (Disclosure: I am affiliate member of Amazon, and receive a small payment for books sold through my store.)

To learn more about the lifestyles and habits of real-life working homeschool parents, you'll want to read my own forthcoming book.

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{Wisdom} Can I Homeschool and Work At Home?

Found two posts just now via Pinterest on the topic of working while homeschooling. Having shared them on Facebook, I've decided they are too good to miss.

So I'm sharing snippets here and encourage you to check out both posts.

From OurSchoolatHome.com:

"There are days where I wallow in "oh, poor me." You know...
I work at home. I don't even have a home office - just a table with a laptop on it in the middle of our main floor.
I don't use a planned curriculum, so just about everything my daughter learns requires my direct involvement.
I'd love to be able to have "free time," or even "uninterrupted time," but it never happens.
Someone still has to keep up with the dishes, the laundry and the floors, and that someone is often me.

And then I realize how blessed I really am.

I'm busy - but so are you. So is your spouse. So is your mother-in-law. So is your neighbor's sister's cousin's friend. And all of us make choices, and we make the time for what's really important to us." {More}

From Jimmie's Collage:
"Can you homeschool and work at home?

In short, yes. You can work at home and still homeschool your children. In fact, working at home, versus working in a traditional office setting, can prevent the pain of giving up two incomes that is expected in a homeschool family.
Economic factors really do matter when it comes to choosing to homeschool. I have heard some families attacked because they are too “selfish” to make the sacrifices necessary to homeschool, namely giving up mom’s income. But without knowing the financial situation of a family, those are dangerous assumptions to make. Some families truly need two incomes. And if a single mom chooses to homeschool, she normally must find a way to work at home.
Other moms may truly enjoy working and find that being a WAHM makes life more fulfilling overall. Whatever reason you choose to work at home, you can do it and still homeschool your children." {More}

If this topic is of interest to you, then I invite you to check out my forthcoming book, due out this summer.

Related Content: Daycare Solutions for Working Homeschool Parents

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{Career} Does Your Doctor Homeschool Her Kids?

Over the last year, there's been a run of articles and blog posts featuring the experiences of working homeschool parents who defy the narrow (and unfair) stereotype of homeschool parents.

While researching my book, I encountered several doctors, including my family's own eye doctor, who pursue home education.

This morning, thanks to Parent at the Helm's Facebook feed, I discovered a new one on ChildrensMD.org, "18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children" by Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D.

She writes:
I’m going public today with a secret I’ve kept for a year—my husband and I are homeschooling our children. I never dreamed we would become homeschoolers. I wanted my kids integrated and socialized. I wanted their eyes opened to the realities of the world. I wanted the values we taught at home put to the test in the real world. But necessity drove me to consider homeschooling for my 2nd and 4th graders, and so I timidly attended a home school parent meeting last spring. Surprisingly it was full of doctors, lawyers, former public school teachers, and other professionals. These were not the stay-at-home-moms in long skirts that I expected. The face of homeschooling is changing. We are not all religious extremists or farmers, and our kids are not all overachieving academic nerds without social skills. {MORE}

She then proceeds to list 18 excellent reasons to homeschool.

While I found the "extremists" and "nerds" reference jarring (I'm friends with faith-based folks and am a supporter of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum), I understand what she's trying to do. She's trying to shatter the stereotypes about homeschoolers so that other people will see the reality of life as a homeschooler. I might have gone about that task differently. In fact, I do just that in my book's manuscript draft, focusing on the entrepreneurial impulses that homeschool parents have in common.

If you have doubts that anyone without the income or flexibility of a physician can homeschool, too, then go take a look at occupations held by "real life" homeschoolers (both faith-based and secular) listed here.

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{Career & Homeschool Tips} Daycare Solutions for Working Homeschool Parents

If you want to work and homeschool while your kids are young--or if they are older and "high needs," then your biggest obstacle is likely to be securing reliable, affordable daycare.

We tend to forget that in addition to teaching kids their ABCs and 123s, public and private schools provide daycare for working parents, freeing them up to pursue their professional goals. Yet if you switch to a homeschool education model and plan to work at least part-time, then sooner or later you're going to need someone to pitch in with care to take a meeting or make progress on a project.

This challenge is easier to manage if you have supportive family and friends with flexible schedules willing to watch a child for a few hours.

To avoid wearing out one's welcome with that arrangement if you frequently need help, however, you may want to take a look at hiring a nanny or babysitter.

Another option: create a homeschool babysitting coop and trade care with other homeschool families. Don't let the fact that you're the only working homeschool parent in your circle stop you from considering this idea. Sooner or later even stay-at-home homeschool parents need someone to give them a break to run errands, go to the doctor, etcetera. They may welcome an arrangement, provided that expectations are clear and everyone has compatible childcare styles.

In two parent households, consider whether or not you can secure what you need (e.g., paychecks and insurance) if each parent/partner works 2/3 time with overlapping schedules. On that topic, I highly recommend The Four-Thirds Solution: Solving the Childcare Crisis in America Today. In it, Stanley Greenspan addresses the daycare issue with regard to early childhood development. Many of the solutions (including the one referenced in the title) translate to families with older children, too.

For convenience, you'll find the book available for purchase in my Amazon store. (Disclosure: As a member of the Amazon.com affiliate's program, I receive a modest compensation for items purchased through my store.)

I'd love to hear your ideas on daycare for working homeschool households on my Facebook page.


Be sure to stay tuned to HowtoWorkandHomeschool.com for information on my forthcoming book regarding topics of interest to working homeschool parents. You may also be interested in my upcoming workshops and private consultations.

{Parental Self-Care} Beyond "Work-Life Balance"

Often we hear talk in the mainstream media of “work-life balance,” but that proves elusive as we become overwhelmed with the “silos” of work, school, family, community through which we move between during our days. The phrase also puts work and the kitchen sink of responsibilities and experiences called “life” at opposite ends of the daily seesaw.

Actually, I think that the very idea of “balance” keeps those silos in opposition and us struggling in the middle.

You may have noticed—assuming that everyone in our family is hale, hearty, and on task with work and/or educational pursuits—that we practical-minded homeschool parents have an opportunity to move away from a fragmented lifestyle of separate silos toward one of integration.

That integration comes slowly at first. Veteran homeschoolers reach it through the process of intentionally customizing our schedules, routines, and living spaces to fit our families and our needs. It comes through considering and addressing the forces that oppose our goals and outlining our goals in the first place. It also demands a willingness on our parts to acknowledge that moving through the stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium in life is a natural, necessary part of the human experience. And to get to our destination--a state of reasonable contentment--we have to take care of ourselves, the primary drivers in the movement to integration.

To riff on a popular adage: “If the parent ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

What recharges you? Do you make time for it? If not, what's stopping you?

I promise that even 15 minutes daily of self-care activity (exercise, meditation, yoga--whatever suits your style) can help you find a more centered life.

Even if it's never perfectly "balanced."

The Takeaway

Moms and Dads: practice taking care of yourselves.

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{Parental Self-Care} AH-CHOO! Prepare a Little TLC for When You're Too Sick to Homeschool

Yes, sooner or later the parent responsible for homeschooling is going to fall ill, at least for a day or two.

Most likely this will happen during the winter months, on a particularly dreary, wet day, when it is impractical to send the kids outside all afternoon while you try to recover and sneak in some work on your computer.

Blame it on Murphy’s Law, but it’s going to happen.

To be prudent and proactive, consider creating a lidded box—we’ll call it a Tender Love and Care (TLC) Box—filled with care items to help you (and your family) get through the worst of whatever bacterium or dreaded virus has brought you down.

Below are some household, healthcare, and craft items that you might want to stash inside your personal TLC container and put in a shelf in your closet. Naturally, for the perishable goods and medicines, you’ll want to check their expiration dates regularly.

• Eco-friendly paper plates, napkins and utensils to cut down on dishwashing, housekeeping, and the spread of germs
• Two rolls each of toilet paper and paper towel in case you run out of them and can’t make it to the store
• A box of paper hand towels to cut down on bathroom towel use and minimize the contamination
• A new bottle of your favorite countertop cleaner
• Hand sanitizer wipes and gels (all-natural or anti-bacterial)
• Enough cans of soup/ravioli, pre-packaged fruit cups, dried fruit, and crackers or some other easy-to-prepare foods to feed your family for at least two days
• Assorted adult and kid-friendly cold and stomach virus remedies
• Batteries and small candles (with matches) in assorted sizes

One parent that I know gift wrapped several small toys for a long-distance car trip and distributed them every few hours if the children were behaving well. If you think that technique would be effective with your own children when you’re feeling under the weather, then consider adapting it for your household’s TLC Box.

To that end, include several new small, inexpensive toys, age-appropriate books and/or comic books, games, novelty items and craft supplies (coloring books, Silly Putty, PlayDoh) that can distract children (giftwrap optional). Crayola makes an excellent line of washable markers and crayons—worth the investment if you can’t closely supervise creative kids. Older children and teens might be more appreciative of an iTunes card for music or a new app. Plus, if the eldest kids go the extra mile to keep the household running while you’re down for the count, then spending a bit more money on them might be in order.

Are these “gifts” bribery? You could call them that. Or you can consider them part of a temporary, limited-time offer to incentivize good behavior while you’re battling a cough or resting your woozy head on the cool tile in the bathroom. The choice is yours.

For your own mental well-being and extreme self-care, don’t forget to tuck into the TLC Box your favorite novel, movie, or packets of tea to make the best of an uncomfortable situation. After all, if you’re working and homeschooling, being laid low by a contagious illness is as good as an excuse as any to just relax for awhile.

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{Organization} Use Workboxes to Keep Things Orderly

In my introductory homeschooling workshops, participants who want to pursue a traditional homeschooling approach (as opposed to "unschooling") often express dismay at how to keep more than one child on task with assignments.

White boards and calendars are fantastic tools, but I think that Sue Patrick's workbox system is the lynchpin in a homeschool organization system. From her website:
Children using [the workbox system] stay more focused and are more successful in learning and completing their school work independently.  With as little as one day's work in restructuring your classroom, you will provide better organization for you and your child.  It will then be easier to set up a school day of curriculum, variety and fun, while steering your child toward independence and greater focus.
For more information, visit WorkboxSystem.com.

Note that there's a Yahoo! group for parents using the system, too.

Image Source: Spell Out Loud's fantastic workbox Pinterest board

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{Homeschool Tips & Technology} The Best Online Resource for Selecting a Homeschool Approach

Wondering which approach to homeschooling is the best "fit" for your family?

Then take a look at the Click-O-Matic Quiz at the Homeschool Diner.

If you desire personalized assistance with this topic, feel free to contact me.

Image source: HomeschoolDiner.com

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{Homeschool Tips & Technology} Pinterest for Homeschoolers

If you haven't yet discovered just how marvelous a resource Pinterest is for homeschool families, then I invite you to take a look at my own homeschool-themed board. You can also see my other writings on homeschooling via this board.

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{Career} Round Up of Recent Career Titles

Love this post over at Next Avenue, a PBS resource blog for adults.

One book seemed especially relevant for working homeschool parents, many of whom want to become freelancers:

The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams – On Your Terms by Sara Horowitz, the founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union who was just named a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, will show you the ropes of being a free agent. And if you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer or a consultant in 2013, you’ll be in good company. The United States is increasingly becoming a “gig economy”; by some estimates, nearly half of employed Americans will be freelance and temporary workers by 2020. The Freelancer’s Bible has real-world tips on how to set up shop and price your services as well as the best strategies for collecting on delinquent payments. I especially liked its advice on selecting a profitable market: “Match your skills, your metrics and your specialty ideas to what the market needs – not what you think they should need, but what they actually need.” Read More

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{Organization & Career} Home Office Inspiration

Source: bhg.com via Pamela on Pinterest

I love this home office from BHG.com.

Details from the magazine site's fabulous story, "Home Office Storage & Office Solutions":

Perfect Office Setup

Create a corner office at home by zoning a section of a larger room (such as a living room or family room) as a work zone. Behind this desk, a large bookcase fulfills all the storage needs of this work area in one simple system. For more storage, hang floating shelves along the wall. When planning your home office, make sure there are adequate outlets nearby for computers, printers, and task lighting. Read More

For more home and work organization ideas, see my Pinterest board, "Organization Nation."

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