10 Best Practices for a Successful Homeschool Year

10 Best Practices for a Successful Homeschool year

As many of us are preparing to start (or have already started) a new school year, I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’ve learned over the last just about 11 years of homeschooling. No matter how old our children get or how long we’ve been homeschooling, these principles remain the same. They may play out differently depending on the ages of your kids, but the ideas are the same.

  1. Slow & Steady Wins the Race. Your kids don’t have to know everything today or even this year so refrain from turning on the fire hose of information. A corollary to this is don’t worry about keeping up with what public and private schools are doing- it’s a recipe for discontentment at best and disaster at the worst.
  2. Start Simple and Establish a Routine. A framework is great and allows you to get back on track if you derail (sick, fussy babies are super de-railers), but don’t be a slave to your routine. Your homeschool will begin to lack joy.
  3. Let Go of Traditional School Conventions. Some of them may be fine and work well for you, but so often I see parents trying to replicate the experience they know and understand well. We all come to the homeschooling table with a similar background in education. It’s ok to let those fall away and find the niche that you and your children will fill.
  4. Be Consistent. Whatever routine and program of study you choose, do it consistently. While we can leave behind the traditional school model, we still have the responsibility to educate our children.
  5. Choose your outside activities wisely.
    Remember, you don’t have to do everything out there that is available to homeschoolers. In fact, you need to do very little of it. Be sure to weigh the cost of the activity in the commodity of time. Is it worth it?
  6. Say no whenever possible. You’d be surprised at the discipline it takes to be home to school! Trust me when I tell you that your homeschool will be far richer the more you are home. When you are out too much, you settle into the mentality that when you are home you need to hit the basics. Instead, be home and be consistent so there is plenty of time for exploring together.
  7. Minimize Distractions. Whether it’s the phone (and by that I mean smart phone!), the other phone, knocks at the door, your email inbox, etc. Keep focused on what’s at hand. Do the same for your students.
  8. Collaborate. No matter how old your kids are and what grades they are in, choose a time during the day when you’ll come together. It takes work as they get older, but it’s worth the time.
  9. Make Books a Part of Your Day. Everyday. Whether you are reading to them or they are reading to you or simply reading on their own (including you!), books are always, always time well spent.
  10. Be a Yes Mom. When your child comes to you with a pill bug and says, “Can we keep it?” Say yes and see what happens! Don’t be afraid to step away from what you had planned to see what comes of the rabbit trail your child would like to investigate. There is a lot of power in those learning experiences if we aren’t afraid to say yes and enjoy the process.

Bonus Tip: Relax! And enjoy the privilege of homeschooling your children. You know what is best for your kids and you have the unique opportunity to meet them where they are and delight in it. Be confident! Have a great year!

More Posts on Routines at Blog, She Wrote

Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day– If any few of these happen on any given day in our homeschool, it’s a fabulous school day.

How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Homeschool Day– How we spend our homeschool days together and a little on how that has changed as our children have gotten older.


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LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

What homeschooling family wouldn’t want a LEGO Mindstorms Kit? Even if you aren’t hardcore into engineering and robotics, this set of materials can do a lot of really cool stuff. When families get serious about buying a kit, one of the questions we get is which one? The robotics kits are packaged and sold in two main ways- the retail home kit and the education kit sold through LEGO Education. Let’s learn more about these kits with LEGO® Mindstorms: Home Kit vs Education Kit.

Features of the LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

The home kit is available through both the LEGO.com site and places like Amazon. You won’t need to go through LEGO Education to get this kit. Here are some of the features of the home kit:

  • Comes with an infrared sensor- measure the distances of reflected objects and can read signals from the infrared beacon
  • Includes an infrared beacon or controller- think remote control
  • Color sensor- shines a light on a surface and measures the reflected light back to measure the color or brightness of a surface. It can also detect how much light is coming its way.
  • Touch sensor- a loose button that can be pushed. It helps the robot to move away from an obstacle or to perform certain tasks.
  • There is no ultrasonic sensor
  • Has some fun pieces which are purely for cool design purposes

Sensors are hooked up to the Mindstorm computer to perform tasks. The touch sensor can help a robot escape an obstacle while an ultrasonic sensor can help the robot to avoid an obstacle. The sensors allow the robot to interact with the world around it. Your student will do the programming so the sensors can maximize the robot’s abilities.

The cool thing about the infrared sensor and its beacon is that you can remotely control your robot. How is that not fun? The Education kit lacks this sensor and beacon because it’s not allowed in FIRST LEGO League competitions.

Benefits of the LEGO® Mindstorms Education Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

So, what does the education kit have that the home kit does not? Here’s a brief list we’ve come up with:

  • Ultrasonic sensor- sends out ultrasonic waves to bounce off objects
  • Gyroscope sensor- measures the robot’s rotational motion and changes its orientation
  • Turntable type gear- this is a large gear which anchors a part to another so that one can move and the other stays still
  • Large rubber tires for the robot
  • More parts- the education kit comes with a larger volume of technic pieces which are the pieces LEGO developed for more articulation among parts. There aren’t really bricks in these kits. Your kids have worked with Technic pieces if they’ve built things with moving parts.
  • Kit is limited by FLL rules- the base education kit doesn’t come with anything not allowed in FLL competition.

The Best LEGO® Mindstorms Kit for Your Homeschool

So, what is the verdict? Which kit is best for homeschoolers? Our vote is the home kit! Here are some reasons why we like this kit:

  • Availability of Books– most of the books you find on Amazon and other retail outlets are written for the home kit. Is that a big deal? It can be. Since the parts lists are not the same, you may find yourself without essential items for a build.
  • Price of Accompanying Resources– the books sold in the retail world are at a price point most families can afford. Especially if you are new to Mindstorms, you want to get resources to go with it that you can easily get through the library or bookstore which give you a head start on working the Mindstorms kit.
  • Education Curriculum– curriculum written for the education kit is much more expensive and it’s classroom oriented with its pieces and directions. You may find it’s not as easy to implement in a homeschool setting. Plus, the cost is prohibitive in many cases.

Our recommendation is to purchase the home kit and add pieces from the education kit as you need them or would want them. You can buy the sensors separately and you can even buy a parts kit from LEGO Education which is what we’ve done. This way, you get the best of both worlds and your base kit is one that will allow you to use books rather than a strict curriculum.

You want the the kit to work for your family for many years of discovery at any age. These kits are a fantastic investment and they grow with your kids well into high school.

Other LEGO Mindstorms Posts at Blog, She Wrote

Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

We get a lot of mileage out of our Mindstorms kits. We have an education NXT kit and an EV3 home kit. Plus, our kids are deeply involved with FIRST LEGO League which my husband coaches. We have a lot of experience with Mindstorms. Here are some other posts you might enjoy.

Resources for Teaching with LEGO Mindstorms– Books and websites devoted to working with the Mindstorms kits.

Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool– So, what’s the big deal? What can your family gain from using Mindstorms? Find out here!

FIRST LEGO League Science, Technology, & Teamwork– A look at an FLL competition team and some of the missions the team worked on that season.

Next up in the Mindstorm series will be lessons and ideas for using the kits in your homeschool. I’ll be sharing lessons about gears, using sensors, and even characterizing a robot. I hope you’ll join me!

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Back to School Geography Giveaway

Back to School Geography Giveaway

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s the time of year when we’re all thinking of a new year of homeschool. Are you ready? Maybe you have room for one more resource or two especially if it’s Geography! Read on to find out what we’re giving away and how you can win this Back to School Geography Giveaway. If you keep reading to the end, you’ll learn more about how we have used these resources in our homeschool.

Win Geography Curriculum from Bright Ideas Press

Many thanks to Bright Ideas Press for helping to sponsor this basket of goodies! The winner will find the following items in the basket:

  • North Star Geography– a one credit geography course for middle and high schoolers. Students will build a world atlas and learn about human, physical, and political geography. There are activities here for hands on kids and book loving students alike. The basket winner will receive a hardbound textbook copy of North Star Geography.
  • Wonder Maps– This is a one stop, all in one electronic atlas. Always up to date and maps are easy to access any time. You can customize maps and use the many features available to users. The winner will receive a CD.
  • Hands On Geography– Written by Maggie Hogan of Bright Ideas Press, this gem is full of fun ways to study geography with students of any age. Map missionary stories, your favorite sports team, or follow your family’s origins. The ideas are endless in this book!
  • Borderline– This is a fun little world geography card game where you have to play down cards to build a map based on what country borders others.

To win the basket, please participate with the Rafflecopter giveaway below. The giveaway will be open until Sunday, August 23, 2015. I will choose one winner and notify them. If you click subscribing to Blog, She Wrote below and/or leave a comment, please leave an email address so I can contact you! Good luck!

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More Giveaways

Today there are other bloggers with the iHN hosting giveaways today. Visit this page to see all the fabulous baskets! You can enter as many of the giveaways as you’d like. Have fun!


Geography Posts at Blog, She Wrote

What will you do with the geography goodies from Bright Ideas Press if you win them? Here’s a look at the fun we’ve had with these geography products.

Trail Planning Using Topographic Quadrangle Maps

Geography Quests– You’ll find 35 geography lessons using Wonder Maps and whatever reference you have on hand. You don’t want to miss these lessons which can be in depth or spur of the moment discovery times.

Teaching Geography with Earth Science– How we used North Star Geography with earth science. It was a great year with some easy ways to pair up our earth science course with our geography course.

Resources for Teaching Human Geography– Getting to know people groups and culture around the world and how we impact our geography is human geography. This post shares resources for teaching this area of geography and includes a special discount on a new game called Civitas which is all about forms of government.

Trail Planning Using Topographic Quadrangle Maps– Do your students know how to read and interpret a topographic map? This lesson teaches you how to use a USGS quadrangle map to make a new hiking trail.

Learning Geography with Atlases– Learn all about the different kinds of atlases and how and why to use them. This one includes a G+ Hangout with Tyler Hogan and I- we are atlas enthusiasts!


Geography bundle -- North Star Geography and WonderMaps

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