8 Ways to Assess (and Document) Your Child's Learning

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


8 Ways to Assess (and Document) Your Child's Learning

Assessing your child doesn’t have to be complicated. My favorite motto for just about everything homeschool related is “Keep It Simple!” So keep that in mind as you read through this list, and remember that there are several different ways to assess. Any one way is not better than another. You must choose what best fits your schedule, your style, your child, and your curriculum. Let’s get started.

1. Assess and Document Learning with a Checklist

Oh yes! It can be this easy! Particularly in the preschool and kindergarten years, a simple checklist is a perfect way to check off goals as your child meets them. If you really want to be official, add the date that your child mastered the goal.

I’ve even used the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide as my checklist in the early years. I just checked off each box that we completed and wrote in pencil on the back of the Instructor’s guide any notes about my child’s progress. When I use the same IG with the next child, I either use a different color pen or put their initials in front of my note.

2. Assess and Document Learning with a Rubric

Especially for writing, rubrics can be a life saver. A rubric places an assessment into categories. For example, if I’m grading a writing piece, there might be three areas where we’ve really focused our attention and I’m wanting to see some progress. For example, let's say we were working on these three categories: content, mechanics, and language usage. In each category, I would use my performance based scale (Exemplary, Proficient, Basic, and Below Basic) to assign a grade to each category. Then, I have a clear picture of what we nailed and what we still need to work on.

Rubrics can be used in any subject, however. The new and improved Sonlight Instructor’s Guides feature several rubrics for assessment purposes. It even has space for you to record the grade right there in the guide if you choose. I love to keep things simple, so I will often write a quick rubric on the back of my child’s paper. It doesn’t take long at all, and it’s an easy, effective way to assess and document your child’s learning.

It’s always a good idea to give your child the rubric ahead of time so that they know what is expected of them.

3. Assess and Document Learning with Booklists and Reading Journals

For reading, it can be difficult to keep documentation of all the great pieces of children’s literature that you and your children have gotten lost in. Let’s just be honest for a bit. There’s no way to extensively document all the great discussion, growth, and character development that comes from reading great books, but may want to try, right?

A booklist and reading journal are a great way to do just that. It doesn’t have to be anything special; my kids like to take a cheap spiral notebook and make it their own by adding stickers and doodles. Each time you read a book together or your child reads a book on their own, have them write the title of the book and the author, and then copy anything from the book that moves them or just makes them think.

As they get older, they can begin recording their thoughts and feelings about these excerpts. This shows higher level thinking while reading and is an excellent way to document learning through living books. In my opinion, there is no better way to learn.

For more information on reading journals, I recommend Read Aloud Revivial. And the Sonlight Memory Book has pages especially designed for book logs.

4. Assess and Document Learning with Narration

All my Charlotte Mason mamas, rejoice! Yes, narration is a legitimate method of assessing your child’s comprehension! And narration is a hallmark of the Sonlight approach.

During or after reading a book, have your child tell you about their book. After they give you a simple summary, ask a few deep thinking questions:

  • “What do you think about this character’s choice?”
  • “What would you do in this situation? Why do you think you would have chosen a different path from this character?”
  • "What do you predict will happen next?"

Documenting narrations can be tricky, but a simple handwritten record of the discussion along with your child’s reading journals should suffice.

5. Assess and Document Learning with Standardized Testing

Oh the conflict that arises deep within me when I say the words, standardized testing. I can only imagine that it arises in you, too. After all, we homeschoolers tend to go against the grain. Why would we want our children compared to a certain standard? This is the conflict that churns inside me. However, I have used standardized testing as a simple tool to see where my children are compared to their peers. We don’t discuss their scores (good or bad), and they honestly never think about it again after that envelope is sent off.

I have found that standardized testing is helpful to an extent. Standardized testing can help me pinpoint very specific areas that need work. I personally don’t believe that it’s necessary to do every year if it’s not required in your state, but I think that it can be helpful when kept in a healthy perspective.

6. Assess and Document Learning with Chapter/Unit Tests

These are the most common tests, as these are the type of tests most of us grew up taking. These are the tests at the end of the lesson in the math books. These are helpful to know if your child truly grasped the concepts that you’ve been presenting or if they need a little more work, or occasionally, a lot more work! I find these assessments helpful particularly in math.

7. Assess and Document Learning with Projects

Sometimes, documenting learning is a little tougher. I find that it’s particularly difficult to formally assess my children’s knowledge of history. For subjects like this, we use projects. Sometimes, it’s a compare/contrast essay. Sometimes, it’s a collage of the culture we’ve been studying. We’ve made dioramas of trench warfare and ecosystems and propaganda posters. The sky's the limit when you assess through projects. This is a fun way to assess as you can get creative. If you feel the need to assign a formal grade to a project, a rubric is a great way to do just that.

8. Assess and Document Learning with Drills

Geography, art, music, Bible, and timelines all make for great drill assessments. I like to randomly hand out blank maps to my kids. They fill them in as best as they can without looking at a labeled map. When they’ve exhausted their memory, they count up how many countries, rivers, oceans, and gulfs that they correctly labeled. The great thing about this method is the intrinsic motivation. Even my least competitive child tries to beat their previous score.

Timed or untimed drills can apply to many other subjects besides geography.

  • Hand your kids a blank timeline and see how many dates they can fill in.
  • Hand them timeline figures and see how fast they can arrange them in chronological order.
  • Have them do an old school Bible drill and see how many books of the Bible they can name. Can they list the disciples?
  • Hand them art postcards and see if they can group the art by different artists or movements.

If you feel a need to assign a formal grade, set a goal of how many items you want to be completed and let your child know the expectation. From there, use your chosen grading scale.

Assessing your child can be easy. And keeping up with them is even simpler. All of their assessments go into a large three-ring binder that I call their Homeschool Portfolio. If anyone ever wants to see a record of my child’s learning, I can simply hand them the binder, and say with confidence, “Take your time!”

Take advantage of our 100% guarantee. No other homeschooling company can match our Love to Learn, Love to Teach™ promise. You can order with confidence that either you will have a great year, or you will get a full refund.

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Reasons to Buy Your Homeschool Curriculum in Early Spring

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


7 Reasons to Buy Your Homeschool Curriculum in Early Spring

Although your new school year may be 4-5 months away, April is the best month to order Sonlight’s newest materials. Here are 7 reasons why we think early spring is the optimum time for getting your new homeschool curriculum purchases squared away.

1. You Are Still in the Midst of Homeschooling in April

Because you are currently doing school, you know exactly what your children are working on and probably have some idea of what you’d like to do next. You know which subjects are really flowing, what your students are struggling with, and which brands you are really enjoying. You won’t have to scramble after a few months off to remember what you need —you’ll know precisely which things you would like to adjust while it’s fresh.

Buying your homeschool curriculum in April is easy, because you’re already thinking about school. So end on a high note, and be ready for next year.

2. Your Children Might Have Stronger Opinions in Early Spring

While your children are in the midst of the school year, working hard, they might have clearer thoughts on what they would like to change for next year. After a summer at camp and after days at poolside, they might not remember in as much detail.

3. You Can Enjoy a Decision-free, Stress-free Summer

One of the quirks of the human brain is that it keeps returning to unclosed loops until you close them. Have you noticed this? You’re almost done checking off the boxes in your Sonlight IG, but that one unfinished assignment keeps popping up in your mind until you check it off.

Or when you’ve already purchased next season’s clothes for your children…You don’t have to keep thinking, “How many pairs of shorts do the kids need? What if the weather suddenly turns warm and they don't have shorts that fit?"

When you go ahead and mark those tasks off the to do list (whether on paper or mental), you can move into your next season with confidence. You’ve got what you need, and you are ready to start the next phase of life. When you buy your curriculum in April, you have maximum flexibility for the summer ahead and a school start when you want.

When you buy your homeschool curriculum in April, your brain can move from wondering, “What are we going to do for school next year?” to more productive topics. 

4. You Get Early-bird Specials and/or Convention Specials

Spring is a great time to snag early-bird specials! For example, through April 30, 2018 when you order a History / Bible / Literature, All-Subjects Package, or over $499 here at Sonlight, not only do you get the most current, upgraded Sonlight products, you get additional bonuses:

  • 9-month payment plan! Order your Sonlight and take nine months to pay. No interest, no fees. Only available in April!
  • FREE printed copy of Sonlight’s Memory Book. Filled with practical prompts, this book helps you document your homeschool and family memories in a keepsake album that you and your children will enjoy for years to come. ($10 value)
  • FREE Sonlight canvas tote bag. Enjoy this heavy-duty embroidered canvas book bag everywhere you go. ($20 value)

Plus, qualifying customers enjoy one additional bonus—a FREE Language Arts supplement.

  • With the purchase of a qualifying Sonlight Language Arts Program, Sonlight Phonics Program, or All-Subjects Package, try one of Sonlight’s optional Language Arts supplements—FREE! These optional workbooks are scheduled in your Sonlight LA Instructor’s guide, so no planning needed. Just open and go. Get Explode the Code for additional phonics practice (LA K and LA 1) or Wordly Wise for fun vocabulary work (LA 2 – high school) for FREE. (Up to a $38 value.)

April 2018 bonuses

5. You Have Time to Get Your Questions Answered Early

While you can contact a Sonlight Advisor at any point during the year, April is still early if you follow a schedule even close to the public school system. If you get your questions answered in April, you are ahead of the game. You can work with your Advisor on your education plan, and work out a system that works for you.

6. You Have Your Materials Before You Need Them

When you order in early spring, you have your materials already at hand when you need them. You can enjoy your upcoming break with the knowledge you’ve already taken care of business and can start school again when you want.

Additionally, you have ample time to do any prep you might like to do—setting up at your own pace, reading ahead, or cutting out timeline figures. If you go to garage sales over the summer, you can be on the lookout for the specific items you might need—like book bins , crates, or other cute storage tools. Or you can watch Back to School Sales for rolling carts or school supplies, with a good sense of what you might need.

7. You Can Do All Your Organizing in One Fell Swoop

With your school materials already in house, when you’re ready to organize, file, and close out the current year, the new materials are ready to take their place. This allows you to have one big organizational event, rather than an end-of-the-year putting away event and a beginning-of-the-next-year event.

Basically, April is an excellent time to order your new homeschool curriculum. Enjoy clearer thinking, less stress, relaxed preparation . . . and, of course, all those bonuses.

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Steps Before You Begin Assessing Your Child’s Progress

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


3 Steps Before You Begin Assessing Your Child’s Progress

“But how will I know if my child is where he should be?” That’s usually one of the first few questions prospective homeschool moms ask me. We always want to know if we are doing things correctly, if we are on target, if we are equipped for the task. Regularly assessing our children is one way that we can rest easier in the evenings. In addition, regular assessment provides documentation of learning, progress, and growth. Even if your state doesn’t require documentation, I think that it’s a great idea to have it on hand should the need to show growth ever arise.

1. First Determine Your Goal

Before you begin assessing your child's progress, an important step is to determine your goal in assessing. Is your goal for your child to be ahead of grade level? At grade level? Or is your goal to make sure that your child is progressing, regardless of grade standards?

I lean toward the progressing model. It’s not as important to me how quickly my children progress as long as they are steadily progressing.

If there is a sudden halt in progression, that’s when I am concerned. I prefer this method of assessment because not all children learn at the same rate, so comparing them with their peers simply based on the fact that they were born in the same year seems arbitrary.

Before you go any further, be sure to determine your goal in assessing your child. This will help you to know which assessments you will want to use in your homeschool.

2. Next Determine Your Grading Scale

Most of us are most familiar with the A, B, C, D, or F system of grading. This is a percentage based system. This system works well when you grade a paper by points, assigning each question a certain amount of points and deducting points for any questions the student missed. This works well when you emphasize memorizing facts. It also is the scale that is most widely used on high school transcripts.

In the elementary years, I prefer using a performance-based model that gives a grade according to how well you are doing on your goals. For example, with my elementary children, I use this scale:

  • E (Exemplary)
  • P (Proficient)
  • B (Basic)
  • BB (Below Basic)

This grading scale allows you to look at their performance on each individual goal. In this scale, your assessments are generally shorter because you’re simply looking to see if your child has mastered that particular goal.

For example, if my child has been working on long division, I might give them a page of three long division problems. If they get all three problems completely correct with no mistakes, I might assign them an Exemplary grade.

If I see that they’ve definitely got the idea, but they made a computation error on one of the problems, I’m going to assign them a Proficient score simply to remind them that being careful and double checking your math is important.

If the child gets the problems halfway correct, but seems to get hung up in the same place each time, I’m going to assign them a Basic score and we are going to go back to work on that skill until they earn a Proficient score.

Finally, if a child clearly doesn’t understand the concept in the least, you’ll give them a Below Basic score and this will be your signal to go back a little further and start back at the beginning. I have found this grading scale to work well with Sonlight Curriculum in the elementary and middle school years.

You can also use an even simpler version of the performance based scale, known as Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. This is a really easy system of grading that is good for helping you know whether to progress or stop and reteach. It is especially helpful in the very early years such as preschool and kindergarten.

3. Finally Determine When You Will Assess

Public schools use four basic assessments that I am listing below. As homeschoolers, you will probably find that you don’t need that many assessments. You will likely keep close tabs on where your child is simply through working with them every day. However, for documentation purposes, you’ll want to use at least one of these forms of assessment.


Diagnostic testing is given before you begin a unit of study. This tells you what your child already knows. This is helpful at times because you will not waste time going over concepts your child already knows. However, you should also warn your child that it's perfectly okay if he or she doesn't know many answers.


Formative testing is assessing in the middle of a unit of study. For example, a quiz given in the middle of a study on fractions will give you an idea of how your child is progressing through the concept. This is formative testing.


Benchmark testing is assessing your child at the end of a unit of study. A chapter test in geography is an example of a benchmark test.


Summative testing is assessing your child at the end of the year. A standardized test is a good example of summative testing.

Sometimes a combination of tests is appropriate. Other times, you’ll only need one type. I have found that as a homeschooling mom with a very low teacher to student ratio, I tend to know where my kids are academically most of the time, so I hardly ever use diagnostic testing. I only give a standardized test every other year and only beginning in fourth grade. Mostly, I use benchmark testing, which, for me, includes a short, simple assessment at the end of a unit of study. This provides me with concrete documentation of my child’s learning throughout the year.

Take advantage of our 100% guarantee. No other homeschooling company can match our Love to Learn, Love to Teach™ promise. You can order with confidence that either you will have a great year, or you will get a full refund.

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Help! I've Lost My Homeschool Groove! Here's How to Find It Again

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


Help! I've Lost My Homeschool Groove! Here's How to Find It Again

Lately, my kids and I were having a hard time feeling motivated to get back in the swing of homeschooling after a break. We had family visits and a couple bouts with sickness—the usual things that can derail us from our homeschool routine. After a few weeks of false starts, we still weren’t getting into our routine like we should have been. I felt as if I'd lost my homeschool groove.

Instead of getting frustrated and trying harder, I decided to spend some time thinking about what drew me to homeschooling and what I loved about learning at home. Then I made time to intentionally connect our school day with those values at the core of my mission. Here are three central values I identified.

1. The Capacity to Be Creative

Hours spent leading story time at a local book store proved to me that children are naturally creative. Every week, a dozen or so four-year-old children would come play. They were bright and creative. If I handed them a piece of clay, they handed me back a story, full of detail. I remember feeling inspired to try to hold this childlike enthusiasm for creativity forever, if possible. I want our homeschool to continually feed creativity.

2. The Ability to Get Lost in A Great Story

Great stories establish our sense of wonder. In the day-to-day ticking off of tasks, wonder was far too often taking a seat on the sidelines. Because we use Sonlight, reading aloud has always been a central activity to our school day, but with the business of the our break and with kids being sick, reading was getting pushed aside so we could accomplish our daily Table Subjects™.

It is all too easy to create a habit of pushing aside Couch Subjects™. Math and Language Arts pages can feel like more pressing subjects, but my oldest three graduates continue to tell me that they gained more from our reading times than from any other subject. The books we read aloud are teaching our kids from many levels, all at the same time. I want our children to experience the sense of sweet wonder that comes from listening to stories much larger than themselves.

3. The Closeness of Family

A great gift of homeschooling is the fact that the children are not sent away from one another to learn every day. This daily proximity leads to stronger family bonds. This year, with many different ages and abilities, we have been doing more separate age level work. We weren’t coming together as a whole family for reading as often as we once had. I missed that feeling of togetherness. School can be done with everyone on the couch, tucked under a blanket, listening to a great tale. I want our kids to remember the sweetness of family as a part of their everyday lives.

How We Got Our Homeschool Groove Back

Now that I'd identified my key values—what I love about homeschooling—I had to reconnect them to my day so that I could find my lost homeschool groove.

Here is what I did for my family. Since we are in the middle of History / Bible Literature G World History, I created a small unit study of all things Greek, especially Greek mythology, one of my favorite topics. To inspire wonder, I did quite a bit of reading from the stories that I love, adding all the flourishes and details I could remember.

We got back to making reading central and fun. To add regular opportunities for creativity, the kids are taking notes in an inexpensive, blank journal. My first group of homeschoolers, years ago, loved keeping a Monster Journal as we read Greek myths aloud. This group of younger siblings are now doing the same. The journals are a place to draw monsters, keep a timeline, note names, and draw anything they pick up from the reading.

Their creativity is refreshing to observe. We have a sharing time after we read so they can show each other what they have drawn. We normally work with two IG’s, but we made sure both groups were doing world history at the same time so that much of our reading can be combined through the year. Doing these reading activities together as one group is helping us feel closer as a family.

In a few weeks, we will wrap up our Greek mini-unit. I know that I’ll feel ready to fall right back into our IG schedule. The best part is that the books we’re reading are pulled right out of the World History G selections, so we aren’t even missing a beat in our school year.

I encourage you to identify your homeschool values. Then when you lose your groove, use those core values to help you find it again.

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Make the Most of a Four-day Homeschool Week

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


10 Ways to Make the Most of a Four-day Homeschool Week

Reducing our homeschool week to four days a week has been a game changer. The kids have more time for exploring individual interests, and I have increased freedom and flexibility for self-care, too. Discussing our schedule change with two friends—also longtime homeschoolers—prompted two very different and thought provoking reactions.

A Traditional Homeschooler's Reaction to 4-Day Schedule

One friend is a traditional homeschooler. She’s big on organization and consecutive skill building. Although she likes the idea of switching to a four-day schedule, she fears that her kids won’t choose to do anything educational once the curriculum ends for the week. She doesn’t want to waste a day that could be spent learning.

I respect my friend’s thoughts, but the sheer multitude of real-life learning opportunities that exist outside the formal curricula keep me confident that learning will continue to happen.

An Interest-led Homeschooler's Reaction to 4-Day Schedule

Another friend is an avid unschooler. She feels that unstructured learning does wonders for kids and that doing away with curriculum altogether can enhance learning even more. She works hard to provide her kids with experiences and materials that match their current interests but doesn’t rely on any form of traditional schedule whether five-day or four-day.

While I love the diversity that unschooling can provide, I also feel strongly that my youngsters thrive on routine. By following a curriculum, my kids know what to expect, and I’m better prepared with materials on hand.

Our Happy Balance: 4-Day Sonlight

I’ve found that a combination of literature-rich, character-building curriculum with plentiful interest-led learning is the sweet spot for our homeschool.

My two overarching goals as a homeschooling mom are

  • to build and maintain a close relationship with my kids
  • to help them build connections among the wealth of materials and information circulating in the world

Our curriculum exposes all of us to new ideas and concepts separate from those we find on our own. The stories we read in Sonlight inspire us to try new things and delve into different subjects in more depth. I continue to be amazed by how much of our play and curiosity is inspired by the topics we cover with our more traditional studies.

A four-day homeschool week has empowered our family to get even more out of learning at home. Here are ten ways we have found to expand and explore beyond our curriculum.

1. Extracurricular activities

I use the flexibility gained from homeschooling to let kids pursue local classes in art, nature, and science. We look to the books we’ve read for inspiration. Pressing flowers and animal care are just a few of our most recent interests.

2. Field Trips

Field trips can be an immersion experience of learning. It’s a lot easier for local businesses and community venues to spend increased amounts of time with kids who aren’t on a tight time schedule and have onsite parental support—namely homeschoolers. When you take frequent field trips, you can make the most of a 4-day homeschool schedule.

3. Exercise

Get up and move around! Homeschoolers are notorious for neglecting their physical education requirements. Play some tennis, throw a ball, or go for run. The whole family will be better for it!

4. Community Involvement

Serve the community. Find a way to donate hours at a local food bank or long-term care facility. The experience is a minefield of real-life learning.

5. More (& More) Reading

There may not be anything more valuable when it comes to education than reading to your children. Look for shared interests and enjoy connecting over books!

6. Co-ops or Clubs

Look into local homeschool organizations or clubs. Several of these offer unique experiences that might be outside of your immediate expertise but of interest to you and/or your child. Make the most of a 4-day homeschool schedule by spending that extra day on outside classes.

7. Family Time

As families grow, there is always something to do and learn. As a direct result of spending time together as a family, we have recently learned about infant care, cooking, and plumbing just to name a few.

8. Unique Interests

Asking the kids what they want to know more about is always a good idea. The more invested they are in their own learning, the less you have to do to facilitate activities and the more knowledge they retain.

9. Holidays and Special Events

Rich traditions, folklore, and religion accompany most major holidays. Take some time to really delve into the meaning and origin of holidays. Take some time to pursue understanding other cultures and different perspectives.

10. Nothing

Boredom is often the best thing for striking creative energy. Schedule in plenty of downtime and document what happens. When left to their own devices, my kids have built small cities out of cardboard and written storybooks. Most recently, they designed boats that would actually float—an idea I believe they conjured from our Viking history lessons. They even tested how much weight each design could hold. All I had to do was supply the aluminum foil and get out of their way.

Reducing the number of formal schooling days to four per week can increase homeschool flexibility and allow for the inclusion of more interest-led learning. Your curriculum still serves as a foundation and inspires exploration of a variety of topics on that fifth day. A four-day per week homeschool schedule been a blessing for our family and might well be for yours too.

Curious to see what a 4-day homeschool week might look like for your family? Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Teach Subjects You Don't Know: 6 Tips for a Homeschool Mom

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


How to Teach Subjects You Don't Know: 6 Tips for a Homeschool Mom

  • Help! My child is smarter than I am. Can I still homeschool?
  • What about chemistry!?
  • If I homeschool, am I robbing my child of the chance to learn from someone who knows more than I do?

Have you ever asked yourself one of these questions or felt outsmarted by your child?

I recently heard about a mom who says she would like to homeschool, but feels she can't. Why? Because her children are beyond her in certain subjects, and she is afraid she might not know enough. Even for moms who are generally confident, the question comes to mind: How do you teach subjects you don't know very well yourself?

Want to know a secret? Lean in.

The sentence, "I don't know; let's find out," ranks among the most valuable tools you have as a homeschool mom!

You will never know everything. Your kids will hopefully surpass you in knowledge, and that is your aim! You will serve your children best when you don’t just feed them facts but give them tools to teach themselves and learn from experts in a variety of fields.

If the idea of teaching calculus and chemistry makes us nervous, that's understandable, but we have to shift our thinking. We must move from a mindset that we have to know everything and pass that knowledge directly onto our kids, to a mindset of equipping them with resources to learn. We want to teach them how to seek out the information they need and connect them with experts through great curriculum or in-person opportunities.

Though you may not be an expert on everything, you are the leading expert on your child.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you care about your child more than anyone, and that makes you an ideal person to help them find resources to go as far as they can in learning.

Here are 6 things to remember when you are doubting your ability to teach subjects you don't know.

1. Teach Your Children How to Learn

Don’t just fill the bucket; light the fire. Of course you don’t want to limit your children’s knowledge to only what you know! Teach your children to develop the skill of independent learning. Part of this dynamic is the character quality of initiative. Rather than your children waiting for someone to hand them something or tell them the right answer, demonstrate for them how to take initiative, find resources and chase ideas. Show them how they can glean information from dictionaries, atlases, maps, bibliographies, libraries, search engines, and databases. Set them on the journey of learning and watch them go!

2. Lean on Great Resources

This is where you become a resource finder and more of a learning coach than the sole teacher. You can find quality curriculum where that author serves as the expert while you help your students set goals, structure their learning, offer accountability, discuss what they are learning, check progress, and tie it all together.

3. Learn Together

While I personally was good at algebra, I did not have a mind good at geometry. So, when I went to teach geometry to my son Luke, we did the lessons together. We came up with strategies, talked through solutions, and I found I understood it much better the second time around.

4. Share the Load

Do you know a family with an engineering background that would love to do a STEM club on weekends? A mom who has a flair for writing or is fluent in a foreign language? We all have different strengths and weaknesses. One person loves to sew. Another faints at the thought of handcrafts. Make a trade: offer writing instruction for sewing class or Algebra coaching for cooking lessons. Remember that you don’t have to be good at or even like teaching everything. Find someone who loves what your child wants to know and make it happen! If you can tap into the idea of the whole community at your fingertips, you have an amazingly broad base for an education.

5. Expand into Your Community

Beyond the experts you can find in your curriculum, the web, the library and other parents you know, you can expand your base within your broader community. Many families take courses at local junior colleges or community colleges. You can also think outside the box and find experts to mentor in your community. When you need to teach subjects you don't know, the options are endless: art schools, banks, zoos, or local businesses. Engage tutors, community leaders, therapists, sports coaches, directors, and other locals who might take on interns or volunteers, teach classes, tutor or otherwise coach or train in some capacity.

Your students may gain unique experiences and some of these relationships could even lead to job shadowing opportunities or future jobs. Encourage your kids that it never hurts to ask politely, and they will learn great lessons in networking!

6. Stay Humble

You can't teach everything by 18. Even with all the resources in the world, you can only squeeze so much learning into a child’s life by graduation. Trust that your children can—and will—continue the process of learning beyond your homeschool.

So, if you’re wondering if you are smarter than a fifth grader and feeling doubtful, leave the fear behind and enjoy the adventure of learning along with your kids. You can adjust the perspective from "I have to have all the answers" to "I am here to empower my children to find the information they need and facilitate their growth.” You get to specialize in knowing your child’s personality and needs and act as an advocate and coach in learning.

Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more. Plus, you'll be the first to hear about product updates, special offers and more!

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Ways to Afterschool That Don't Feel Like School at All

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


6 Ways to Afterschool That Don't Feel Like School at All

Special Introduction to This Post

This article is the first by a new contributor Jen Brimhall. She brings a unique slant to the Sonlight blog because she and her children have used all kinds of educational options: public school, private school, homeschooling, and every combination of those.  Currently her kids are attending school, and she is afterschooling them for enrichment. At Sonlight, we cherish school choice, and we know that every family, every child, sometimes every year is different. Parents make the best choices for their families, and sometimes that means using a school. But like Jen, once you homeschool, that bug is probably forever in your blood, and you will see education differently than before! Jen remains an active participant in her children's education, supplementing their work at school with extra activities at home. You will be seeing her contributions on the topic of afterschooling here on the Sonlight blog for the coming year.

I don’t know about you, but when my kids come home from their day at public school, the last thing they want to do is more learning. They need a break! And I get it; I really do.

But sometimes, subjects that are important to me aren’t taught very much or at all in our local school. No one person or institution can be all things to all people, offer every subject under the sun, or teach in a way that resonates with everyone. Plus, some kids simply need a little reinforcement on certain subjects. And that’s ok. A parent is a child’s first teacher after all, and these opportunities can be wonderful times of connection.

But oh my, the after school battles—even for assigned homework! They aren’t for the faint of heart.

But have hope. There are wonderful ways to supplement an education at home after school, that won’t be tear or tantrum inducing. This afterschooling, as we call it, might even be—dare I say it?—fun! The key is to make learning a part of everyday life.

1. Play Games and Puzzles After School

I have a child who will do anything if someone will play a game with him. And lucky for us, there are some pretty awesome educational games out there.

  • Snapshots Across America helps kids learn U.S. geography. It also spotlights a special tourist site for each state, so it might even help you plan your next family vacation. Not quite sure where Nebraska is? You’ll know soon!
  • Knock out and Muggins are clever elementary math games that help kids practice their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  • Bananagrams or Scrabble are versatile! Have races to see who can find tiles to make spelling words the fastest. See who can come up with the best vocabulary words, synonyms, antonyms, etc.
  • Detailed puzzles like these of the solar system, the United States or the world, can be great for opening up discussions and helping the whole family get in on the learning.

Almost anything can be turned into a game if you have the right attitude and want to have fun: spelling, math, languages. . . the options are endless!

Snapshots Across America board game • 6 Ways to Afterschool That Don't Feel Like School at All

2. Capitalize on Current Events

Look no further than the local news for afterschooling fodder!

  • Is there a rally somewhere? Find it on a map! What are people protesting? Why? What would the consequences be if their talking points were accepted or denied? (You're covering social studies, geography, logic, and government.)
  • Are the Olympics or other multinational sporting events taking place? Find each nation on a map as the athletes compete. Learn one new thing about each country. You could delve into math using time, body angles for diving, gymnastics, ice skating, etc. Don’t forget about anatomy and nutrition! Try a new recipe from a country you are interested in. Double it to work on fractions! (You're covering geography, multicultural appreciation, math, science, and life skills.)
  • Are natural disasters happening? Where are they? Why did they happen? (You're covering geography and weather.)
  • Watch political speeches together. Candidate debates, presidential speeches, and local events are all excellent ways to talk about deeper things. Do some fact checking. Are these politicians telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? (You're covering government, speech and debate, research skills, and critical thinking.)

3. Talk About Family and Friends for Afterschooling

We live in a time when people are much more open to pick up stakes and move than they used to be. Use what can sometimes be teary moves or fun trips as exciting ways to learn more. Get a washable map (this double sided one is my favorite) and write the names of loved ones who have either lived or visited a certain area. See how many names and places you can label on the map! (You're covering geography.)

Ask out-of-town family/friends what they like about their area, and what is common to it. What is that area known for? Agriculture? Industry? Banking? National parks? Who first lived in this area and who immigrated to it? (You're covering geography, career exploration, appreciation, history.)

Pick a new town or city you are interested in and calculate the cost of living compared to where you currently live. What is the average income? How much is housing? Food? Travel? (You're covering math, life skills.)

the Sonlight markable map • 6 Ways to Afterschool That Don't Feel Like School at All

4. Read Books Together After School

This is possibly one of the most valuable things you can do with your family, period. The benefits are endless! You can find amazing books here.

  • Vocabulary: explain new words
  • Grammar: the more children read, the more they will naturally pick up on proper grammar.
  • Emotional intelligence: children learn about feelings, empathy and how to handle difficult situations when they listen to excellent books.
  • Character building: when parents choose books wisely and select stories of real life heros or fictional characters who make good choices, we reinforce what we want our children to learn. WE aren’t telling them how to be good (that would be a lecture they might not want to listen to), but the characters in the book are living it, instead. That is priceless.
  • History: Read The Yanks are Coming to learn about WWI. Read The Hiding Place and learn about WW2. Little House on the Prairie is a favorite of young listeners, and biographies written for children are favorites at my house.
  • Bonus tip: Audiobooks are great for bedtime and car trips!

5. Teach Kids About Your Professions

Something as ordinary as your own profession is food for afterschooling. Discuss these things with your children:

  • What made you choose your profession?
  • What subjects did you need to master in order to be qualified?
  • Explain how your profession helps society.

Confide in your children about problems you face in your work and how you overcome them through research, mathematics, social skills, etc.

6. Watch Movies Together

Yes, you read that right! Our family has benefited from watching historical movies like Gettysburg, Gandhi, Cromwell, A Man for All Seasons, Johnny Tremain, Liberty Kids and more. Pop some popcorn, watch the movie and then fact check it later.

  • Was the movie accurate?
  • What was creative license?
  • Did you agree or disagree with the decisions the main characters made?
  • What were the consequences?

(You're covering history, emotional intelligence, logic, cause and effect, government, leadership, etc.)

You can start afterschooling right now, with virtually no preparation. Really, anything can be educational when you are intentional and education becomes a lifestyle for your family, instead of an activity that only happens at school. Parents are in an ideal place to teach their children with love and to make education come alive. You can teach your children, even very casually, and do it well.

If you are looking for afterschooling resources, you can trust the carefully vetted books, games, and curriculum in the Sonlight catalog. Order a complimentary copy for yourself today

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email

Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment