Nervous about Homeschooling? I was too. Here’s How I Made it Work.

DIY, homeschool, Motherhood, parenting

 

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As a full time laboratory scientist at night, homeschooling wasn’t something I planned to do. I have four children. My oldest is nine, Addalise just had a birthday and turned five, Aveley Kate is three, and Ashlynn Jaymes is one. I have homeschooled while breastfeeding, and while pregnant. It’s not only doable, it’s actually fun. In the midst of the craziness going on in the world right now, we are all trying to find a new normal. You may be thinking that homeschooling (or distance learning if this applies to your situation) is not something you can manage. Many parents have been forced to homeschool for at least some time period. So many mothers that I know personally have asked me homeschooling questions and I hope to answer a few of those here. Whether or not you choose to homeschool, as a full time working mom of four, I wish I had this information when I was trying to decide. You are not alone in struggling to decide what is best for your child. Education is so important. As parents, we want to give our children the resources they need. It’s a crazy time, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have options. It took me years to finally get the hang of everything and I couldn’t even imagine trying to make the decision that most parents are faced with right now on a whim.

A little backstory: I want to say first of all, that I have so much respect for teachers. Many of my friends are teachers and this is not intended to discredit their profession in any way, but to give a personal experience in hopes that my feedback with answer some questions. Alyssa went to a small private school for kindergarten and first grade. I only had two children at the time, but I remember missing Alyssa so much throughout the day. She had friends, I was a room mother for her class, and went on every field trip. I attended every party. Working night shift and still attending events is rough. Everyone assumes that since you are at home, you are available. Sometimes I was running on less than empty. From the beginning, Alyssa struggled in reading. She mentally couldn’t handle receiving a bad grade on a test because she was so hard on herself. I was like that in school too, so I get it. It broke my heart so see her so anxious when she was doing so well.

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At the time, I thought about homeschooling but I was worried about how she would get social interaction and taking her away from her friends. I registered her for another year (first grade) and she was still being taken out in the hall for tests because of “testing anxiety”.

The school she attended was great, so my decision was not about disliking the school. I just felt that she needed more one on one attention and a different learning environment. I decided that we would give homeschooling a try for one semester and if she was falling behind, I would look into other options.

What would my other children do during the day?

I have multiple children, so one concern was taking too much time away from them or the littles distracting Alyssa while she did school work. Of course screen time was an option, but I wanted to limit that as much as possible. For the most part, the younger girls are in the school room with me the entire day and it’s rarely an issue. I purchased many puzzles, games, pencils, art supplies, etc. from the dollar spot at Target. Sometimes I would have Alyssa read to them out loud, or I would pick a colorful science experiment that all four would enjoy and learn from for different reasons. When Alyssa was trying to learn the 50 states, she put together her states floor puzzle while Addalise and Aveley put together their ABC puzzle. When they were done, Ashlynn made her contribution by stomping all over both puzzles. There are so many subjects that can be relatable to multiple ages. For example, the months of the year song was something all four enjoyed. As Alyssa learned abbreviations in second grade, we started with days and months. Singing songs introduced them to the younger kids and even if they didn’t have a clue what we were singing at first, after awhile my three year old (then two) knew them all.

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What curriculum did I choose?

The school that Alyssa went to previously used Abeka, so that is what I chose for the first year. I purchased the parent and child kit which came with lesson plans for each day, text books, answer keys, and other resources. I tried to go strictly by their curriculum the first year and joined a group on facebook where I could ask questions when I had them. For second grade, I was alot more comfortable using multiple resources. Alyssa still struggled a little bit in reading so we no longer used Abeka readers (I still think their readers are great, we just had to do something different). When Alyssa started reading Magic Treehouse books, reading was a completely different ball game. She started to LOVE reading and now wants to read ALL the time. She just needed something that she was interested in, and honestly I get that. At first, I didn’t even think about switching it up because I was trying to go by the book. Homeschooling lesson number #1: Most days will not go as planned, ha.

I became familiar with her learning style and adjusted my teaching style to fit her needs.

I use printables from Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers, games, and we go outside alot. I used Abeka for tests. For writing, I found a list of prompts and also added my own. I printed a checklist to hang on our whiteboard, and sometimes I would answer the prompt with her to show her that I was taking part in her education. Amazon, Thriftbooks, Goodwill Bookstore, and even stores like Sams and Costco have great all in one books by grade. If I am super busy or just need another worksheet for a particular topic, I would pull from those.

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What if I don’t have time to homeschool?

I work full time at night so this was my biggest concern. I wanted Alyssa to have all the resources that she needed and some days I am so exhausted that I wouldn’t want me as a teacher, ha. What I discovered is that being able to plan out and occupy my time gave me so much more energy and time with my kids. I was present much more than before. It was so hard for me to come home from work, load up all the kids, get Alyssa to school on time, and come back home before. Now, I am able to sleep for a couple hours after work and reset before starting our school day. Most days, homeschooling takes us no longer than 3-4 hours and that’s including lunch breaks. When we have days we aren’t feeling well, we have the freedom to pick up and start the next day without falling far behind. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding every single day. As a mom who loves to read and write, homeschooling also encouraged me to pick up those hobbies again. There are also several resources that give me a few minutes to breathe throughout the day and allow Alyssa to be educated by someone other than me. ABC Mouse, Homer, SouthwesternAdvantage, Khan Academy, Crayola, and many others have amazing resources for children. Homeschooling also allowed us to plan trips around when I could take off work, rather than going off of the school schedule. That being said, it is a commitment. I do have to plan our days and patience is still something I’m working on.

How do I get everything done while making sure my child receives the education he or she deserves?

I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling was overwhelming for me at first. I tried to go into depth for each subject every day and it didn’t work for me or my child. I would get excited about a science project and become frustrated when we spent too long on a new math concept. I signed Alyssa up for art classes, violin, cooking classes, and all kinds of co op activities. There were days where we just couldn’t do it all, so I had to come up with a game plan. We utilize a loop schedule. Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.

Loop Schedule

  • Daily
    • Reading
    • Math Daily Work (10-15 minutes, new concepts are learned when we reach Math on the loop)
    • Violin
    • Bible
  • Monday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
  • Tuesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Language
    • Science
    • Art
  • Wednesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language
  • Thursday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Science
    • Art
    • Dance Class
  • Friday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language

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You can set up your schedule however you want. Doing this helped me from teaching science three days in a row and never getting around to a writing prompt. Obviously there are subjects that we do every day, but I just write out a list and mark where we stopped so the next day we start with the next subject. Some days we are able to go over all subjects, some days we can’t. We are now able to easily incorporate violin and dance and I have time to put the other girls in activities as well. Before quarantine, Alyssa would read during Addalise’s dance class. You find way to make it easier and fit into your life as you go.

What if my budget prevents me from providing the resources my child needs?

It won’t. Buying an all in one curriculum can get pricey but there are many options to make it less expensive. If there’s a Goodwill Bookstore, or something similar near you, I found so many readers, chapter book series and slightly used text books for $1-$5. Libraries have book sales all the time. Making your own flash cards will help your child remember a concept better and save money. Dollar Tree has so many fun posters, flash cards, coloring books, etc. I stock up on school supplies during sales and usually have enough for the next two school years. Being able to do school in your PJs also helps with four girls, ha. There are free printables, and I have paid for some on TeachersPayTeachers that were well worth it and budget friendly. I will also include some resources here as I’m planning our days/year.

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Any other tips?

It’s not possible to fit everything you need to know about homeschooling into one blog post and honestly, you will have to adjust to your child but it gets easier as you go. For me, purchasing a personal planner just for home life/homeschooling plans helped so much. While Alyssa was in second grade and Addalise was in preschool, I wrote out Alyssa’s lesson plans for each day with page numbers or referencing a work sheet by each day. I used a notepad for Addalise’s days and picked a concept for each week. For example, if we were learning the letter A, we sang songs, practiced handwriting, did worksheets, etc. I wrote a list of what we were working on that week and put together a folder for her. I kept a treasure box visible so that they could see what they were working towards. I used a sticker system in a file folder and they got stickers for a great test grade, following directions, etc. Each child had a different goal, but the sticker system was effective for each of them. My two year old was potty training, Alyssa was learning multiplication facts, and Addalise was perfecting writing her name. They all shared the common goal of getting a treasure from the treasure box. Sometimes I did simple treasures like a popsicle pass. Alyssa thought it was great when she was able to tell us she had a pass when we said no, ha. Others I purchased from Dollar Tree, on clearance, or ordered in bulk from Amazon. I tried to keep something new, even if it was small, because that’s part of the fun, right?

I hope that you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have about homeschooling, distance learning, struggling readers, etc. I will help in any way that I can. I can assure you that you are not alone. Feel free to follow along and let me know topics that you would like more information on! I also have homeschooling highlights on instagram. My handle there is @ashleeleighann.

-The Zombie Mom 

 

 

 

 

How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

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Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom

 

Dear Alyssa…Do you Really Have to Grow Up?

Motherhood

Dear Alyssa,

You like to remind me every day that it’s getting closer and closer to your 9th birthday. Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and you know that I find any excuse to throw a big party and have all our friends together. But then I reflect on the last year of your life, and it’s always bittersweet. Something about the fact that you are almost T E N is really not okay with me. I know this year hasn’t been the best, but to be honest you probably think that it has. I hope you never lose that light you have to offer the world. You really are something special.

You’re a dreamer. You get that from me. I hope that you never waste time viewing that as a flaw or trying to fit in.

Thank you for telling me it was okay so many times when it really wasn’t. Thank you for seeing the positive in every situation and finding the beauty in this ugly world. I am so proud of you for fighting through your fears. You handled all the struggles of this year with grace, sometimes much better than I could as an adult. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that you look back at this time and know that everything I did was to protect you.

You’re such a cool kid. I’m not even saying that because you’re my kid. The fact that you still want me to pick you up, spin you around, and “squish” you at almost nine years old makes my mama heart so happy. Your Pokémon pajamas, desire to learn everything possible about sharks, and your independence make me so proud to be your mom.

You know that dance parties require 90s music, that the only way to cure a broken heart is by eating a Snickers ice cream bar, and sprinkling glitter everywhere is just a part of life.

I know it won’t be like this forever. This past year you have learned to play violin, found a love for reading, and gave the best dang soldier performance during the Nutcracker that I’ve ever witnessed. You are so intentional with everything that you do, and sometimes I really do love you so much that it hurts.

You find the best in people, even when they really don’t deserve it. It used to worry me, but after this past year I’ve realized that the world needs more people like you.

Sometimes people need just a little bit of your magic. I know that your smile, despite the worst of odds, made me commit to becoming the best version of myself. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not okay in any sense of the word, but you made me so proud to be your mom by showing everyone what you are made of. Never stop standing up for what is right. You are your only limit, baby girl. I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to because I’ve watched you do it. I watched you pick up your violin and play when all you wanted to do was hide under your blanket.

I want you to know that I support you. I love hearing all your dreams and no matter how exhausted I am, your energy gives me life. You love to create, and I am so blessed to call you mine.

So many people have told me that kids are resilient, like you can just move on and forget about the trauma you’ve been through. They’re right in a way. You have shown so much strength. But you also have the biggest heart, and you understand things that an eight year old should have no clue about. Sometimes you’re the only adult conversation I have all day. You’re an empath, like me. I want you to know that it’s not easy for me to leave home at night when I know you need me there to feel safe. But I get to spend my days watching you grow.

There have been so many positives this year. You had your first dance recital, you played basketball and had nerf wars. You went to Mexico and swam out in the middle of the ocean and slid down a slide into the water. You jumped off cliffs into the lake. You drove your scooter to your friend’s house all by yourself. You learned your multiplication facts and read your first chapter books.

I won’t ever be ready to see another year go, but I am always up for a new adventure.

Love you allllllll the way to the moon and back,

-The Zombie Mom