How to Help Your Children Appreciate Their Homeschool Education

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How to Help Your Children Appreciate Their Homeschool Education

Not until I was an adult did I fully appreciate how my father educated me.

I had a childhood that you typically find only in dreams. I was raised on a mountain in the heart of the River Valley of Arkansas. My dad worked at the Winthrop Rockefeller Center on Petit Jean Mountain, a non-profit organization that worked with countries all over the world to make life better for many.

I can remember visiting my dad at work and walking into the dining room at lunch time and feeling like I was taking a trip around the world. People from every continent were represented. My dad would often introduce me to someone from another country as if they had been friends for years. He longed for me to understand how amazing the opportunity was to speak to representatives from many of the countries of the world.

But I was painfully shy and barely managed a simple hello before ducking back behind my dad again. He would take me around and tell me about all the projects that WRC had begun and why it was important. He taught me one of Mr. Rockefeller’s mottoes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, feed him for life.”

Later in my childhood, my dad took us on a rare family trip to see an Egyptian Tombs exhibit. I decided early on that I wasn’t interested and spent my time there counting down the minutes until we left. I look back on these moments now and think, “I had no idea how truly amazing those opportunities were!” This realization caused me to will I help my children to appreciate the experiences I provide them?

I will give them a framework to appreciate education.

1. Love Learning

Growing up, I thought that history was the most boring subject I ever had to sit through. I remember one teacher in particular who made me actually look forward to my history class, and it was simply because she genuinely enjoyed it. There was a spark in her eye when she lectured. That little spark I saw caused me to think that maybe history wasn’t so bad.

When we teach, our kids pick up on our attitude toward subjects. If we enjoy history, chances are good that they will too. If we are really excited about a new book, our kids will probably be really excited too. Model your own love for learning. Talk about how it makes you feel to learn something new even though you aren’t in school anymore.

2. Use Living Books

This is huge. There is nothing that kills curiosity more than a dull, dry textbook. A living book, written by a person who is invested in the material is the best way to learn about the world. Living books open our eyes to culture, history, and possibilities. We come alive when we read enthralling accounts of wars, disappearing civilizations, and cultures of the world. Don’t squash your child’s interest with dry reading.

3. Dream

Dream with your kids about the places you’d like to visit. As you study topics, think of places that would be fun to visit to learn more about your study. Daydream outloud about what you would do there and the things you might be able to see. Look to see if there is an online tour of a great museum.

Would you like to visit Europe? Tell your kids about it. Ask them where they would love to visit. Work with them to expand their dreams beyond popular theme parks. You might even have them help plan an educational road trip. Giving your child ownership can help them be invested so they will appreciate the opportunity more.

4. Give Them Experiences Even If They Don’t Appreciate Them

Chances are that our children won’t appreciate the experiences we provide to the extent that we would like. But, do it anyway.

Because one day, they will be like me, and they’ll remember the opportunities you gave them. That will inspire them to give those same experiences to their children...your grandchildren.

5. Teach Them the Bible

  • When you study God’s Word and consider how His hands formed the galaxies, you can’t help but be in awe of space.
  • When you study geography and find out the places where Jesus traveled, a flame is lit within.
  • When you study history to find the civilizations that disappeared because of God’s wrath, you can’t help but tremble a bit.

Our kids must have an understanding of the Bible to appreciate education. It is the basis of Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Art, Music...the list goes on and on. I’ve always believed that if I am diligent to teach the Bible, everything else will come. So far, I’ve been right. God’s word is the most important part of the day, and it provides a framework for us all to appreciate the world around us.

Just the other day, I looked at my dad and said, “I wish I knew what a great childhood you and Mom gave me earlier.” I’m so thankful that even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, I was able to express my gratitude many years later for the memories that have lasted in my mind and heart all these years. I have no doubt that my parents’ love of learning rubbed off on me, and in turn, to my kids.

Our children will probably never know the great lengths we go to, the sacrifices we make, to assure that they have a great childhood. But in life, it’s the unseen acts that reap the biggest harvest. It’s being faithful in the little things every single day that build the framework for a lifelong appreciation of education.

To find out more about Sonlight's complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

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When Your Child Wants to Go to School (Instead of Homeschooling)

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When Your Child Wants to Go to School (Instead of Homeschooling)

It’s common for homeschooled children (and their parents) to wonder about or want to try public school. But, when children start insisting they would rather go to school than be homeschooled, it can hit hard. Parents do not make the decision to homeschool lightly, so to hear a child demand the public school experience can be demoralizing. It may even cause a parent to question whether homeschooling is, in fact, the best choice.

If your child happens to fall into this category, here are some tips you might find helpful.

1. Imagination is Not Reality

Children don’t view the classroom how it really is, but rather by how they imagine it could be. Many homeschooled children have little to no idea of what school is really like.

  • They aren’t able to predict the long hours being seated in a classroom, with little to do.
  • Being told constantly not to talk or play or communicate with the friend sitting right next to them in class might be a foreign concept to them.
  • They can’t predict coming home to even more hours of homework, with no one there to say, “This assignment is ridiculous. Let’s skip it.”
  • They can’t comprehend things they haven’t experienced yet, like bullying, standardized testing, and the fierce competition of grades.

Make a list of the reasons you decided to homeschool. Think about why you made the choices you did, without considering the emotional pull of your child’s desires, which can block out sound reasoning.

For each reason you listed to homeschool, consider whether that reason is still valid today. If so, then weigh whether each reason can be negotiated, overcome, or reduced, to give your child a positive school experience. In most cases, you will find that your reasons to homeschool were, and are still, very valid.

2. Idealism Makes Children Overly Optimistic

Children, especially small children, are idealists. We’ve all seen, and often slightly envied, the ability of small children to be such optimists. They wait with barely contained excitement for Santa or the Tooth Fairy to appear, never considering that maybe Santa ran out of gifts this year or the Tooth Fairy is low on quarters. They still seem to be convinced that somewhere out there exists a land where princesses wear pink and ride unicorns and knights still roam about, looking for beasts to slay and damsels to rescue. They aren’t quite convinced that it isn’t good to eat candy and watch television all day long. Most children are such optimists that they tend to think everything is, and always will be, mostly good.

While this sense of wonder is fun to watch, it also means they have trouble seeing the negative side of school. They imagine school as one huge playground, indoors and out, where they happily spend hours having fun with friends and classmates all day long, only to be broken up by fun snacks and the occasional instance where they are forced to do something vaguely educational before being allowed to go back to fun and enjoyment with their friends.

You and I both know this mental image does not match reality.

When your child wants to go to school, open a dialogue in an effort to understand how they are viewing the school experience. Ask them to think about and describe what they think happens throughout the day.  You may be very surprised at their responses. For example, I recently had this discussion with my 11-year-old. I was surprised to discover that although we had talked about public school from time to time, she was firmly convinced that school consisted largely of daily (or at the very least, weekly) field trips. In her mind, school children spent about an hour or two a day on academia, and the rest of the time was spent on field trips, fun activities, and playtime, even in fifth grade.

She didn’t believe me at first, and went to ask one of her friends who was visiting if it was true that they didn’t get to go on field trips more than once or twice a year. She was very disappointed to find out that most of her time in traditional school would be spent sitting at a desk doing classwork.

3. Going to School Isn’t About Going to School

Once you have a better grasp on the reasons you are homeschooling and the way your child views school, you can start to address the heart of the issue. In some cases, the child has a very specific reason to go to school, and it has nothing to do with being in school all day.

Once you have identified what they want from school, you can evaluate if the reason is valid enough to stop homeschooling or if it is merely a call to action to meet a need. Talk to your children about what they would like to get out of school. Often, you’ll find a child who insists on public school really just wants to experience a trivial element of the school experience.

  1. For example, one child just wants to go to school simply to ride a school bus. Meet this desire by riding a city bus with a parent or taking a tour of a school bus.
  2. Another child wants to go to school merely to eat a school lunch in a cafeteria. Easy! Eat at a cafeteria style restaurant such as Incredible Pizza or Luby’s or visit a cousin's school for lunch on a day that visitors are allowed.
  3. If your child wants more socializing options, perhaps increasing the frequency of play dates, joining a co-op, or taking part in additional extracurricular activities will provide the additional interaction your child craves.

If you can pinpoint the need, it’s easier to fill it.

4. Get to the Root of the Request

Often, an expression of wanting to go to school is really a disguised request for something else—something new, different, and/or more fun. Children often think of school as something fun and different, but you can find other ways to fill that need for something new, without having to go through the process of enrolling them in school.

Try new activities with your children. Sonlight offers many electives packages that might fill your child’s needs for something fresh. There are options for everything from art to music, and including typing, foreign language, and much more.

  • Stock new boardgames.
  • Get outdoors in nature, and enjoy some time going to new parks, exploring new places and having fun.
  • Get out in the community.
  • Go window shopping or join a class or activity. Try new things.
  • Talk with a librarian at your local library.  They often have information about a variety of community classes and activities.
  • Involve extended family. Perhaps Grandma would like to show your daughter how to knit, or Aunt Margaret would love to show your son how to do some woodworking.

5. The Grass is Greener Syndrome

Just because a child wants to make a decision about their future, doesn’t mean they are ready and able to do so. Even with older children, such as 15- and 16-year-olds, it is important to remember they are still developing critical thinking skills. Most children are not ready to make mature, complicated, long-lasting decisions about their future without help. When a child wants to go to school, don't automatically let the child have the final decision.

The problem with allowing a child to make a choice of this caliber is that they are still children, with limited decision-making skills. Many parents can look back to days when they were in their teens or preteens and felt the pull of independence and the desire to make decisions on their own; and most parents will admit the decision they made, although not always with negative consequences, were not fully informed at best.

So, while it is fine for them to express their wishes and desires and concerns, the parent still is responsible for the final decision, and the outcome. Take a look at your child’s ability to make sound judgments in other areas of life:

  • Does your child have the ability to make good food choices when on their own, or do they resort to junk and sugar if the choice is completely theirs?
  • Are they mature enough to get a job that requires responsibility and keep it?
  • Do they change their mind frequently?
  • Are they able to present multiple viewpoints of their argument?

If you feel your child is mature enough to make a decision about how to be educated and can present a sound rationale, then it might be time to start giving more weight to their opinions.

But, if you’re not comfortable with the decisions your child tends to make on a daily basis, or you feel they are not taking into account the reality of the situation, then it might be wise to hang on to the decision-making authority for a while longer.

Parents want to do what is best for their children, and struggle when their child express wants and needs different from what the parent knows is best. But, big decisions should seldom be made based on emotion and fear. Instead, using logic and understanding, a parent can try to fill their child’s needs, without schools. Sometimes, it is enough to show them that you really are listening.

Is your child asking to go to school? Sonlight has homeschool consultants who can help you determine if curriculum—or something else—is the issue. Click here to schedule an appointment.

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Sonlight's 2018 Photo Contest Winners

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Sonlight's 2018 Photo Contest Winners

At Sonlight, we love featuring real photos and stories from Sonlight families on the website, in our catalog, and on social media.  Your homeschool moments are truly inspiring to the staff here at Sonlight as well as to the entire community of Sonlighters.

Congratulations to Sonlight's Annual Photo Contest Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted photos and stories in the Annual Photo Contest. The three winning photos have been selected! Each winning family featured below (in no particular order) will receive a $500 gift card to purchase more Sonlight curriculum. One family will be featured on the cover of a Sonlight Catalog.

W. Family, Sonlighters from Dallas, GA

“Thank you, Sonlight, for making this year so fun and easy!” writes Tiffany W of Dallas, GA. “Last year we used a different program and we struggled through it. This year we chose Sonlight and couldn't be happier! The open-and-go aspect really optimized my time as a mother of four (one of whom is a toddler and another a newborn). “I have loved being able to teach both my school-age kids (2nd grade and Kindergarten) from the same HBL. Not only is it a time saver, it's brought them together in a whole new way. I love watching them learn together.”

In this photo Charlie (8) and Millie (6) are thrilled to share their “end of the year, look at all we've accomplished” moment, also called a #sonlightstack.

M. Family, Sonlighters from Lincoln, RI

“A friend who used Sonlight suggested I try the PreK program ‘just to see,’ says Altagail M of Lincoln, RI. “Well, seven years later and homeschooling with Sonlight is the best parenting decision we ever made. I love learning with my children and the opportunities to encourage their natural gifts and strengths without the confines of a traditional classroom. These kids love to read, their attention spans are incredible, and we have enjoyed so much wonderful literature thanks to Sonlight. Time is our most precious commodity and I am so glad not to be missing their childhood.”

In Altagail's winning photo, Lily (9, PreK-HBL F), Gracin (7, PreK-HBL C), and Austin (11, PreK-HBL F) take advantage of a sunny day to homeschool outside.

K. Family, Sonlighters from Vero Beach, FL

“Homeschooling has been one of the best decisions we have made for our family. It has brought our family closer, and has allowed us great adventures together,” writes Sennu K of Vero Beach, FL. “One of my favorite memories this year was a trip to Disney World. On our way there I started reading Seven Daughters and Seven Sons aloud, and we got into the story so much that we ended up staying in our hotel room reading the book into midnight, because we couldn't put it down.”

In this photo, Sennu (Mom), Mae (4, not yet homeschooling) and Abby (12, HBL F) celebrate Abby's last day of sixth grade. 

Although Abby (12; HBL F) is the only one currently homeschooling, their four oldest children who have finished homeschool and are all attending colleges, still enjoy taking part in her Read-Alouds, and often take turns reading the books together. “We so love the books Sonlight chooses, and look forward to our next year with HBL G.”

Share Your #sonlightstories Year-Round

Thanks again for making this year's contest a success. Keep sharing your #sonlightstories year-round! We love your Box Day photos, your day to day experiences, and the end-of-the-year #sonlightstack shots of all you've accomplished.

Use the #sonlightstories hashtag when you share on social media. You can also log into your account on anytime to upload both images and testimonials. You never know when something you submitted may appear in a catalog, on our homepage, or on the Sonlight blog

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Setting Up a Summer Routine for Kids Who Thrive on Structure

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Summer Routines
When you think of summer, do you envision carefree days of hammock swinging, endless cups of homemade lemonade, a stack of books you’ve wanted to read for a whole year, and absolutely nothing to do? I sure do!

But reality is more like this: my kids bickering over every little thing and stopping only to tell me every thirty minutes that they are bored, and one child in particular melting down at every turn because he can’t handle the break in his usual routine.

Sound familiar? I certainly hope I’m not the only one!

I learned a few years ago that summer does not equal total freedom for my family. Oh no, we still need a predictable routine. While this might make me sound like a real party pooper, it’s quite the contrary. A summer routine curbs the constant whining and bickering and keeps the meltdowns to a minimum. Here’s how it works at my house.

1. Morning Chores

I always joke that people need to come visit us in the summertime because it’s the only time of year that our house is really clean! During the school year, the demand on our time is so great that we do what we must to just get by with our household cleaning, but in the summer, we are able to devote daily time to keeping it in tip top shape, and morning chores is the key. I usually let my kids have slow mornings, but by about 9:00, they are ready to start in on their morning chores. This includes cleaning their room, taking care of personal hygiene, and seeing to a common area in our home.

2. Morning Time

Morning time is a household staple for my crew, but summer allows for a little change to the feel of our morning time. About mid-morning we will meet in the living room for our Bible Study and Read Aloud. It’s also the time when I will lay out the plan for the day and address our weekly schedule as needed. This really helps my melt-down child to feel in control of the day and heads off big emotions first thing.

3. Physical Exertion

Maybe I could legitimately label this P.E? I have found that to avoid bickering and boredom, kids need a good dose of physical exertion during the summer months, and it seems best to do it in the morning hours. Generally, after our morning time, I’ll take the kids and we will help my dad in his garden, we’ll do some yard work, walk the block, ride bikes, or visit a playground. Expending physical energy first thing in the morning is key to our summer routine.

4. Lunch & Afternoon Time

After P.E. we will prepare lunch and follow our summer tradition of watching an episode of I Love Lucy or Andy Griffith over turkey sandwiches. Then, we will have take two of morning time, only shorter. I’ll read aloud again from our book and we might talk about what we think or make predictions. We might slip in some summer schooling here by reading some Life of Fred or learning a new tune from Geography Songs.

5. Quiet Time

Quiet time is a must and one of my favorite parts of our summer routine! After our second read aloud of the day, I have everyone head to their bedrooms for some quiet time. They may read a book or draw or simply rest, but they must be quiet. My kids are all six years and up so I only require about 30-45 minutes of quiet time, but it does wonders! It also encourages reading without me pushing it.

6. Free Time

After quiet time, it’s time for free time. This sometimes includes swimming at Nana and Papa’s house or playing outside on the trampoline. While I encourage outdoor and imaginative play, this is their time and they are free to do whatever they like, within reason of course! We only allow video games on weekends, so for our family, this time is not to be used for video games.

7. Cool Down

During cool down, we pick up the house and get supper going. I usually will allow the kids to watch television at this point in the day, and everyone just rests and gets ready for dad to come home for the final round of play for the day.

Having a predictable summer routine—not necessarily a schedule—has done wonders for my family. Summer meltdowns are fewer and further between, and bickering, while not completely gone, is kept at a manageable level. What is your advice for surviving the summer months?

Ready for an enjoyable way of learning that gives you space for relaxed routines? Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

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10 Reasons Why I Homeschool All Summer Long

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10 Reasons Why I Homeschool All Summer Long

Summer is usually viewed as a time of freedom from school, where children can spend long, lazy days with nothing to do, but have fun and relax. So, then, why would anyone want to force their children to do schoolwork during that time? Here are some reasons we choose to keep homeschooling through the summer:

1. Summers Are Hot

We currently live the desert where Southern Texas meets Northern Mexico; it’s dry, dusty, and often above 110 degrees. Since living in the pool during the day would result in sunburn, and it’s too hot to do much else except sit around under the air conditioner during the hottest hours of the day, during the summer I have a captive audience for reading a great book or doing a few pages of math.

During the cooler hours in the morning and evening, my children can still do all the things children love in summer, but during the dangerously hot afternoon hours, school is a great way to keep them from getting bored.

2. Summer Affords Time for Catching Up and Getting Ahead

You know that feeling you get when the end of the year is coming up and you miscalculated how many days it would take to get your math book done? Or, you just seemed to get more and more behind in your Read-Alouds as the year progressed?

Here's a solution. Join with those who believe that not every book needs to be finished, and let it go.

Or try to finish up the book at the beginning of the next year before delving into the new book selections. Also, you can do a little tiny bit each day, over the summer, and catch up at a more relaxed pace, and then start the next book so you don’t have to worry about the same thing happening next year.

3. Studies Show Children Lose Skills Over Long Breaks

Many textbook authors know this, and will purposely schedule review from the previous year at the beginning of their textbooks. They know children need to relearn and review past skills before progressing. However, if your child has been practicing reading, writing, and math skills all summer, they haven’t had a chance to lose those skills, and are ready to delve into the new material without review. You just sidestepped summer slide!

4. School Schedules Are Set by People Who Have Never Met Me

The people who decide when school starts and stops at your local school don’t care when it’s best or more convenient for my family to do school. They pick dates based on arbitrary reasons, such as

  • when they would like to have off
  • what’s always been done
  • what’s most cost-effective

But I get to be the person who sets the schedule for my family, so I can take into account

  • when my vacation would be cheaper
  • when it’s more convenient for me to take breaks
  • what is going on in my life

There's no need to let strangers run the show when it comes to my homeschool schedule. You, too, can homeschool all summer long like I do.

5. Summer Schooling Frees Up Days Elsewhere

  1. Having a new baby halfway through the school year? No problem. You’ve already made up days during the summer.
  2. Grandma suddenly gets sick and you need to spend time helping her get better? That’s OK, you’ve got plenty of days already banked.
  3. Your child breaks a leg trying to do stunts on her bicycle? You can afford to take off a few days until the worst of the pain is over, and even have extra time for the extra doctor’s appointments she’ll be needing.  No need to stress.

And, most importantly, have you ever experienced that day in spring where you absolutely cannot keep your children's focus,because the weather is so beautiful that you all want to be outside? That's the perfect time to call a sun day (as opposed to a snow day) and head outdoors for fun. School will wait.

What about at Christmas time, when you need to decorate, make cookies, buy gifts, and do a million other small things, and school takes a backseat? Summer school days can easily fill in the gaps for the days you miss.

6. Getting Children Back Into Routine is Hard

Even a break as short as a week can mean bad behaviors and complaining increase. A long, 3-month break often means a lot of resistance and behavior issues until my children settle back into their routine. However, because we homeschool all summer long, I don't lose all of the hard work I put in during the year. Starting back goes more smoothly than it would otherwise.

7. You Can Choose How Much to Do

If doing a full day's worth of work sounds like more than you want to do during the summer, then choose what you would like to do. For example, many parents choose half days for summer schooling, whereas other parents feel half a math worksheet, a bit of journaling, and some reading is more than sufficient.

Sonlight offers great Summer Readers that are even more fun than their usual readers to fill those long hours. Many of these have become family favorites, such as The Terrible Two, Savvy, and Absolutely Truly.

8. Summer Schooling is a Chance to Add in Fun Extras

Sonlight recently released American History Lap Book kits perfect for my son who just finished History/Bible/Literature D. We can assemble the Lap Book over the summer, and get a great review of what we learned without doing a lot of formal studying. Sonlight has Lap Books available for 2 different levels, as well as a Hands-on Kit to go along with the content learned in HBL A.

You can also choose a few different electives, such as art, typing, or computer coding to do over the summer.  That's not to mention all those great activities and videos you found online but haven’t been able to get to yet.  By using summer to add in all those activities, you don’t have to feel guilty about not getting them done during the year when you meant to.

9. And All Those Books You Haven’t Gotten Around to

I recently discovered that Sonlight has now packaged all the books used exclusively in the 5-day programs into neat little bundles so you don’t have to try to figure out which books aren’t included in the 4-day programs. It’s now convenient and easy to order the missing books, and summer is a great time to add them in. They also have the extra readers bundled up, which make for great summer reading.

It’s a chance to finish all those books that were too much to squeeze into your year, and all the sequels you would love to read but haven’t had time for.

10. (My) Children Thrive with Structure

Our family likes to homeschool all summer long, but a lot of my friends and family prefer to do less because they have a lot of scheduled activities such as Vacation Bible School, summer camps, and summer classes. We work our schedules around those things, but I find if my children have nothing at all to do during the day, they tend to make more mischief and be slightly more destructive than they would otherwise. Children thrive on routine, so a modified routine during the summer helps to corral much of the chaos.

Doing nothing all summer long is great, and it works well for many families. Some of my friends can’t imagine giving up their long summers. However, other families like mine find that adding some school to their summer takes a lot of pressure off throughout the rest of the year and helps them to do more without a lot more effort.

To find out more about Sonlight's book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today. Remember, you can start and finish your school year anytime you want.

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Summer Schooling: 4 Solutions for Laid Back Learning

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Summer Schooling: 4 Solutions for Laid Back Learning

Sweet summertime. It’s a time of Popsicles and bare feet, sunshine and late nights. If you are like me, you love summer. For homeschoolers and public schoolers alike, it’s a great time to recharge your batteries and enjoy your kids without the added pressures of schoolwork and schedules. However, while we are just as excited as the kids to soak up some sunshine, many of us also are not willing to let three whole months go by without challenging the young minds of our growing children. So what are we to do?

Summer schooling is one of my favorite types of school. It’s just sneaky enough that my kids don’t even realize that we are doing “school” but it’s still prompting them to think and sparking curiosity. In the summer, I like to focus on four main areas: character & bible study, review, read-alouds, and interest driven learning.

1. Character & Bible Study for Summer Schooling

I firmly believe in never making Bible study a “school subject.” I would cringe if I thought my kids saw Bible Study in that light. Because of this perspective, we never stop reading the Bible, even on Christmas break, spring break, and summer. The Bible is a standing routine in our home.

Usually our summer Bible Study is a bit more informal though. This summer, I’ve personally been reading through the Psalms, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve been reading some of my favorites to my children. We’ve had great discussions on what they mean and how we can apply them in our lives.

In years past, I’ve spent summers also working heavily on heart issues. If I know that we have a particular character flaw that needs to be addressed, we use summer break to address it. For example, if my children need to work on respect, summertime provides the flexibility and time to discuss the issue, work through it together, and practice it thoroughly.

2. Review for Summer Schooling

Oh, yes! You know where I’m going with this, right? It’s that pesky subject from the school year that they just never quite grasped. Or maybe you just don’t want them to forget anything they learned this year. After all, you all worked hard to learn all that!

Now, you might be tempted to pull out the worksheets again, but I would caution against that technique. Instead, think of fun ways that you can practice those struggle spots without them really knowing that you are sneaking in some school time.

If they are struggling in Math, play card games or Monopoly! Pull out your Life of Fred stash that you had the best of intentions to use during the school year and read away! For language arts, watch fun grammar videos like Schoolhouse Rock. If they need work on writing, letter writing to pen pals or long-distance family members provides great summer writing  practice.

3. Reading Aloud for Summer Schooling

It never ends! Read-alouds are probably one of the things that my kids will remember most from their days at home. We read aloud constantly! Even my incoming seventh grader still loves for me to read to him, and I have no plans of stopping any time soon. Our summer read-alouds do have a different flavor however. In the summer, we generally focus on strictly fun read-alouds, and the best source for fun summer read-alouds is the Sonlight Summer Readers. I’m so excited about this year’s selection, but I’ve also been known to drool over past years’ collections too!

This year, loosen up for summertime and read some laugh-out-loud, truly hilarious, seriously silly stories or a great mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Oh yes, and it never hurts to add in some lemonade and a few blankets on the ground to make summer read-aloud time unforgettable.

4. Interest Driven Learning for Summer Schooling

At the beginning of the summer, I usually will sit down with each child and decide what we would really like to work on this summer. My four children are as different as night and day, so their responses include everything from working on my basketball layups to learning to type.

When a child has a true, intrinsic curiosity, summertime is the best time to explore it. Think about a block of time where you can schedule thirty minutes to an hour of time for your kids to explore whatever they would like. I like to call this The Genius Hour. The kids get a real kick out that!

If your child is a real science buff, it’s an ideal opportunity to go through a Sonlight Science course. You might also peruse through the Sonlight Electives in the catalog to pick out a few resources for your child’s Genius Hour project. Summer is perfect for learning a foreign language or trying out a small business such as lawn mowing. The possibilities are limitless!

Summer schooling doesn’t have to be a fun vacuum. On the contrary, I find that my kids enjoy the fact that many of their comfortable routines from school can continue through summer, only slightly modified and more relaxed.

To find out more about Sonlight's unmatched Read-Alouds, engaging electives, and our complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

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When Your Child Says "I Can't": Raising Kids Who Problem Solve

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When Your Child Says "I Can't": Raising Kids Who Problem Solve

His big blue eyes looked up at me, and he said, “I can’t read.” I had just asked my son why he didn’t want to read in his Sunday School class. He was so matter of fact that I was caught off guard.

I was surprised because he can read second grade level books with just a little help. We began teaching him to read when he was four, and he reads words with me as a part of his regular school work.

Why would he tell people he couldn’t read? I wanted to poke my head back into his class and tell his sweet teacher, “I am teaching this child to read! He can read, really!”

I am sure you have been there, too. But, like so many times in homeschooling, I have to remind myself this is about him and not me.

Instead of arguing with him or telling him that he can read, I listened. I asked him what he meant. He explained that he can’t pick up a book and read it like I do. He sweetly explained that he doesn’t know all of the words in class. Total mastery was his standard.

Here is a bright boy who thinks that he can’t read—even though he is reading—because he hasn’t mastered the skill in its entirety quite yet.

Place a High Value On Skill Building in the Face of "I Can't"

I pulled him up onto my lap and had a little talk. Using myself as an example, I explained that I'm always learning, researching, and growing in my understanding. I told him about the words I have to look up to see how they are pronounced or what they mean. We talked about the letter sounds and how we both are using them to unlock every little part of a word even when we don’t know it. As we talked, he began to see the ways that he does read. By the end of our talk he realized he was reading. He could read his words in his books.

I want my kids to be learners for life. So I reflect that in my own life. As parents we are always learning new skills whether by listening to podcasts or by reading. Is your personal book pile tall? Maybe you craft, write, or are learning to parent and teach your children better. Whatever skills you are honing, let your kids see that there is no end to the learning process. Let them see you learning.

In modern educational jargon, this perspective is called the growth mindset—the belief that our abilities aren't fixed but are dependent on our hard work and persistence. What a message of hope for a frustrated learner!

Skills Are the Tools for Problem Solvers

Here is the thing. We can get so busy checking off the boxes in the early years:

  • Does he know shapes and colors?
  • Do they know the letters and their sounds?
  • Can she write her name?

There is a rush to get it all done. My son eventually acquired all of these skills, yes. But in the process, I had forgotten to tell him the secret powers these skills unlock. These little letters can unlock any book. Knowing these few shapes could help him see the whole world in front of him in better context.

The world is made up of parts; each time we learn a new skill we understand those parts better. There yet there is still infinitely more to learn.

There was power in each of the tools I had given him, but I was so busy sticking tools in his hands, that I forgot what we were building. We are building a boy who can keep solving questions his whole life and one day a man who values learning for himself.

Listen For and React to I Can’t Statements

If you want to create problem solvers, do this. The next time your child says, “I can’t,” listen for what they are really saying. When you stop to listen to their frustration, you will begin to identify the skills they are missing. You can encourage your kids by showing them how much they have learned during the school year and identify where they can work to solve their problem.

What skill do they lack that is making the subject difficult, and how can you help them tune it up?

Breaking a huge subject like math into little skill sets has helped us to end the drone of I can’t. A small skill that is weak makes mastering a whole assignment difficult.

I experienced this with long division. My daughter wasn’t bad at math. After listening, I discovered she had a few gaps in memorizing the multiplication table which was making division slow and difficult. It didn’t take more than a few days before she hated long division. It could have become her I can’t. Instead, we broke down the steps in division to see what exact skills she was lacking. We narrowed it down to the math facts she did not know—those 7, 8 and 9 multiplication combos. We added visual aids by way of flash cards and took time to learn the facts she needed. Within a few weeks, she was back on track with long division.

Learning is the act of acquiring skills, little by little, over a lifetime. When you face a wall, or your child says "I can’t," break down the problem and look for skills that need to be strengthened. Encourage them that they can learn every skill they need to succeed. Share with you kids how you are doing it every day, too.

Curious to see what an education of skill building and problem solving might look like for your family? Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

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