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Making Your Team a Family

March 27, 2018

The end of the school year is quickly approaching! Hopefully you’re feeling a sense of excitement about ending the school year strong! I’m breaking from math topics today to talk about building a community on your grade level. Teachers work so hard to get their students to form a community of learners- shouldn’t we be doing the same thing with the adults on our team?

This summer, a colleague and I hosted a PD on building community with your team. We focused on identifying your personality type, learning how to work with different personalities, making each person feel valued, and how to deal with difficult scenarios that may arise within your team. I am attaching the PowerPoint from our session. It includes a copy of the personality test, as well as some great tips that will help your team become a family!

Building Community PPT

Major Takeaways

  • Take time to be with each other without talking about work (this is really hard for teachers!)
  • Respect any and all cultural differences
  • Celebrate with your team! Birthdays, personal and professional accomplishments, major life events…
  • Be reflective!
  • Acknowledge each person’s contributions
  • Address tension within your team and try to handle all conflict on the team- no negativity or gossip about your teammates!

I truly believe that it’s the people we work with who make our jobs wonderful or less than. I hope you are able to establish a great working relationship with your team this year!

Back to School Classroom Community Language Morale Reading Technology Writing

Cornett’s Book Corner

November 1, 2017

“Wonder”ful New Book Recommendation  

Welcome to November! Fall is in full swing and it is an awesome time of year to curl up with a good book! I hope you are modeling great reading practices for your students and perhaps even your own children. Keeping up the classroom reading is important, too. Here is this month’s review.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

     I have seen this novel utilized in so many fantastic ways with upper elementary and middle school students, and now there is a younger student version, too. In today’s day and age of selfie photo perfection and judging all that is “different” as wrong or bad, this book is a needed read for discussion of these issues with your students. The main character Auggie Pullman is about to begin 5th grade in a public school after being homeschooled for years. He has a significant facial deformity that causes others to look away in fear. Even though he looks different on the outside, he feels the same as everyone else on the inside. As one book reviewer from Kirkus Reviews put it, “Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.” For instructional purposes, I love that it is written from various viewpoints! There are many digital resources available to accompany your study of this novel with your students. Check out the publisher’s website to see all of the related texts. This website has many downloadable Wonder teaching resources, too. The author’s page shares some helpful classroom discussion questions, too. There is even a Wonder app! Many teachers use this book at the beginning of the year to foster a classroom as a community environment and have their students take the #choosekind pledge. This month, on November 17, there is even a movie of the book coming out starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. It will be all the buzz, I’m sure, so get a head start and read this novel with your students. If I were you and you were me- remember to keep the tissues nearby when reading this book aloud to your class. Just so you know, this book is based on a child with an actual rare genetic condition called treacher collins syndrome. I leave you with this quote: “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” I’m not crying- you’re crying! 

 

 

Back to School Featured

School Year Meal Planning

October 2, 2017

Congratulations! You survived Back-to-School! While this is certainly an accomplishment, it probably doesn’t look like things are going to slow down anytime soon. Sometimes we get into the habit of eating out a lot (or not eating at all) during this busy time of the year. But this doesn’t need to be a year-long habit! Today I want to share with you my biggest tips on how to make meal planning as stress-free as possible.

Leftovers Are a Teacher’s Best Friend

Happy Fall, y’all! This weather is perfect and so is Fall food for meal planning! This time is full of great comfort food recipes for soups, pastas, crockpot meals and casseroles (if you’re Southern like me!) and all of them are so easy to change batch sizes. My best tip for you? Pick a couple of your favorites, make a huge batch of each on Sunday afternoon, and prep them for dinners and lunches throughout that week. My absolute favorite Fall (or ANYtime) recipe is taco soup! There are a million variations online, but mine was truly a throw-all-the-cans-in-the-pot kind of recipe. So don’t be afraid to mix up your own!

Taco Soup Recipe

1lb ground beef or turkey

1 can of Rotel

2 cans of diced tomatoes (I love the salsa-ready tomatoes)

1 can of tomato sauce

2 cans of black beans

2 cans of corn

1 packet of taco seasoning

1 packet of Ranch seasoning

  1. Brown your ground beef or turkey in a large pot. Once it’s almost completely cooked, add the packets of taco and Ranch seasonings. Continue to brown the meat until fully cooked.
  2. Add ALL of your cans (I don’t drain any of them) to the pot of meat and BOOM. Taco Soup.

 Y’all. This is seriously the easiest recipe I’ve ever made and it is SUCH a crowd pleaser. Every time we have a family get-together or church function, this soup is requested! In addition to being ridiculously easy, this recipe makes a HUGE pot of soup. My husband and I could eat 2 bowls each on Sunday and still have enough left over for us to each have it a couple of times for lunch or dinner the following week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is put it back on the stove or in the microwave and add your favorite toppings! (Mine are sour cream and shredded cheese, but I bet avocado slices would be amazing too!)

Grab and Go!

While it can be expensive and unhealthy to get into the habit of eating out ALL the time, let’s be real. Teaching and parenting is EXHAUSTING. Sometimes you desperately need to sit on the couch with tacos or pizza on paper plates that you can just throw away. When it comes to making good choices for eating on the go, my biggest tip is to plan this out as well. On a budget? Find your favorite fast food places with “value” menus. Want to watch what you eat? Locate healthier options close to work or home.

While I was teaching one of my favorite lunch ideas was to grab a footlong sub from Subway, eat one half that day, and ask them to avoid dressing or tomatoes on the other half so I could save it in my mini fridge for the next day. It saved me so much time and money, and I had a yummy sandwich to look forward to!

Save Time and Money

Taking time out of your already hectic week to plan meals might not sound like it’s worth it. But I promise, you will save so much time, money and sanity if you get you an idea of your meals for the week.

Is this something you do? Do you have favorite recipes/tricks you’d like to share? This busy momma would LOVE to hear from you!

Back to School Classroom Management Organization

7 Tips for Successful Classroom Management

September 12, 2017

The day had finally arrived. I had just graduated from college with my teaching credential a few months earlier. My classroom was organized, decorated, and prepared for the year. I anxiously awaited the arrival of my new 34 students! I was only 22 years old, and while my carefully laid out lesson plans, strategies for differentiation, and sheer excitement for teaching gave me confidence, one area that I realized I was not prepared was classroom management – specifically, how do I get 34 completely different students to cooperate, listen, and “buy-in” for the year. Thankfully, I had a wonderful grade-level team and an incredible principal and mentor who helped me establish classroom routines, procedures, rules, and expectations that made that first year a success. I could not have done it without them!
So, for all of you first year teachers, and even those who may have been in the classroom for a long time, here are my top seven tips for successful classroom management:

1. Articulate Your Expectations

If you fail to clearly communicate what you expect from your students, they will inevitably fail to live up to your standards. Now, this requires that you actually decide what your expectations are. Begin by selecting what behaviors you want to teach. What expectations do you have for transitions? Turning in work? Needing to use the restroom? Getting books from the classroom library? Noise level? Sharpening pencils? Asking for help? Dismissal? The list goes on and on. However, choose which procedures you have specific expectations for and go from there. Remember, you can’t teach the behavior unless you have determined your expectations for it. So, spend some time mapping it out – it is time well spent!

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

I always spend the first few weeks of school practicing the different procedures in the classroom over and over again – making sure the students know exactly what it looks like and sounds like to carry out the procedure correctly. Yes, we literally spend time walking from the playground to the classroom, passing in blank papers, pretending it is the end of the day – multiple times! Although it can be incredibly tempting to fly through the teaching of classroom procedures and expectations to get to all of the academic stuff, don’t do it! If you want to have an effective learning environment, you are going to have to spend time teaching and practicing procedures. If you do it the beginning of the year, you can establish clear expectations with a receptive audience in a positive light. Otherwise, you will inevitably spend time during the year battling for control of your classroom or trying to get your students to “un-learn” what they have been doing for their procedures all year. Trust me, taking time in the beginning is SOOOO worth it!

3. Look for Every Opportunity to Catch Kids Doing the Right Thing

Everyone appreciates praise for doing something well. So, especially in those first few weeks of school, help your students learn and apply the classroom rules, procedures, and expectations, by highlighting the students who are doing these things well. Be specific in your compliments so that others can learn from their example. Rather than say, “Great job, Leah!” you might say, “I really appreciate how Leah quietly came in from recess, took her seat, and now has her eyes on me.” Or “Thank you, James, for raising your hand before you speak.” The kids usually catch on pretty quickly. When students are receiving specific feedback and attention from you (and even the rest of the class), it gives them less reason to act out in hopes of receiving negative attention.

4. Establish Classroom Rules

This might be a “no-brainer,” but having classroom rules in place is an essential component of a successful classroom management plan. Now, the debate goes on as to whether to create rules as a class or to have your own rules established when you begin the first day. I have used both and both have been effective – the choice is yours (or perhaps your schools). However, when establishing rules make sure that they are fairly global in scope – otherwise you will end up with way too many. So, rather than “Don’t lean back in your chairs” or “Only walking feet in the classroom,” use a rule such as “Be safe.” Both of the previous rules are encompassed in that general rule without having to create a list of 25 different rules addressing safety. On that note, however, spend some time discussing what that general rule might look like in the classroom. In my classroom, we always brainstorm at least 10-12 examples of what following that rule looks like and what following that rule does not look like. for the younger kiddos, having picture cards also really helps! Again, just like procedures, spend some time on this one. If your students truly understand the rules, you will have far fewer struggles enforcing them.

5. Be Consistent with Consequences

This perhaps is the hardest one for me – especially in those first few days and weeks of school. I so desperately want the students to know how much I care about them, that it can be incredibly difficult to “reprimand” those cuties for what might seem like small offenses. The reality, however, is that those adorable little kiddos are smart. And if they know they can smile, sniffle, or plea their way out of a consequence, they will! So, be consistent! If your students come in the classroom unacceptably, make them do it again, and again, until it is right. If you use a behavior clip chart, colored cards, or some other method to hold students accountable, start using it right away. I don’t usually send home a weekly report for behavior that first week of school, so this is a perfect opportunity to teach your students that you have expectations and that you will be consistent in holding them accountable. Believe it or not, students actually find comfort in knowing boundaries, and being consistent assists in making those boundaries clear.

6. Establish Positive Teacher-Parent Relationships Early

While building relationships with parents may seem out of place in a discussion about classroom management, I have found that building positive relationships with parents makes a huge impact on what happens in the classroom. When parents understand that you want the best for their child and that you want to partner with them in helping their student grow, they are much more receptive to a phone call or meeting in which you have to address a challenge that has arisen. Begin by making a positive phone call in the first 2 weeks of school. Most parents dread the “phone call from the teacher,” so make the first call purely positive and be specific. As a parent myself, nothing warms my heart quite like hearing a specific compliment about my child. Communicate with parents early and regularly. Ask them questions. Let them know that you are on their team and you are invested in each student. Building these relationships is a tremendous asset in understanding student behavior in the classroom. Parents are able to share insights from home and you are able to share insights from school. Together, you can partner to make the school year successful for each student, which aids greatly in classroom management.

7. Make Sure Your Students Understand that You Are On Their Team

While I have alluded to this in other tips, building relationships with your students and reminding them that you support them, believe in them, and want the best for them is the essential component that binds all of these strategies together. Look for the best in each of your students, and as your relationships grow, I have found that issues with classroom management dwindle. All of the rules and procedures will not be nearly as effective unless the students first believe the teacher is in their corner.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my tips. I hope they give you some strategies to implement as you begin this school year. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on successful classroom management strategies! Comment below with your favorite classroom management strategies!

Assessments and Data Back to School Motivation Reading

Go for the Goal

September 6, 2017

Goal Setting

Is goal setting really worth all the hype? I think so! Dr. Hattie says so, too. His collective research on preexisting educational studies (he conducts meta-analyses) led him to conclude many things about effective teaching practices. When it comes to goal setting Hattie defines learning intentions as “describing what it is we want students to learn in terms of the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values within any particular unit or lesson.”

One can have long or short terms goals. Not only do your students need to know the expectations for their daily lessons, but they should know about appropriate long term goals as well. The experts suggest that goal making be led by the student or at least have some student input. We do not always follow this recommendation as educators, but we should! Consider how you would feel if all your goals were set by someone else. Not very motivating, huh?!

Why don’t you put yourself in your students’ shoes and set a teacher goal for yourself first? Just like you would with the students, you can start small. What is something you can do to improve your literacy teaching practices this school year? Maybe you could join an online professional book club and gain teaching ideas from peers. Perhaps you decide to set aside one day a month to sit down and analyze your students’ reading progress, scores, classwork, etc. Make a small goal that you are interested in and stick to it!

Now on to your students. It would be great to explain to your students some appropriate goals for their grade level or to even work individually with students on options for areas to focus on. Maybe stick to one area at a time, for example, have your students set a writing goal for themselves. Make sure it is measurable! Have students share their goals with their peers and their plan for making progress. You will surely not be disappointed with how far your students will grow when they have goals they are determined to succeed in. Go for the goal, kiddos!

Back to School Homeschool Motherhood

Homeschool Preschool: Letter of the Week

September 1, 2017

When I was first blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom I  was overjoyed. I soaked up all of the snuggles, hugs, “conversations,” and time with my boys.

However, as my firstborn got older, and I came out of the fog of having a newborn, I craved more structure.  Perhaps it’s the teacher in me, but I wanted to start implementing a regular routine in our day. I still loved just getting to spend each day with them, but I knew I wanted to begin working more intentionally with my oldest and create a daily routine that would work for us all.

So, our homeschool preschool was born. My husband is a teacher, so when he headed back to school, we started up as well!

At the time, my oldest was not yet 3 and my youngest wasn’t even a year, so our preschool was very basic. Lots of play, exploration, and using our imaginations. But for about an hour every day, we tried to work more specifically on skills that I felt were important for him to learn.

We always began our day by reading from The Beginner’s Bible and singing a verse song or two. (I highly recommend Steve Green and Seeds Family Worship if you’re looking for some) Then we moved into our alphabet work.

For simplicity’s sake, we started with a letter a week. I know there are so many different opinions about the order in which to do the letters – but again, keeping things simple – we just went in alphabetical order.

There were some foundational skills I wanted to work on with my son, but I didn’t want to be searching for, printing, and preparing a new activity every day. So, during the summer (before we officially started our homeschool preschool), I created packets of activities that would set me up for success.

The purpose of these activities were to help my little guys begin to recognize and write their letters, to work on distinguishing between capital and lowercase letters, and to introduce them to the sound that each letter made. I also wanted to include activities that allowed them to practice counting objects, begin learning basic patterning skills and even be introduced to the wonders of science. I’m a huge fan of reading to your kids, so I also looked for books that included ideas or characters related to the letter. And since kids always love a good snack, I brainstormed ideas for letter of the week snack ideas.

Here’s a peek of some of what’s included in each letter packet:

The beauty of the activity packets was that once I had made them, I was set. I didn’t have a lot of prep work during the week because we focused a lot on play and when we were all ready to have a little more focused time, the activities were already ready to go. I just printed the pages I wanted for the week on Sunday evening, and I truly had the rest of the time to focus on my kiddos.

These packets gave me a focus for the week. And since I already had these ready to go, I could be as creative (or not so creative) as I wanted – or as the week allowed. Baking, crafts, gross motor activities, field trips, art projects, games, the list goes on and on. But I actually had time to think about what those other activities could be because my letter work was taken care of.

And I have to say, I absolutely fell in love with homeschool preschool. I loved being able to watch my kids learn and grow. I loved seeing them get excited about learning. I adored getting to instill values that were important to our family.

But I also loved the fact that we could move at our own pace. If we needed a break, we took a break and went outside. If someone was sick, we took the day off. If a task was a little too advanced, we waited until he was ready. We weren’t confined to a strict time schedule. It definitely brought some much needed structure to our day, but these boys still had PLENTY of time to play and we still had a lot of flexibility.

And what I loved even more – I used these letter of the week packets 2 years in a row for my oldest. During the first year, when he was 2 and turning 3, we just worked on recognizing letters. We talked about each letter’s sound, but I definitely didn’t expect him to master it. I showed him the capital and lowercase version of the letter of the week, but if he was able to recognize any form of the letter during the week, I was thrilled and we celebrated. We worked on counting objects, but I didn’t require him to form numbers correctly or even consistently match a group of objects to the number in written form.

Then, the next year, we went through the alphabet again, but this time we focused on different skills. We moved on from just recognizing the letter to being able to write (or trace it). I started to emphasize the sound that the letter makes and we worked on finding objects that began with that sound. He started to recognize the difference between capital and lowercase letters, and he started being able to count a group of objects and point to the number that represented the number of items. Sometimes we repeated the pages we had used the year prior (mostly because he had enjoyed them so much), but we also used pages that were just too advance the year before.

By the time that year was over, he knew all of his letters and could identify each letter’s sound accurately. His fine motor skills (writing with a pencil/pen as well as beginning scissor skills) had improved dramatically. For the majority of the letters, he could recognize, write, and differentiate between capital and lowercase. He recognized numbers 1-10 and was proficient in one-to-one correspondence for these numbers. He recognized different types of patterns and was able to continue them. However, most importantly, he was excited about learning. He felt confident whenever we talked about school. And he was eager for more.

The next year, my oldest was 4 going on 5, and so we moved beyond simply working with a letter a week; however, by this point, my second son was now two going on three, and I already had all of the materials I needed to start working with him.

And that’s part of the beauty of these digital resources – you can print and re-print pages as often as you like for your kids or class. No need to go out and purchase additional copies! You are set!

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed using these resources with my boys – and then with the homeschool co-op that we are a part of.

If you’d like to get a taste of what these packets offer, you can sign up to receive my FREE Dot the Letter A-Z Set HERE.

Can’t wait to see how you use these!

Back to School Morale

Teacher Self-Care

August 17, 2017

Well. You can’t fight it much longer friends. You’ve seen the school supplies all summer. You’ve tried to ignore the classroom posts on social media. But Back-to-School is here. Whether you’re dreading going back to school or are eager to get your keys, I’ve got a few tips for making this school year a little smoother from the very beginning!

1. Find Your Tribe

There’s nothing more deflating than spilling your frustrations or teaching joys to someone who just doesn’t get it. And we can’t blame them. Education is a world of its own. That’s why we need others who are in the trenches with us! Make a point to get to know your teammates, hallmates, anyone on campus that you can visit with when you need to share. If that isn’t quite enough or you want a view outside of your school, social media makes it so easy for you to connect with other educators! My personal favorite has been Instagram! To me it’s like browsing Pinterest with the ability to chat with the “pinners” and see more about their lives! (Did you know Tenspire is on Instagram? Click here to visit and follow!)

2. Set Boundaries

It is always so much harder to set boundaries after you’ve already established what you are and aren’t willing to do. Before the school year even starts, decide what time you’re going to plan on going home in the evenings. Set a limit on how many extracurricular activities you’ll be a part of. Know that it’s always okay to say “no” when you’re plate is too full, but it’s easier to say it sooner than later.

 3. Treat Yourself

Find something you truly enjoy, big or small, and treat yourself to it regularly! My treat was taking a giant thermos of hot coffee with my favorite creamer to school every morning. I’d sip it on the way to school and then as we got settled into our morning routine. There was something about bringing a little bit of home with me that made me feel more comfortable. Not a coffee drinker? Bring your soda or tea! Grade papers with your favorite new pens! Need something more exciting to look forward to at the end of the week? Get a mani/pedi! Pick up your favorite restaurant meal on the way home Friday! Give yourself something to look forward to and reward yourself for all your hard work throughout the week.

 

Do you find that having a treat regularly keeps your morale up? What do you treat yourself to? I can’t wait to read from you guys and (hopefully) get some new ideas for myself!

Assessments and Data Back to School Classroom Community Phonics Reading Writing

New Crew

August 15, 2017

Getting to Know Your Students Academically

There is a bright, shiny, new school year ahead of us all! It is an exciting time where the possibilities are endless. You undoubtedly have plans to get to know your new students personally and create a positive classroom environment. There might be “all about me” pages or “what I did over the summer” journal entries. How will you get to know your students academically, though? When it comes to literacy skills, the more you know about your students’ abilities and the sooner you acquire that information- the better! Time to hit the road running. The following are ideas to help kick-start your journey.

  • If students attended your school last year, try to talk to their teachers. Even if a child did not attend your school, many times his or her records will contain previous teacher or school contact information. A quick email is all it takes to reach out. Try to focus on strengths and weaknesses in reading or ways to motivate and challenge the student. Do not let this turn into a gripe session. It is meant to give you some ideas of how to best meet the academic needs of a student.
  • Do not forget about support teachers, too. If your student receives any type of specialized service in the school such as speech or intervention classes chances are that teacher may have loads of insight into ways to help the student succeed, too.
  • Look at your students’ records. I cannot tell you how many times I was filling out the end of the year reports on my students’ permanent records and thought- this information would have been extremely helpful to know at the beginning of the year! Do not make the same mistake I did. I know it takes time during a very hectic part of the school year. However, just think about the time it could save you in the long run!
  • Speak to the parents about their child’s literacy skills. Get their opinion and a bit more of the child’s academic history here. Find out if they have any concerns going into the new grade level or if there are any ways their student needs to be supported to succeed. For example, parents may know their child has testing anxiety and may not perform as well as they should on beginning of the year placement assessments. Let parents know upfront your expectations for literacy work in the classroom and at home.
  • There will be the beginning of the school year diagnostic tests, too. Several are required now for every student in the school. Beyond universal screeners and waiting for that data to get back to me, I always have a few quick assessments I like to do with individual students to give me a better understanding of their performance levels. It would depend on the grade level, but this might include having them read a vocabulary list, a fluency probe, or perhaps participating in a phonemic awareness assessment. Assessing the students personally gives me a better idea of where they are academically. It is much more valuable than just seeing a score on a spreadsheet.
  • Last but not least, ask the students about themselves and where they see their own skills flourishing or lacking. Here is where you will get some very honest answers! If you need some guidance, I recommend giving the Garfield reading or writing surveys to your students. Get to know your new crew and help them succeed from the start!
Back to School

Work Life Balance

August 13, 2017

Do you find yourself bringing home piles of papers to grade every night? Staying up late working on lessons plans? Coming into school early AND staying late? Do you find yourself wondering where all of your time went during your planning hour?

If you answered yes to any or most of these you might be struggling to find a healthy work-life balance. As a new teacher, I thought the more I worked the better the teacher I would become. But after a few months of late nights at school and Sundays spent surrounded by piles of papers I knew I needed to make a change so I didn’t burn out.  I decided I needed to work smarter not harder…and to not feel bad about leaving my teacher bag/pile at school (gasp!)


Some of my best advice I can give to new teachers is finding ways to eliminate meaningless tasks so you can focus on what is actually important…teaching your students!

    1. Have your students help! I was very lucky to have a “safety” in my classroom. She was an older student who came into my classroom 10 minutes before the bell rang and at the last five minutes of school. She did all of the small tedious tasks that take up my valuable time like; unstacking chairs, setting up breakfast, passing out homework/notes, and recording behavior chart data. If you don’t have a “safety” you could always ask another teacher for help from an older student or even invite a responsible student from your class into school early.
    2. Student Jobs– Just like my safety did tasks before and after school, my students helped save me so much time during the day so I could focus on teaching. My students would help me organize my library, pass out mail, and even check in homework!
    3. Smart Copying– I used to make a trip to the copy machine every day! It didn’t seem like it at the time, but these 5 minute trips really added up by the end of the week. Instead, I created a copy pile that I would gather the week before I was teaching the lesson. Then I could dedicate one of my planning hours to spend copying. After copying, I would file away my copies until I needed to use them. Not only did this save me time, it also saved me the stress of waiting for a machine to open minutes before your kids were ready to walk in the door!
    4. Smarter Assignments- At the beginning of the year I would “grade” everything; every worksheet, every reflection, every exit ticket…everything! But when I thought about it I realized I was creating way more work for myself than was necessary. Most of the time, I already knew how the kids did on the assignment because I was working with them…so did they really need a sticker or star on the top of their paper? Usually, the answer was no. Once I decided to stop spending time grading assignments that weren’t assessments I was able to save myself SO much time.  
    5. Parent Communication- At the beginning of the school year I had notificiations for Class Dojo connected to my phone and I would check my email at any hour. It was hard for me to get out of “school mode” when I was at home answering questions about lunch money as I was getting ready for bed. Although it was hard for me I decided to let my parents know that I would not be responsing to any messages between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. and to my surprise no one cared! I was so worried about them being mad at me for not replying right away but they were very understanding and this simple act really helped me separate my home and school life.

Hopefully one or more of these tricks will help you leave the stress of school in the classroom and help you learn how to work smarter not harder this school year.

Back to School Homeschool Motherhood

Why We Start School BEFORE the First Day of School

August 11, 2017

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the flexibility of the schedule. Now I’m not just talking about the day today schedule  – I’m also talking about the yearly schedule. If you look into the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state, you’ll find that most states require a certain number of days or hours, but it doesn’t dictate when those days or hours have to be. So, for our family, we start “school” before the formal first day of school to get some of those hours in ahead of time.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for summer break. Believe me. I was an elementary school teacher for 8 years, and my husband is currently a teacher……so we LOVE our summers. We also know that the kids need that break too. So we always take a few weeks completely off, and we definitely don’t do school when we are traveling, visiting family, or on vacation. But for those weeks in the middle and end of summer when we’re home, we definitely try to put a few hours of school into our week.

Our “summer school” days are not our typical days. We only put a hour or two in, as opposed to a full day, but you’d be amazed at how much you’re able to cover in that seemingly short amount of time. We also don’t try to cover all of the subjects. One day we might focus primarily on language arts and art project. The next day we may dig into a fun science activity and review some math. And although I don’t count these days as full days in our calendar, it really gives us a jump start in to the year.

There are few reasons we really love this approach.

Number one. Starting school in the summer gives me some time to figure out what using my curriculum really looks like. The teaching guides and what I think should happen is one thing, but when I actually put the material in front of my kids, it could be something totally different. So spending some time before we’re in our formal school year figuring out just how long that reading lesson will take or just how much prep time I need for science is super helpful. Though the time each day is limited, it gives me a chance to kind of experiment with the curriculum so that I can better prepare and plan when the formal school year starts.

Number two. If you’ve been anywhere around the teaching world, I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “summer slide.” Basically, it means that during the summer a lot of kids lose some of what they’ve learned in the previous school year and they’ve “slid” a little bit backwards in their learning progress. It’s totally normal, but by keeping my kids involved in activities that review what we’ve done the previous year it helps prevent them from falling into the summer slide trap.

Additionally a lot of the material we cover at the beginning of the year is review of the prior year. For instance, this year my son is starting first grade. Having looked at and planned some of the curriculum, it’s clear that a lot of the material in the first few weeks even the first couple of months reviews what he learned in kindergarten. So, by tapping into some of that material over this summer, we’re not only engaging in our new curriculum, but we’re also continuing to review concepts and material that he learned or was introduced to last year.

And number three – (and perhaps my favorite) – by putting some hours and days in during the summer, it gives me a little bit more flexibility during the actual school year. If we have to take a few days off for travel, sickness, or if we just simply need a break, we’re able to do that (and still meet or exceed our requirements) because we’ve built a little cushion during the summer. And we all know that sometimes we just need those random breaks.

So, if you’re planning on homeschooling this year, and just can’t wait to dive in, go for it! Take it a couple of hours at a time, and you’ll learn so much – even before the school year starts!