Why I Hate The Gap Year

Blog, She Wrote: Why I Hate the Gap Year

This post is entirely my opinion on the gap year for high school graduates. Praxis is one option for post high school. They are the sponsors of today’s post.

I’ll be honest. I hate the gap year. When I hear that a teen is choosing a gap year I think, “Oh is that what the kids are calling it now?” Back in the day we just called that going to work or not going to college. Gap year makes it sound like the graduate has a plan, but do they?

Why I Hate The Gap Year

There are a lot of reasons I dislike the idea of a gap.

  • I’ve met too many people who take the break and don’t pursue their future only to regret that decision later- mostly because it is harder to do when you have a family. Many wish they’d have put the time in when it was easier.
  • Living in a town with two prestigious colleges/universities gives me a unique perspective on the gap year. Local high school graduates who don’t have a plan struggle because we are surrounded by people who do have a plan- and they are living it out. Others who take the gap elsewhere and return are older and return home only to find their peer group is in graduate school- a place for the very focused. It is really hard to be the one without a plan in this town.
  • Often times, students enter their gap year without a real plan or at the most only a partial plan in place. If the purpose of the gap year is to explore and focus, then they must be intentional about it. An aimless gap year will not help students to reach their goals.

If a student wants to explore and get experience before going to college, then they must take active steps in figuring out how to do it. If the student has no strategy in learning and experiencing things related to their interests during the year then they will be no closer to finding a goal than they were at high school graduation.

Every Successful Gap Year Must Include a Solid Plan

For the student who needs the “gap”, there needs to be a concrete plan to reach concrete goals. Here are a few to consider, but there are many resources and ideas out there for a student to use in building their gap strategy.

  • Explore different careers based on interest
  • Set a reading goal and get started- by the end of the year plan to complete the goal. It can be related to interests and include the classics.
  • Find work related to your potential area of study
  • Volunteer with organizations which embody your values- learn all about the organization
  • Enroll in programming designed to teach you in a field of study

Praxis Provides a Plan for a Gap Year

Praxis is a part of the plan and places people where they will gain experience which will help them in concrete ways in the pursuit of their future.

  • Experience based entrepreneurial program
  • Applications are being accepted for next fall and winter sessions
  • Creates options for post high school education
  • Demonstrates choices for real life applications
  • Gives student real world practice with businesses
  • Builds experience for students

Visit Praxis on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and You Tube. A Real World Education gives you an idea of what Praxis is all about.

While I do hate the gap year, I know some of my children may choose to enter their post high school world differently. My husband was asked to take a gap year during his time at university so that he could sort out his priorities. I’ve spoken openly about my bright & occasionally motivated high schooler. My daughter has an entrepreneurial spirit and loves her fashion design. Any of these situations could easily give me pause to consider an alternate path to the future.

As we have turned a final corner into this school year, we are looking ahead at two high school students next year. We are actively helping them to seek their future even now and for a long time. We are preparing them for several options. All of them involve a plan- especially if they propose a gap year!

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Reading. It’s what every parent hopes for their children from a young age. It’s the primary educational goal for young students in school. In fact, even after children learn to read, schools concern themselves with how well they are reading- with leveled reading books and reading comprehension exercises designed to improve fluency and understanding. This post is all about how to build a reading culture in your home without a structured, prescribed method but by immersing your home in story and books.

As homeschoolers, we have a unique opportunity to engage our children in the world of reading and most families I know want to take advantage of it. How do you go about establishing a reading culture at home? Let’s take a look.

Blog, She Wrote: Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Build a Home Library

For certain, one of the best ways to make reading a priority is to make books a priority. Surround your children with a print rich environment from the start.

  • The book basket- When our 15yo was a baby, we had a basket of books in every room he hung out in his nursery, the living room, the car, and the kitchen.
  • The bedroom bookcase- Make sure your child’s room has books! We’ll talk about organizing books in a bit, but having them where your kids are is important.
  • Buy Books- The library is a wonderful resource, but nothing beats owning books.
  • Get books at Library Sales- This is my favorite way of getting new titles because there is so much available at low cost.
  • Growing Your Home Library without Breaking Your Budget- A post on how to get books the frugal way.

Choose The Books for Your Library

Once you decide to build the library, how do you know which books would make a good library? Lucky for us, there is no shortage of resources and information on the topic! Here are some of my favorites and links to other bloggers with their own ideas.

  • Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families- I love this book by Sarah Clarkson. She shares compelling reasons for making books a priority in your home. If you choose just one book to take away from this post, it’s this one!
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart- A classic book on using books with your children. I have one of the original editions and the newest edition which addresses screen time. You’ll find a nice anthology in this book to give you a hand with choosing titles.
  • Honey for a Teen’s Heart- Based on the same idea as the first title, this book focuses on books for older kids which is a much needed resource! I love this one because it shares how to communicate with teens using books. Imagine advice on enhancing the relationship you have with your teen based on shared books!
  • Charlotte Mason Series: Living Books- Cindy West tells all about “living books” and what to do with them. If you’ve never heard the term, living books are books written by one author who cares a lot about a topic. They make a much better read than text book type books which are edited by more than one person- less personal and more cursory on the topic.
  • Choosing Good Children’s Books- A look at how to go about discerning a good book for kids.
  • 50 Great Books for Young Readers- A lovely list of titles for elementary readers. I love a good list. Don’t you?
  • Emergent Readers to Super Readers- Wonder what books to put on the shelf for kids just leaving phonics and working on fluency? This is a must read!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Organize Your Home Library

Once you have a lot of books, you’ll need ways to organize your books as the collection grows. I’ve found a system which really works. What’s your preference?

  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library- Ideas for how to organize your books by topic. This is an older post, but we still organize books this way. Only we’ve added many titles since then!
  • Face the Covers Out- Find a way to face some of the covers out like they do in bookstores. I like to put books in a plastic shoe box so we can flip through them like papers. It saves bookshelf space too. The orientation of the books makes it easier for kids to see the books and choose to read them.
  • But Where Do We Keep the School Supplies?- A fun look at a homeschool library. I love the sheer volume of books from the basement up in this unschooler’s home!
  • Organizing Children’s Books- Another look at how you can organize books for young children.

 Set Up Your Book Environments

It’s important to have lots of areas with access to books. What does your home library look like?

  • Educating the Whole-Hearted Child- Sally Clarkson does such an outstanding job of explaining how your homeschool world could look. In it you’ll find suggestions from a veteran mom on how to encourage book reading at an early age. Trust me. This is inspirational!
  • Provide plenty of reading nooks and/or places where each child and go on their own to enjoy the book.
  • Help Your Child to Become a Confident Reader (and lover of books)- Great ideas on providing time for reading and a cozy reading environment
  • Homeschool Extras within Sight- Keep your books in your kids’ minds by setting them out on the mantle. Great tips on getting kids to notice books.
  • 10 Homeschool Centers- Include reading nooks. Love this tour of the Hodgepodge school by Tricia.

Blog, She Wrote: Library Shelf

Establish a Library Shelf

One of the best things I did for our homeschool library was to find a bookcase that I could use only for library books. Who among us doesn’t use an inordinate number of library books at any given time? Benefits of a library shelf:

  • One stop for all things library- easy to keep them there and have them returned there when a child is finished with a book
  • Easy access for exploring the books- when they are stuffed in the bag you bright them home in, they aren’t likely to be remembered or seen because they get forgotten about in there.
  • Makes a great way to find the books that need to be returned to the library- cuts down on (though doesn’t eliminate) the panic of finding a book on the due date as you try to scramble out the door!
  • The top makes a fun place for themed displays. (see link)

Read Aloud to Make Friends with Books

Reading aloud to your kids from a young age and long into their teenage years is a great way to make friends with books and to deepen and continue the relationship. It also soothes away the grumps and helps to refocus your kids on school. Need proof that it’s worth your time? Check out these posts and articles.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- This is a topic near and dear to Jim Trelease and in this book he compels the reader to make the time for a host of undeniable reasons. Included with this book is a thorough annotated bibliography for extra help in choosing the right books.
  • Trelease on Reading- If you want to hear more on how reading aloud affects the ability of kids to read, check out Jim Trelease’s website. You’ll find a lot of great information here. One of the things I love about Mr. Trelease is his unwavering opinion that reading aloud does take a lot of time and it’s worth all the time you can give it.
  • The Reading Promise- This is a book about Alice Ozma and the books she shared with her father. It’s mostly about their relationship and the commitment he made to reading aloud to her. Their “streak” lasted well over 3,000 days. I’d love to see more about the books they read than the interpersonal goings on, but with regard to the reading commitment it’s very inspiring.
  • Tips for Reading Aloud- Ideas for how to have a successful read aloud time with your kids.
  • List of Our Favorite Read Alouds- This is the Baker’s Dozen version of a Top Ten list. Which ones does your family enjoy the most?
  • Introduce Your Kids to a New Series or Book- Often if I have a child who is reluctant to read a new book or author, I will start reading it aloud until they are drawn into the story. Then they will voluntarily read it by themselves- and love it.
  • Handwork Ideas for Read Aloud Time- Fun ideas for keeping hands busy while you read aloud.

Blog, She Wrote: Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture

Engage in Activities Based on Books to Have More Relationships with Books

My kids have always been taken with stories and making activities to go with books has never been a problem- even from when they were tiny. Here are some links and tips:

  • Create more fun from a book they love- without using any books at all, I would make up activities based on what I noticed them enjoying the most out of a book. For example, my oldest loved the book Too Many Pumpkins. One page he would spend a lot of time on is the page with all the jack-o-lanterns lit and covering two pages. I made a felt set of pumpkins of different shapes and sizes with the face pieces for him to decorate. I especially made sure to make the letters for his favorite pumpkin which said, “Boo!”.
  • Five in a Row- in all its forms including Before FIAR, Beyond FIAR, and even Above & Beyond FIAR. From preschool to middle school, this curriculum will introduce your children to books and the many layers of learning you can experience with them.
  • Picture Book Activities- this book has less formal activities such as snacks, fingerplays, and crafts that go with picture books. It’s written for preschoolers.
  • Picture Book Art- This is a lovely book with art lessons in imitating children’s story book illustrators. These are easy to follow making the process enjoyable and the results fabulous!
  • The Gentle Ways of Reading- A lovely post about how to incorporate books and reading into every day life with your children.
  • Summer Reading Fun- Ways to enjoy books all summer long with activities and incentives
  • Literary Adventures- An Adventure Box them to take your kids on a literary voyage. If you want a way to immerse kids in a fun learning experience, check this one out.

Host a Book Club  & Other Ways to Involve Older Kids with Books

As your kids get older, you can try a lot of different ways to interact with books using more sophisticated conversation. Book clubs are a great way to read books you normally wouldn’t read and to try new foods and activities. Best of all, it gets middle and high schoolers talking about books and relating them to their own world. That’s a win!

  • The Kids’ Book Club Book- A nice volume all about planning & implementing a successful book club from tweens through teens. You’ll find out how to make the guest list, where to meet, how to invite, what to do and what to eat. There are also book suggestions with ideas for club meetings.
  • How to Host A Classics Book Club- Find out how to choose books and activities to go with classic book choices. Middle and High School students are often surprised at how enjoyable classic literature can be. One favorite idea is to watch the movie after reading the book and comparing the experiences.
  • 5 Reasons to Host A Book Club for Girls- We’ve been hosting a book club for girls since September and this post details all the benefits of girls enjoying a book together.
  • How to Start a Book Club for Kids- This post from World for Learning includes a free checklist to go through as you prepare for a book club. You’ll find lots of practical ideas on how to put a group together and what to do each time. Take a look at the bottom of the post where you’ll see activity guides for three classic literature pieces.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool Part 1

Use eReaders to Boost the Reading Habit

Book lovers are sometimes reluctant to embrace the eReader, but it’s been a lovely addition to our reading culture. Enjoy the following eReader resources:

  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool- This is part one of a post on using Kindles which focuses on the eReader format.
  • Quick Acquisition- One of my favorite reasons for using a Kindle is that you can have that book within a few seconds of browsing for it. This is great when you forget to plan ahead or you didn’t count on the one title you need. Sometimes a Kindle book is less than the cost of gas to get you over to the library!
  • Built in Dictionary- Kids don’t think it’s a big deal to look up a word they don’t know while they are reading. Works for adults too! Don’t get me wrong. I love a good print dictionary and everything you can do with it, but we often don’t bother to look things up and the ability to linger your touch on a word in the text and have the definition and other information appear is simply magical.
  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool (Part 2): The Kindle Fire- The Kindle Fire brings color and interactiveness to the book party. It allows you to view picture books. While this may seem crazy to some, it does open many possibilities for taking large numbers of books with you on vacation! I love the Kindle Fire for reading pdfs and non Kindle ebooks over the eReader.
  • Free Kindle Book Series- Judy at Contented at Home keeps a fantastic list of free books you can get by series for the Kindle. Follow along with Judy so you can get all her latest book from Amazon.
  • eReader Homeschooling on Pinterest- See my collection of eReader ideas for homeschooling and reading.

Surrounding your family with good books and reading them together is never wasted time. At this point in our homeschooling, we have grown four excellent readers- some reading earlier than others, but all going from just starting out, to emergent reader, to fluent reader, and finally to being a fully engaged voracious reader. Even my 8yo is a reading hound. His greatest love right now are computer manuals as he tries to learn new programming languages!

Enjoying books together has always been a part of our family culture and it pays off in big ways as your children become teens. Ethan, my 15yo is taking literature classes both at home and at our co-op. Reading and discussing books with your teens is a fun way to stay connected.

Invest in your homeschool library! Establish the reading culture early on and enjoy the benefits of learning together with books.

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing Ultimate Guides today. The topics are terrific so make sure and stop by to see all the resources waiting for you!


My Top 5 Vendors to Visit at Homeschool Convention

Blog, She Wrote: My Top 5 Vendors to Visit at Homeschool Convention

I’ve partnered with GHC this year to bring you news and information about convention.

Great Homeschool Convention is right around the corner! Here are my Top 5 places to stop in the vendor hall. Which vendors would you like to see in person?

Rainbow Resources- Always so much to see from many companies. I love going there just to hold and look through the resources. I can usually find something personal to take home to my kids as well.

One Year Adventure Novel- Mainly for a chance to meet the staff and say hello. Maybe they’ll have tshirts for my adventurers. Our kids use One Year Adventure Novel, Other Worlds, and Cover Story. We’re pretty big fans.

Blog, She Wrote: My Top 5 Vendors to Visit at Homeschool Convention

The Potter’s School- Because we are on the hunt for one outsourced class resource for our high schoolers during their junior year and I think The Potter’s School fits the bill. Update since I first drafted this post: We officially enrolled our first student. He took the placement test to enter two literature courses next year and he did well! Ethan will be taking World of Imagination: Fantasy Literature and WOI: Science Fiction Literature starting in September. Since our kids have varying interests, it’ll be nice to talk about the other program offerings for our future high school juniors.

Five in a Row- My long time homeschooling heroes will be in Ohio and I would love to meet them! Five in a Row has been our core curriculum for many years. Our kids have done Before, FIAR, Beyond FIAR, and even Above & Beyond is on the agenda. If you get a chance to sit in on a session with them, I highly recommend it!

iHomeschool Network- So I can meet up with all my blogging pals and say hi to Jimmie Lanley and Amy Stults! Speaking of which…

Bonus News! A Blogger Meet Up for SC and OH are being planned, if you are attending follow along with GHC on Facebook and Twitter for the details as they arrive.

We’re coming down to the wire. Convention season is upon us! Who are your favorite vendors at GHC?

My Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!

Today I’m eager to share the Top 5 Blog, She Wrote Pinterest Boards for Homeschooling Teens. Honestly, I love Pinterest and I’ve been creating new boards whenever I can classify content specifically for middle and high school. I only got to choose 5 for this post, but I have more boards for teens that I adore. Feel free to follow any of my boards. The more, the merrier! Are you ready for my favorites?

eReader Homeschooling

This board is a collecting place for all things Kindle related and beyond. You’ll find free book series, ways to use a Kindle in your homeschool, and plenty of content for your eReader. Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts related to eReader Homeschooling:

Homeschool High School

All things high school related are found on this board. I started out with just one highschool board, but I’m starting to add specific course names to my boards like chemistry, biology, and U.S. History.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts on Homeschooling High School:

Teaching with Technology

You’ll find ways to incorporate technology into your homeschool- whether it’s using Netflix or using an Arduino unit to program simple electronics. I’m not much for apps though we use a select few for a select purpose. I’m much more interested in our kids being makers and I try to focus on that as I collect ideas.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Technology Posts:

Project Based Homeschooling

The projects gathered here are ideas and reporting on student-driven projects. These aren’t units or parent directed projects, but the kind that come from a student’s own motivation and desire to learn.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Project Posts:

  • Steampunk Fashion & Design- The story of Rebecca’s history and fashion project for the year.
  • Workspace- One of the keys to successful projects is the space you devote to what your kids are doing. This post shares all of our project spaces.

Coaching Writers

This board showcases ideas and programs that allow us to mentor our writers at home. There’s a lot of good stuff out there!

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Coaching Writer’s Posts:

I love to spend time on Pinterest saving things for a day when I need a great idea. Sometimes it’s all you need to spark something you can really use. Do you use Pinterest?

Enjoy this Cream of the Crop iHN Pinterest Boards for Homeschoolers. Join other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network as we all share our favorite Pinterest Boards today.

iHN: Our Pintastic Pinboards

Coaching Writing with a Writer’s Workshop

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks so much for your support!

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve been hosting a writer’s workshop twice a month since September. I use the model for a workshop found in the book Workshops Work by Patricia Zaballos. I’ve shared a review over at Curriculum Choice, but I want to focus on how our workshop plays out each week.

Who Attends Our Writer’s Workshop?

  • Our workshop has 6-8 kids week to week ranging in age from 11-15 (and my 8yo jumps in sometimes).
  • I sent an invitation to the workshop to our entire homeschool group and we’ve had some kids come and go, but we’ve had a core group of writers since September. I wanted to be sure we had a diverse group of kids as much as possible and not just pick our friends.
  • One requirement I specified is that the kids be able to be in a somewhat unstructured setting for two hours.
  • Kids have to share their writing. If someone doesn’t like to share their work, then workshop is not a great environment for them. I don’t mind if they don’t share at first, but the idea is to give feedback and to enjoy writing for an audience.
  • Not everyone who attends loves to write! This is a big one because even the kids who don’t profess to love writing enjoy coming to workshop and they are often inspired by others to write.
  • We did have one special event in early November where I invited a local author to join us. The kids invited some of their friends and some of them stayed on with us. Anne Mazer was a real treat to see and I am so thankful she was able to encourage the kids and show us all what it’s like to be a published author.

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

What Happens at a Workshop?

  • I start the workshop with announcements- usually I share websites I’ve found that I think the kids will like related to writing and writers.
  • The students share their homework- yes they have homework. They beg me for it! I send them home with a second writing exploration to do during the interim and we share it first thing when we gather.
  • We share the piece we’ve prepared on our own
  • Writing Exploration- they get a short writing exercise during the workshop time and we share those.
  • Share Time- after the writing exploration we have more sharing time. Our group is small enough that sometimes we share all at once before doing the exploration. I split it up only if it looks like everyone could use a break.
  • Assign the Homework- this is an exercise they get to take home and bring back the next time. These are helpful if you have students who don’t always bring something of their own.

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

How Do You Handle Peer Feedback During the Workshop?

This is the tricky part everyone wonders about! How do I get the kids to engage with each other in a positive way? Many of your questions are answered in the book, Workshops Work. However, I’ll share a few things that have worked for us so far.

  • Teach them how to do it- I went over how we would go about the process and I modeled that behavior when we started and occasionally now to keep things moving.
  • Reminders- on the positive feedback we are looking for. We want writers to share each week so we aren’t looking for super critical reviews.
  • They are specific with feedback- they tell something they thought was interesting or a word they really liked. It’s fun to ask more questions and help the students to remember specific things in a story.
  • I have a poster- with language they can use or ideas on what to look for as a person reads just as a visual reminder. I pull it out when they need to see it again.

The feedback portion is so interesting to watch. The kids really listen for those golden sentences- the ones they want to hear again. And I’ve seen multiple chapters of the same stories show up because kids are encouraged to continue the tale.

We’ve been working together for six months and the group loves to hear what they will all read. They love it so much they can’t imagine taking a break for the summer! In fact, they were appalled I would even suggest it! How is that not a win?

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

What Happens If You Lack Confidence in Coaching Your Own Writers?

  • The first thing I’d say is the workshop doesn’t require a lot of editing. It does require thoughtful feedback.
  • Hands down the writer’s workshop is the best value for my effort as a mentor! It’s easy to implement and the kids grow to love it more and more each week.
  • As a facilitator, after the kids get to know one another and understand how workshop time goes, you get to say less and less. The students really drive the workshop time. They are delightful to hear!

However, if overall you do not feel equipped to take on coaching writers through high school, there are other options! That is the great news about homeschooling- we can tailor our students’ experiences to fit their needs and ours. One such offering is the Essay Rockstar by Fortuigence. We had the opportunity to participate in the program last spring and summer and Lily Iatridis, the instructor, mentors the students through an essay assignment using an online format.


Fortuigence offers families four Essay Rockstar Personal Essay

modules that teach various aspects of essay writing. You can pay for the entire course or you can take them a la carte. The personal essay is a great start and allows Lily Iatridis to personally coach your student at writing a personal essay. College applications always require a personal statement of some kind.


 Resources for Coaching Writers

Don’t forget to visit my post on resources for coaching writing. We have enjoyed using many of these during the workshop time. They are also what I pull from to assign homework to the workshop participants.

You might also enjoy my Pinterest board on Coaching Writers.

Whatever resources you choose, enjoy the process and remain consistent- whether you are the coach or you defer so you can be the assistant coach.