Budgeting For Kids: Making It Easy

“Please, can I have it, Mommy?”

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have. Just a quick store run for milk and dog food, and bam! There, on an aisle we didn’t avoid fast enough is a shiny new rounder, filled to the brim with bug-eyed, neon-colored stuffed animals, just begging to be lovingly chosen by eager little hands and carried to the check-out line. My friend, from personal experience, I can confidently tell you that this is not the best moment to start a conversation with your 6-year-old about wants versus needs.

The fact is, we live in an instant gratification society. And to a 6-year-old, it may appear that you pick whatever items you want from the grocery store and swipe a magic card that allows you to take them all home. It may seem unfair that her request isn’t ranked the same as yours. I’m sure you’ve also dealt with questions like, “why can’t I spend all my Christmas and birthday money on this toy that I will play with 5 times and then forget all about?” Ok, maybe it wasn’t worded exactly that way, but you get my meaning.

Money and money management, are skills our kids need us to teach!

This is why we have to start this conversation early and have it often. There are many ways to teach money management skills, and you really can pick and choose what works best for your kiddos! From learning to recognize and identify different coin and bill values, all the way to learning the stock market, we’ve got you covered!

Some of our favorite books on the subject

Bunny Money (Max and Ruby) by Rosemary Wells for ages 3-5
Lily Learns about Wants and Needs by Lisa Bullard for ages 5-8
The Everything Kids’ Money Book: Earn it, save it, and watch it grow! by Jamie Kyle McGillian for ages 8-12
Finance 101 for Kids: Money Lessons Children Cannot Afford to Miss by Walter Andal fo ages 9-12

A fabulous resource for mom and dad is Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze

Games are a great way to reinforce newly acquired skills

Monopoly is a classic, and smart management of money and properties is a requirement for success! Another great option that’s not as well known is a game called Payday in which players are required to have a job and wait for payday at the end of the month. But to get there without going broke, they’ll have to be smart about their money. They can earn cash, find bargains, sell items for a profit, and be the player with the most cash in the end to win the game! Check out a huge list of our favorite educational board games here!

Extras from How to Homeschool for Free!

Learn how to teach kids the stock market by clicking right here!
If chores and allowance are part of your weekly activities, then definitely check out our resource for teaching life skills to help you with checking those to-do list boxes!

Additional Resources

123Homeschool4Me is offering this free, printable money booklet! Great for 1st and second graders, it helps them learn to identify coin values and includes fun money counting activities.
Check out this collection of 50 ideas to teach kids about money from Penny Pinchin Mom. These are effective and super easy to implement at home!
Money Confident Kids is a website with free lessons on everything from basic goal-setting to diversification. This is a fantastic resource, with comprehensive lessons that are easy to follow

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement and more great resources for your homeschooling journey!***

Create Your Own High School Transcript From Home

This question comes up a lot in homeschool circles and groups: what do I do about a high-school transcript? It seems official and formal and scary! But it doesn’t have to be. It’s super helpful to know what requirements your state has for graduation/ college entry, so definitely check out the Homeschool Requirements in Your State to get started.

There are several ways to produce homeschool transcripts for your student, including availability from various organizations and online planner services, but creating your own isn’t as scary as it sounds.

A transcript really only needs the following information

  1. a list of the high school courses that your child has taken,
  2. the grade earned for each course
  3. the credits earned for each course
  4. GPA’s: one for each year and a final, overall GPA
  5. a graduation date/ projected graduation date (for seniors who haven’t yet finished)
  6. Student and school information (student name, birthdate, and/or social security number; school name & address)
  7. your signature

Any additional information is optional (unnecessary) so there’s no need to clutter up a spreadsheet with extra-curricular accomplishments or awards. And their SAT/ACT scores are entered on the actual college application, so there’s no need to include them on the transcript. This is just the academic record. You want it to be as clean and uncluttered as possible. A quick search will pull up hundreds, even thousands of examples to follow.

Check out this incredibly informative post over and Annie and Everything, where she lays it all out for you.

You can download this free transcript template here!

Giving Credit

There are several different ways students may acquire credits. Your state’s requirements will guide you through determining how many credits your student needs in each subject., but oftentimes homeschool moms have questions about what constitutes one high school credit.

To help you make those determinations, here are some examples of how students may acquire credits via subjects or electives:
  • The completion of a high school level textbook
  • Completing a semester-long course at a college
  • Taking a high school or college level online course
  • Completing a year-long unit study (or 2-semester long unit studies)
  • Participate in homeschool sports teams
  • Take private lessons and participate in competitions (Martial Arts, Dance, Swim, Theater, etc.)

General high school credit guidelines are that a 1-year course = one credit; and a semester course = one half credit

What if the course type isn’t so clearly defined? Chess and swim teams don’t exactly measure accomplishments this way, right? In that case, as a general rule, you can calculate credits this way: 120-180 hours of work = one credit. 60-90 hours = one-half credit

Missing Credits

In general, students in a well-planned homeschool won’t be missing credits because the homeschool sets the requirements. As home educators, we are aware of the workload facing our students in their college years and we work diligently to prepare them for success.  That said, it’s wise to contact colleges your student is considering attending and ask them what requirements they look for students to complete.  Don’t be surprised if they expect all state requirements to be met.

The Perfect Transcript

Don’t be afraid to take the time to make a great first impression, but don’t fear the transcript process! You can do this! Ask veteran homeschool parents who have graduated a homeschool student to share a sample with you.

And when you’re all done, congratulate your student on a job well done. Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back a little either.

***Be sure to join our How To Homeschool For Free Support Group for daily encouragement and more great resources for your homeschooling journey!***

The Best Online Writing Curriculum for Struggling Writers

I’ve found that writing is an “all or nothing” subject, at least with my kids. They either love it and look for opportunities to do more, or they completely despise it and act like it’s torture to write more than a sentence. There is no middle ground.

We have loved out-of-the-house writing classes, and many homeschoolers supplement with online options. And these days there are quite a few of those options! Below are a few of the most highly recommended for kiddos struggling with writing.

Write Shop has curriculum grouped for all age levels. Complete curriculum runs up to $130, but they offer bulk discounts and have sales and better rates on individual books. There’s also a placement test so you know where to start.

With Outschool you can sign up for free and classes start for as low as $10. These are live, online classes that meet at scheduled times, multiple days a week. They offer standard writing courses per grade level, as well as short classes based on fun interests, like the Percy Jackson and Wings of Fire series. There are so many classes to choose from here, you can really take your pick!

Essentials In Writing has a writing curriculum available for purchase, as well as online classes. The online classes include college prep and a special course for struggling writers! They also offer a literature curriculum made to go hand in hand with the writing portion. Each is available individually to stream or as a DVD package. You can also bundle them for a better price.

IEW or Institute for Excellence in Writing is a higher cost than the options above, but the comprehensive curriculum is rich and immersive. This is an excellent tool for your homeschool arsenal.

Copy work is another great option for struggling writers. You can read all about the benefits and uses of copy work here!

For even more great options, check out these other fabulous, free writing and grammar resources, as well as this collection of free writing printables, and creative writing ideas and prompts.

 

 

 

Amazing Phonics Resources for Struggling Readers

We know reading is key for learning. But sometimes, for many reasons, reading is a struggle. Luckily, there are a wealth of resources available for all types of readers, whether they are struggling, or showing early aptitude. Below are a handful of those places to start looking for support, most of which are not specialized, meaning the programs or resources are for readers at any stage.

Books

Explode the Code Series is a workbook based phonics program, covering letter sounds and most phonograms. This series starts by laying a strong foundation and building from it, including “1/2” books that provide practice for the skills learned in the whole-level books.

Phonological Awareness and Primary Phonics  – Thomas Gunning. This book is a brief, practical guide for teachers who want or have to teach phonics. Ideal for teaching struggling readers, this book details Dr. Gunning’s system to build on what students know and teach them to analyze words independently.

Teach Your Kid to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner. The methods in this book are specifically for early reading skills and is not recommended for struggling readers

Reading Apps

Endless Reader is available for free in the App Store and in the Play Store. This app introduces sight words and the most commonly used words through interactive play with cute little Endless monsters.

Homer Learn and Grow is a subscription-based site with games that “deliver playful learning across subjects.”  You can choose the plan that best suits your needs, and they offer a 30-day free trial. There is also a free app available in the App Store and Google Play.

Additional Resources

All about reading has an app that teaches phonics and offers a free readiness checklist, reading assessments, as well as pre-reader resources. Kits are available for different reading levels and there are options to purchase an entire kit or individual items.

Reading Eggs subscription-based with a free trial and apps available, Reading Eggs is a great place to start. A monthly membership is $9.99 and an annual one will run you $69.99.

Communityreading.org is a collection of free resources with tools, tips, information, and support for struggling readers. This is a fantastic resource for dyslexic readers as well!

Progressivephonics.com is another site with completely free resources for new and struggling readers.

The Free Reading Program boasts an extensive library of resources for each grade level, all for free. Just create a free account and get started!

Red Apple Reading is specifically geared for Pre-K through Third grade, whether the readers are new or struggling. Your first month is free, and after that a subscription is $7.50 a month for the first child, and #2.5 for each additional child.

Children Learning Reading offers standard and deluxe packages to help beginner readers of all ages. They also offer a free trial and a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.

The Orton Gillingham Approach “is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals.” The website has a search function to locate a tutor, parent resources, and detailed information about the program.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement and more great resources for your homeschooling journey!***

The Benefits Of Copy Work And How To Make It Work For You!

Copywork is a much-loved aspect of the Charlotte Mason education. This understated and simple learning tool packs quite a punch when it comes to what it is capable of accomplishing for a child’s education.

For brand new writers, copywork starts with learning the letters and numbers. Once the basics are learned, children can move right into copying words, then on to short sentences, scripture, and poetry.

Copywork hones the mechanical skills of writing, without the pressure to produce original content.

Oral narration and reading are also used in the early years to develop compositional skills that will later be married with these mechanical skills, therefore, producing great writers.

It teaches grammar in a gentler format

Children assimilate a lot by copying great writing. Even college professors will assign lengthy pieces of copywork, so students might grasp the syntax of composition. Likewise, children learn the natural flow of language by copying literature’s masterpieces.

Another way to gently grow their knowledge of grammar is to point out a simple rule before they begin. For example, you might point out that the first letter of a sentence is always capitalized. As they do their daily copywork they will build their knowledge of grammar rules and will learn to apply it to their skill of writing.

Copywork builds a vibrant vocabulary

Charlotte Mason encouraged the use of good literature for copywork. By giving your students quality sentences, quotes, and poetry that contain rich vocabulary they will be continually enriched and challenged to broaden their use of various words.

It will grow spelling skills

Every time your student writes a word correctly, they are becoming better at spelling. Copywork is also a great foundation for transcribing, which teaches a child to see a word, close their eyes, picture the word in their mind, then spell the word aloud.

Exposure to Literary Geniuses and Gems

Copywork is a bridge that connects your child to great works of literature and the authors who created them.  It familiarizes them with great names, deep ideas, and the beauty of written words.

Builds the Habit of Attention

Short and concise assignments that are attainable build confidence in a subject. When kids can focus their whole attention on a simple task and then accomplish it, they get those all-important feelings of accomplishment and gratification. More than likely, those feelings will be catalysts for future interest in writing. Copywork is a simple task that can be done within 10-15 minutes and yields high results in the areas of handwriting, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and literacy.

You can find incredible copywork material just about anywhere!

  • Scripture
  • Nursery rhymes
  • Hymns and songs
  • Works of poetry
  • Classic literature
  • History books
  • Science books
  • Quotes from founders, leaders, scientists, and philosophers

The possibilities are endless! Here are some additional resources to get you started!

Scripture memorization

A little bit of everything: scripture, songs, poems, literature

Teachers Pay Teachers is a great, low-cost resources for copywork

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

Unit Studies Round-Up for Elementary

We love unit studies! I’ve found that they enable us to deep dive into individual interests, while also bringing the whole family together for discussion and sharing discoveries.

So, what is a unit study?

A Unit Study is normally focused on a specific topic and it pulls all the subjects (except math) from the topic. One topic normally doesn’t last the whole year and can be changed monthly, weekly, or daily. You can stay focused on the topic until you feel you’ve covered everything. The workload varies based on your children’s grade level and ability so it’s a natural way to keep the whole family learning together. And there’s much more than just reading and writing! You can make recipes, projects, or even go on field trips that pertain to your topic.

Check out our library of unit studies for elementary-aged kids!

Science and nature

Autumn Unit Study

Gardening Unit Study – great for younger ones

Weather Unit Study

Insect Unit Study

Winter Unit Study

 

History

Potato Famine Unit Study – upper elementary to middle school

Medevil History

Davy Crockett

 

Civics and Geography

US States

World Geography

Elections Unit Study

 

Literature

Chronicles of Narnia

Boxcar Children

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

5 Winter Unit Studies For Elementary

It may be cold and dreary outside but that doesn’t mean that your nature unit studies have to wait for Spring! There are some beautiful learning opportunities to be gleaned from these winter unit studies!

1. This winter nature unit study covers a little bit of everything, from wildlife to plant life, and suggests books, crafts, and documentaries to enrich your learning!

2. For the animal lovers in your house, this Arctic animal unit study for kids is a fantastic option! Learn about all kinds of different cold-climate animals, and all the inventive ways they brave their harsh environment.

3. Follow your arctic animal study with this hibernation unit study, deep-diving into why some animals hibernate and exploring the ones that do!

4. Here’s one all about snowflakes, where they come from, how they’re formed, why each is different. Included are book and craft ideas, fun for elementary ages.

5. This study on the Arctic and the Inuit is a beautiful exploration of Arctic wildlife,  Inuit history and culture, and is great for upper elementary ages or middle schoolers!

Looking for more great unit studies? Check out the full unit study library at How To Homeschool For Free for more great ideas.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

5 Easy Ways To Keep Kids Engaged

 

Give them breaks

Younger kids need time to “get their wiggles out.” 15-30 minutes of instruction time should be followed by some time to burn energy. Elementary kids really benefit from this too! Let them play outside, go for a quick walk with you, play an indoor game of hide-and-seek, or turn on some music and have a 15-minute dance party. Anything that gets them up and moving, can really help them focus when it’s time to get back to their lessons.

Work in some activities that they love

If it’s cold or rainy and playing outdoors isn’t an option, take some time instead to explore something your little one is interested in. If your 5-year-old is really into using scissors right now, or your 9-year-old loves legos, allow some semi-structured time for that in their day. This is especially helpful when immediately following a particularly taxing lesson or activity. It gives them a bit of a breather, as well as a quick confidence boost if the prior lesson was a struggle.

Reward systems

In the same vein as above, reward systems can be a homeschooler’s best friend. If you have a kiddo that would rather read all day than do math, double her reading time one day, or take her to the library on Fridays as a reward for a week’s worth of long division. If you’ve got a hands-on learner who has trouble sitting still, working towards a park day or children’s museum trip might be more helpful.

Visual learners might enjoy a rewards chart that allows them to easily keep track of their individual progress toward the goal of their choice. Grab a whiteboard and make a quick bar graph with their name, and let them color a block each day, or use stickers to track progress.

Check out this great hack for cleaning whiteboards, without the yucky chemicals!

Choose the right time of day

No one operates well when they are tired or hungry. Try to do the harder stuff when your child is well-rested and not hungry.

Also, tackle the activity when you can have minimal distractions. If you have more than one child, either have activities for the younger ones planned or work through the tougher stuff when the little ones are sleeping or doing something like independent playtime.

Choose appropriate activities

As with all things, this is all about balance! If the activity is too hard, they might get frustrated and not want to do it again. If it’s too easy, they can get bored and either balk at doing it at all or be done in 60 seconds. Sometimes you don’t know for sure what is appropriate for your child, which is why it’s always a good idea to have some back-up plans. Keep a stash of puzzles, books, and board games close by. They make great back-ups when your child finishes planned activities too quickly.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

Get the GUNK off! How to clean your dry erase board, without harsh chemicals!


We use our dry erase board ALL the time. When they are new, everything just wipes right off like a dream. Once they’ve seen a few semesters, they tend to get a little grimy. We’ve also had that phenomenon where a weird, un-erasable residue is left behind just after being cleaned with the smelly (definitely non-clean) cleaner.

But, there’s a solution! Literally! And it’s made with non-toxic ingredients that work like a charm!

DIY Dry Erase Board Cleaner Recipe 

What you’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Pour the alcohol into the spray bottle
  2. Add a capful of thieves cleaner
  3. Add 10-12 drops of orange essential oil
  4. Place lid on the bottle and shake well

How To Use:

  1. Shake well before using
  2. Spray the whiteboard. Let it sit and work its magic for about 5 minutes
  3. Wipe away with the microfiber cloth

I LOVE orange essential oil! It’s one of the most versatile oils, and I use it everywhere in my house, from the bathroom to my medicine cabinet. Curious about essential oils? You can read all about them here

Bonus Tip! 

You can use a fabric softener sheet to erase your whiteboard! We lose our erasers ALL the time, so this hack has come in handy plenty. I just send a kid to fetch a fabric softener sheet out of the dryer and, presto! They work way better than a tissue or paper towel.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

How To Start Homeschooling: 10 Things You NEED To Know!

Do you want to create a homeschooling environment that energizes and fulfils you and your children? Don’t have an education degree? Don’t worry. You don’t need one to teach your own children. You just need love, commitment, and perseverance.  I know that to a beginner, homeschooling can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be!  Here’s a quick guide to get you started!

1. See what your state requires for homeschooling.

Different states take very different stances on homeschooling: some are super lenient and some, well, some are less so. You’ll want to know exactly what is required before you get started. Check out Homeschool Requirements By State to learn what you need to know.

2. Learn what your Homeschooling Philosophy is.

I know, that sounds a little extra. But it’s not as grandiose as it seems. There are several different methods of homeschooling and it helps to know what best fits your family’s style. But don’t panic! You can always change what’s not working, because… homeschooling! Take this Homeschooling Philosophy Quiz to see what looks like the best fit for you. And once you know that, you can check out our Homeschool Philosophy Spotlight Series to learn more about some of the more prominent methods!

3. Take it slow.

While there are definitely times to be prudent and time efficient, it’s really best to take your time when you begin. Think about the ways your kids learn. For most families, this varies widely. Explore the different ways you can be most effective for their different learning styles. If you’re coming out of public school, it might be a good idea to decompress for a while. Take a few weeks, even months off until you feel everyone is ready to dig in. You may even feel the need to “deschool”  for a period of time, to break any old habits and provide a nice, clean slate for new ones.

4. Don’t try to replicate school at home.

One of the reasons many of us choose to homeschool is because our kids were struggling in school (or public school wasn’t meeting their needs). That’s why it’s so funny when we start homeschooling and we decide to replicate school at home. Homeschooling doesn’t quite mean school at home so there’s no need to model your homeschool after the school system. Trying to make your kids follow the same routine as they did in school isn’t always the best approach. The best thing to do is to create your own routines and schedules based on your family’s needs and your personal circumstances. Kids don’t need to sit on a desk to get their work done. They don’t need to do school for six or eight hours a day or follow a five-day schedule if that doesn’t work for your family. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. There’s no one “right” way to do things. Embrace that!

5. Keep your lessons and school day short.

Depending on the ages of your children (and their grades), a couple of hours a day is probably all you need to get all their school work done, especially before Junior High levels. I know this can feel weird at the beginning when you remember that they used to spend between seven to eight hours in school every day. But, don’t fall into the temptation of thinking you need to fill every hour with one activity or another, because this is the fastest way to burn out and take the fun out of homeschooling. When you keep your lessons short and focused, you should be able to cover everything that you need to do each day.

6. Have some kind of structure.

Yes, I know I just said you should ease into homeschooling and not replicate school at home, but you do need some kind of structure to your day if you want to accomplish anything. This is even more important if you are a work-at-home mom or have some other responsibility you need to take care of. Create some routines and schedules that will serve as some kind of road map, but you don’t need to live or die by them. Use them as a guide and tweak them when necessary.

7. Consistency is key.

Unfortunately, homeschooling doesn’t mean working only when everyone feels like it, or when your day is going well. Trust me, you’ll have lots of days when anything that can go wrong is going to go wrong, and homeschooling frees you to have recover from those days. Of course, too many of those and important things can get missed. Being rigid is not necessary (or encouraged) but learning to be disciplined and consistent will all but guarantee that you succeed at homeschooling.

8. Embrace learning for yourself!

Don’t forget to keep investing in personal growth and development. Find ways to keep improving. One of the easiest ways to learn is by reading books. Read homeschooling books, read your children’s history, literature and science books. Homeschooling is actually a good way for you to fill in some of the gaps in your own education. It’s really amazing to me how much I have learned since I started homeschooling, so make good use of this opportunity and continue to invest in your personal growth and education.

9. Get advice from the veterans.

When it comes to your kids, nobody knows better than you. That’s true when they’re little and can’t articulate when they’re sick. It’s true when they’re in the moody pre-teen or teen stage and just seem to be acting off. You can solve the puzzle because YOU know them best! It’s also true homeschooling! And while we all really do know that deep down, it can still be really helpful to hear that from veteran homeschoolers. Here is a collection of excellent Advice For First Time Homeschoolers to read before you get started. It’s a treasure trove of helpful advice!

10. Enjoy it!

Without a doubt, the most beautiful element of educating your children is the time you spend together. It affords flexibility and freedom to dive deep into things that really interest you. And it also gives you the reigns to be the boss of your own schedule and to mold little your little learners into critical thinkers. There will be days where you tackle your to-do list with a fury and check every box. There will also be days where everybody needs a recharge and you watch history and nature documentaries under a blanket. And, with some thoughtful discussion, those days are no less productive than the rest! You can go for walks, explore the yard, bake cookies, and take trips to interesting spots around town. Enjoy this priceless time with your kids by making memories because they are always learning and you are always teaching!

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

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