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Homeschool Motherhood

New Year, New Adventure

January 15, 2018

Well, it’s been about 6 months since we sold our house and jumped into my husband’s new career. If you’ve been following along with our journey for very long, you know that it’s just about time for a new adventure, right? HA!

Full-Time RV Life

Our original plan after Matt’s first storm deployment was to purchase a new house. Once we got home in November, we immediately began our search. Of course, we found plenty of homes we liked, but we hit a wall financially. We could either put a down payment on a home and hope our leftover could hold us until Matt’s next storm (we have no idea when that will be), or we could continue paying off debt. We couldn’t do both.

With how much we loved living in our sweet little RV during work, we knew we could handle living in it longer. In fact, it was sad putting it away in storage while we were living with family. So, we made the decision to go full time with our RV! We are so excited about paying off additional debt (student loans, we’re coming for you!!!) and love living the simple life in our little home!

Routine

Along with this new adventure has come a new routine. It’s pretty similar to our life during deployment, but very different from the routine I posted about a year or so ago. So, I thought I’d share it with you fellow SAHMs/WAHMs!

8am – Most days, LG is awake by this time. She’s usually ready for breakfast and we all know I’m more than ready for my coffee. Ha! We get breakfast going and relax with our beloved Veggie Tales!

9:30am – By now, LG is ready for her activities! This is where living in our RV brings so much peace to our days. Living in a big house meant chasing this spunky little 2-year-old girl all over the place before I could even finish my first cup of coffee. With our reduced space, I can see her from any spot in the RV. This gives her so much freedom to play as she pleases! Of course, she’s a 2-year-old and loves to be next to Momma most of the time, but having your kitchen area just a few feet from your living area and bedrooms makes things quite a bit easier! During her morning play time, LG loves to do crafts, read her books, and play with her puzzles.

11am – Since we live in climate-confused Texas, our morning activities tend to vary this time of year. In the warmer months, mornings are always our outdoor time because it’s the only time we can stand the heat. Now, this is either our outdoor time or time to run errands.

12pm – If you know me personally, you know I’m pretty strict with meal and sleep times. I don’t know about your kiddos, but ours can be a completely different person if we vary from certain schedules. So every day, lunch is at noon. Followed by…

1pm – 3pm – Nap time. Any earlier or later and we’re asking for it. Ha! During this time, I do as much blogging and TPT work as possible!

3pm – When LG wakes up, she eases back into reality with a snack and sensory play. This is when we get out our fun sensory bins and match up cards. She absolutely loves them! Once she’s ready to get going again, we use this time to run any more errands or get outside if it was too cold in the morning.

6pm – Like I said, I’m pretty strict with meal and sleep times. We try desperately to have dinner ready by 6 or 6:30pm so we can enjoy a meal together, watch a movie or play, and have baby girl in bed by around 8:30pm.

Does your little one have a routine similar to ours? I know I can’t be the only momma with a kiddo who needs some loose structure like this. ……..right?

Homeschool Motherhood

The Homeschooling Gift I Never Expected

January 1, 2018

As I’ve shared before, homeschooling was never something I thought I would be doing. You can read more about that journey HERE, but in short, after lots of prayer, conversations, and advice from people we deeply respect, we finally came to the conclusion that this was something the Lord was calling us to do – at least for a season.

And while I never expected to be in this role, the more we thought and prayed about it, the more excited I became.

I knew there would be some incredible benefits to being home with my kids and homeschooling them as they approached school age.

I knew that I would be able to build a strong academic foundation while also being able to pour into my kids spiritually. I wanted to be able to weave Biblical truths into our teaching and I knew that was not something that would be possible at a public school.

I loved the fact that I was going to know the nuances of my kids simply because I would have months and years to observe their behaviors. Having had my oldest in childcare until he was around 18 months, I loved the fact that now I was going to be the one who would pick up on little things that no one else might notice, simply because I was around them so much.

I looked forward to building strong relationships with my kiddos just because we would spend so much time together and do so many things together. The sheer quantity of time we would have together would be irreplaceable.

With two energy-filled boys, I was thankful that they were not going to be locked into an 8am-3pm class schedule at such young ages. They would have plenty of time to play, use their imaginations, run around outside, and not be subject to so many of the demands that are placed on our young children.

All of these things were things that I expected, or at least hoped, would come out of me leaving the classroom, staying home with my boys, and homeschooling. However, in the past few months, I have seen another incredible gift that has come out of this decision.

My boys are best friends.

And I’m not meaning the kind of “Well, we’re brothers so of course we’re friends.” No, I mean the kind of best friends that if they could choose anyone to do something with, both of my boys would choose each other.

Recently, we asked our boys individually (when the other one wasn’t around), “So, who would you say is your best friend?” Without hesitation, they both replied, “My brother.”

My oldest tends to be an early riser, and if he’s been awake for more than 10 minutes or so, he’s eagerly waiting for his brother to arise – sometimes going in and waking him up just because he “misses him so much” (his words, not mine).

When one of them gets hurt, the other one often cries too.

And just this past week, my boys were at AWANAS, and it was “Store Night.” My oldest picked out an item for himself and one just for his brother with his AWANA bucks. My younger son (who is in a younger class and doesn’t earn bucks just yet) got to pick one item from the store. When we picked them up, the gift my oldest had selected for his brother was the exact gift the younger son had picked out. He knew his brother so well that out of all the items in the store, he knew exactly which one his brother would want.

I’m not saying any of this to brag – believe me, they have their moments, and sometimes they really just need some space from one another.

But I share this because I truly believe that their closeness has come as a result of our choice to homeschool for this season.

This is our third year “officially” homeschooling our oldest and I started thinking. 3 years, approximately 180 school days every school year, at around 7 hours a day.  That’s 3,780 hours that these boys have spent together that they otherwise would have been separate. And that’s a lot of time.

A lot of time to build a relationship. A lot of time to have shared memories. A lot of time to talk, laugh, and play together. Plenty of time to get on one another’s nerves, but also plenty of time to learn how to talk, forgive, and make-up.

I know that this isn’t a possibility for everyone, and I know that every kid is different, but the relationship that has developed between my boys is absolutely priceless. And one I pray that will only grow stronger over time.

We don’t know how long we will homeschool, but this unexpected gift is something I will always be grateful for!

Homeschool Motherhood

RV Toddler Must-Haves

November 27, 2017

It should come as no surprise that living in an RV with a busy toddler can be exhausting. When we first got ours, we took it out for a week to get used to maintaining and living in it. In addition, I had no car for the first month of my husband’s “deployment” and was in the RV all day while he was at work. Needless to say, I had to get pretty creative with ways to keep her busy and would love to share 3 toddler RV must-haves with you today!

Noise Machine
The first must-have isn’t exactly to keep your kiddo busy while they’re awake, but trust me you’ll appreciate it. Living in such close proximity to each other means you hear everything from one end of the RV to the other. This can be especially tricky with a little one who needs good sleep. (And let’s be real – if Momma is going to get anything done, good toddler sleep is a must!) LG sleeps in the back bunk room but because the door doesn’t actually latch, it can be difficult to keep sound out. So we use her AC fan and a noise machine that plays calming pond sounds. Thankfully the AC fan is pretty loud, but a box fan would work perfectly! While we still stay as quiet as we can, this allows us to watch TV and talk at a reasonable volume without waking her up.

Craft Box
Kids. Love. Crafts. I don’t care how old they are, kids just love them! They are open-ended and allow kiddos the chance to be creative and use their imagination. Back home we have a different bin (cheap $1 WalMart tub) for each season so that we can mix things up. But in our RV, I keep a generic craft bin. These items vary from relatively mild supplies like Color Wonder markers and stickers, to messy craft supplies like water colors and finger paint. If the usual toys and puzzles just aren’t cutting it, the craft box never fails to excite LG! And craft supplies for little ones can be SUPER cheap! Head to the Target “dollar” spot, the Dollar Tree, or a clearance section anywhere for odds and ends that your kiddo will love to piece together!

Outdoor Activities
Finally, sometimes we just need to get out. When we didn’t have a car available during the day, LG and I would hang out in the shade next to our RV. Most RV parks are great about keeping picnic tables in each spot so you don’t get cabin fever. We took advantage of this whenever we could by doing our water sensory play or messy crafts on our table! One of her favorite activities to do was scoop puree pouch lids in and out of her tub of water. If things got messy, oh well! We were outside so she could get as messy as she wanted!

While we’re certainly learning lots of tricks during this adventure of ours, these are just a few things that have proven to be very helpful while living in our RV. However, I hope they help you and your kiddo have a fun, stress-free day no matter where you’re living!

Motherhood Organization

Making Mornings Easier

November 16, 2017

When I was teaching, I was surprised by how many non-teacher friends couldn’t believe what time I got up or left for work each day. The craziest part of this to me was that I was the queen of sleeping as late as possible and still getting to work on time. (I lived 5 minutes away and regularly got out of bed after 7:00am and was still at school by 7:45am. THANK YOU dry shampoo and coffee pot timers.) While I of course had mornings when I was feeling a little more frantic than others, I attribute my easy mornings to 3 main things.

Plan a Week of Clothes
Call me a crazy girlie-girl, but this was my favorite way to plan ahead for the week! Each Sunday evening, check the weather for the following week. Then take 30 minutes or less to plan your outfits, including shoes and accessories. Use this time to take care of any ironing and find a good spot to lay them out. Our old closet had a small space on one wall that was too small for shelving but perfect for a rack that I could hang my outfits on. This made mornings soooooo much easier! I just grabbed that day’s outfit and was ready to go!

Make a Week of Breakfasts
Time for coffee in the morning? ABSOLUTELY. Time for breakfast in the morning? Not unless it’s a Saturday. I’m not a fan of sweets in the morning (except my super sweet coffee, of course) but I never had the time to make things like eggs. So, I got into the habit of making ahead breakfast burritos and/or breakfast casserole. Even if I didn’t have time to eat at home, I could still take them to school and pop into my microwave I kept in my classroom.

Find a Consistent “Drop Spot”
Finally, find a “drop spot” that works for you. Make sure it’s a place where you can easily drop off your things, but where you’ll always see it as you’re leaving for work in the morning. My spot was on top of the dryer in our laundry room. I walked past it every morning and afternoon, so I knew my bags would always be there. I kept my purse, keys and teacher bag there. If I was taking something like muffins for breakfast, sometimes I’d even leave them there as well!

Mornings can be tricky. These things helped me stay organized so that I could sleep in just a little longer. While this was before I had LG and left the classroom, I can only imagine how much it would help to plan out these things if you’re getting kiddos ready for school in the morning, too!

Homeschool Motherhood

“Play” School Routine

October 19, 2017

I may be a stay-at-home momma, but in my heart I will always be a teacher. As my daughter gets older and my time at home with her pushes me farther from my days in the classroom, I get the urge to start academic practice with her. She’s so smart and curious that it’s easy to forget she’s only 21 months old. (Yes, I’m that mom who still uses months.) While she’s already ahead of the game (have you SEEN her pencil grip, y’all?!) I don’t want to push her or rush her through being a little one! So for this school year, we’re taking things slow and PLAYING.

What’s “Play” School?

I’m sure this “play” school thing isn’t original to me. If you browse Instagram or Pinterest for just a bit, you’ll notice a million amazing ideas for sensory play. They’re all perfect for practicing fine motor skills and introducing other skills like colors, seasons, etc. As a former 1st grade teacher, I can already imagine how starting early with these skills will benefit LG greatly in the future. And, the activities are a BLAST!

As a planner, I love to pick a few fun activities to do each day. I don’t set a schedule for them so that we can go with the flow. But having things readily available and prepped makes it so much easier to grab a great practice activity when we have the time for it. If we’re not able to do them one day, we just push them over to another day!

Our Routine

Having a solid routine while on the road in an RV is tough in general. Throw in a curious, energetic toddler stuck inside with her teacher momma and you’ve got quite an interesting combination. Like any other time I start getting stressed, I decided to solve this by planning ahead. However, for the same reasons I listed above, these plans still have to be very flexible. Sounds like a fun challenge, huh? As of now, here is what we’re working with!

7:00am – Wake up… breakfast/coffee… Sesame Street or Veggie Tales (LG’s FAVORITES!)

8:00am – Walk around the pond/outside play time

9:00am – Indoor sensory play… independent play time… crafts

11:00am – Outdoor water play or bath time

12:00pm – Lunch and books

1:00pm – Naptime/Momma’s work time

3:00pm – Wake up… snack… outside play time

4:00pm – Indoor sensory play… independent play time… crafts

6:00pm – Dinner… family time

8:00pm – Bedtime routine

Just like anything with a toddler, this routine is very flexible. Meal and sleep times are pretty solid, but everything else is there so that we have an idea of what we can do. Does this look like your schedule with your little ones? What are your favorite activities to do together or for independent play time? Check back soon to read about a few of ours!

Homeschool Motherhood Organization

On the Road

September 24, 2017

Wow! I can’t believe how quickly things can change! Although, you’d think by now I wouldn’t be surprised a bit! In my “Renfros on the Road” post, I shared with you all that we were ready and waiting for my husband’s first call. Flash forward over a month and we’re already finishing up our first “deployment”!

Life On the Road

We knew things could change in a hot minute, but we really got a taste of that recently! One minute we were planning our 4th of July family gathering, the next we were running around like crazy people trying to gather up my husband’s new work clothes and work materials so he could leave THE DAY after getting the call to work with his father 13 hours away in Iowa. We were both shocked it happened so fast, but it was certainly great practice for what’s to come!

Due to the nature of Matt’s first “deployment”, we thought it was best for LG and I to stick around with family for a few weeks. Much like any job, there was a huge learning curve and Matt just needed time to wrap his mind around his new work without the temptation to hurry home to his little girl every night. While we missed him tremendously, having 2 weeks back “home” was great for me to gather everything I wanted LG to have while we traveled.

While we are planning on buying a travel trailer in the near future, there simply wasn’t time for that with how early Matt was called. Fortunately, he found us an AMAZING farm house in a tiny country town on AirBnB. It has been the neatest experience! We’ve spent lots of time checking out the town and nearby larger city of Des Moines, and we have loved getting to know the owner of the home! We’ve already decided she’ll be our first guest back home in Texas when we get our new home together!

Tot School on the Road

As you can imagine, I was extremely nervous about how life outside of our own home would affect our little one. LG is now 19 months old (I hate typing that!) and is a super smart, curious, spunky little one. How was I going to keep her busy in a place that wasn’t ours?! So, I spent several days sorting through all of her toys to find her favorites for fun and educational practice. I decided to bring this shelf and committed to filling up the 3 baskets with as much as I could to keep her busy. I split them up into 3 categories.

  1. Craft Supplies – My thinking in ordering this was simple – keep the messy stuff highest up. Ha! I was SO excited to load this basket with stickers, coloring books, crayons, KwikStix and a dry erase board. My girl LOVES playing with stickers, so I knew I had to grab a ton! Thank goodness, Michael’s has a BILLION sticker books to choose from and they’re each only $1! While traveling, I also picked up some Crayola Color Wonder markers and they truly are a wonder! I could almost guarantee a mom or teacher came up with this product!
  2. Fine Motors Practice – LG may still be only 19 months old, but I figure it’s never too early to practice our fine motors! This basket is home to lots of pom-poms, pipe cleaners, magnets, blocks, clothespins, and her stacking rings. I wish I had grabbed a pair of tongs in place of the clothespins for now, so I’ll definitely be getting one soon!
  3. Books & “Noise Makers” – I always try to keep lots and lots of books on hand! I love to read picture books to LG, but she’s still too excited about ripping pages out to give her anything other than board books to read on her own. I was THRILLED to find these board books with buttons on Amazon! They’re perfect for practicing her colors, numbers, animal sounds, and identifying every day objects. She loves them!! I also threw in her favorite “noise makers”. She doesn’t have a ton of tech toys, but she sure loves those!

Thankfully, all of these activities have held her attention really well while traveling! If you’re traveling anytime soon, or are just looking for activities your toddler can play with at home, I hope these are some great options for you! If you have any questions about where I got any of them or other ideas, leave me a comment! I’d love to chat with you!

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 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!

Back to School Homeschool Motherhood

Mapping Out Your Homeschool Year

August 3, 2017

Planning Your Year

Planning an entire year might seem completely overwhelming, especially if this is your first time. But let me tell you, the time you take to map out your school year is well worth the investment! Without a doubt, plans will change, things will take much longer (or shorter) than expected, but if you have this general curriculum map in place, you’ll have an idea of where you’re going and about the pace you need to go to get there.

Pacing

When I taught in the classroom, we often referred to this as our pacing guide. Being a runner, this resonated with me. For example, if I’m running a half marathon (13.1 miles) and I want to get in under the 2-hour mark I know I have to keep a pace of about a 9-minute mile with a little wiggle room. Some miles might be faster, others will be slower, but I know about the pace I need to go to meet my goal. The same is true for your curriculum mapping. If you know you have X amount of lessons to cover and 180 or so days in which to do it, you’ll want to know about the pace you need to go.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT about “just getting through the curriculum.” Part of the beauty of homeschooling is being able to adjust to your student’s needs, interests, and learning style. However, I also know I’m responsible for equipping my kiddos (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and academically) for when they transition to public school. And so part of that requires I move at a pace that does prepare them academically.

Okay, let’s dig in! If you don’t have one yet, grab a planner to jot all this information down (I suggest in pencil)!

So, let’s start with the simplest part. Begin by establishing your starting and ending dates. Now as I shared in a previous post, we always “start” our school year a little early – getting our feet wet with some of the curriculum in the summer. But we still establish a date when we’re going to start that full day schedule. Once you have those, block off holidays and any other days that you know you will not be conducting school. At this point, make sure that you have – at a minimum – the number of days required by your state.

Now, you’ve got your big picture outline, and it’s time to start actually adding the meat of your planning.

I suggest starting with your mathematics curriculum. I suggest starting with math because it tends to be laid out in lessons that will consecutively build on each other and it’s a subject you’ll likely be doing every day. Start by evaluating how many lessons are in your curriculum – be sure to count any review and testing days as lessons as well. Then, divide the number of lessons by the number of weeks in your calendar, and you’ll have a general idea of the number of lessons you want to cover each week. Using the planner, pencil in when you’re going to do each lesson. This is where you want to start paying attention to dates and day. If you know you’re heading into a break, you aren’t going to want to start a brand new unit right before. Also be sure to plan review days. Not only is it important for kids to review the material they are learning, but it gives you the freedom to spend two days on a lesson that your students find more challenging.

I suggest moving on to language arts next. I advise you to do these two subjects first – simply because they are two of your core subjects that you’ll be doing every day, and if you can get these two subjects planned, the rest will be a piece of cake.

You’ll take a similar approach in planning your language arts curriculum as you did with the math. However, many language arts curriculum are planned out in weeks or units as opposed to numbered lessons that you often find in math. But you’ll basically start the same way. Evaluate the number of weeks or units that are in your curriculum. Look at the number of days you have in your calendar and divide to see approximately how much you need to cover each week.

Remember, you’re getting a big picture idea with this planning. You don’t need to go into great detail with every single component of the curriculum. So don’t stress about that! You’re just trying to get an idea of the pace, and when you get closer to the actual teaching, you’ll be able to spend more time preparing for all of the components of the lessons.

Once you have your language arts and math planned out, it will be time to tackle the other subjects. What else do you want to include in your teaching? How often do you plan to teach those subjects? You’ll likely include history and science. But do you want to include art? Bible? Music? Foreign language? This will depend partly on the age of your student, as much more is required for older students.  

One thing I DO NOT recommend is trying to hit every subject every day – especially if you have young ones. Not only will your kids burn out – but you will too!

So, maybe you plan to do history on Monday and Wednesday and focus on science Tuesday and Thursday. You can leave Friday open for other specialized activities or just for review. Or may you choose to really focus on a history unit for a couple of weeks and then dig into a science unit for a few. The choice is really up to you.

The big idea with this planning is to assess where you want to be at the end of the year and then to map out a general plan and pace. This has made such a difference in my planning – and I sincerely hope it helps you as well!

Do you have other tips? How is your planning going? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a note in the comments below!

Homeschool Motherhood

Renfros on the Road

July 25, 2017

If you’ve followed along with my posts on Tenspire since the beginning, you’ve read a bit about how our family came to the decision for me to leave the classroom and stay home with our daughter. It was a scary financial situation since my husband was a teacher at the time as well, but we felt convicted that it was the right thing to do and that God would provide for our family. We took a major leap of faith and just as I’ve seen with so many other situations in my life, God had a bigger plan laid out for us that we could have never imagined. By leaving the career I loved to become a SAHM, we have been set up for our family’s biggest adventure yet.

On the Road

For years, my husband talked about following in his dad’s footsteps and becoming an independent insurance adjuster. While he loved his students, working in a field that require more hands-on work was exactly what he wanted. However, I loved my students as well and was not ready to give up the classroom. This job requires lots of travel. When a storm hits, you go work the claims that come in from the damage. That could be anywhere in the U.S. and you could be gone for months at a time. Either we would spend months apart or I would travel with him. Neither were an option at the time.

Things have changed quite a bit since then, and I bet you’re starting to see what God was up to… Leaving the classroom for a traveling job was not exactly on my radar, but leaving the classroom to spend all day every day with my baby girl was an absolute no brainer! After about a year of me staying home it occurred to us – what was keeping us from trying the job then???

Making it Work

So here we are now in quite an interesting situation. We sold our house and moved in with my grandparents at the beginning of June so we can look for our new home. My husband has completed his training and is waiting for his first call! How is this “stay-at-home-teacher” going to make this all work, especially with an 18 month old? I hope you’ll follow along to find out! I can’t wait to share with you all how we organize our learning activities, time, and make life comfy while we travel! After all, isn’t that what all teachers do? We take the cards we’re dealt and see how we can make the best of them to give our kiddos the best experience possible. I hope to share tips and tricks that make life in the classroom easier and more simple!