How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day

Blog, She Wrote: How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s just about time for a new homeschool academic year. In fact, as you are reading this, we are beginning with our first day back. We like to have a slow start to our full load, so we begin a week before public school convenes. Over the years our homeschool “schedule” has changed quite a lot. How do we work in all of the academic and project work for multiple ages in our homeschool? Here are some thoughts on How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day.

How Our Homeschool Routine Has Evolved

When our children were all younger and working on basic skills, we sat down together and worked at our table. We would begin our day with our unit study, working together, and move toward independent work based on their skill level. Some years we did the opposite. We began with individual skills and moved to unit study work.

Now that our children are older, there is a lot more independent work in our homeschool days. Along with more skills, comes more independence and these days you can find our students engaged throughout the day in various aspects of their own work.

As your students change and grow, so will your homeschool routine.

Instructional Time During Our Day

There are still moments in our day when I am involved in direct instruction- either for my 5th grader or for some elements of our middle and high schooler’s courses. Here are a few examples:

  • High School Science– Our high schoolers read the text on their own and do their assignments. If they are confused by a concept, they search out answers on their own from the text or online videos before seeking me out. The idea is not to spoon feed their instruction, but to encourage them to find their own answers and then discuss the concept with us.
  • Math– As you may know, we use Life of Fred in our homeschool. The books are written to the student, but depending on the age of our kids I may sit with them and hear them read the chapter to me before answering this questions at the end. If there is trouble with a concept, then I will also step in to clear up misunderstandings.
  • Writing– Using a Writing Conference format and I am often working with a student coaching writing.

Using Writing Conferences to Coach Writing

Learning Together During Our Homeschool Day

Of course, being a unit study family for many years and still today, we love to learn together with all ages. We come together on a few things whenever we can:

  • Fred Math– With all of our students immersed in Fred’s world, there is always something to discuss about Fred at the dinner table. We can engage about Fred any time, but often he comes up at dinner where our kids share what they’ve been working on.
  • Geography– We are using NorthStar Geography again this year and while our two high schoolers will earn a credit, our younger boys will join in when they can.
  • Read Aloud Time– We love to hear stories together. Often times I have my teens read to us and my 11th grader loves to read to me! Reading aloud is a great way to begin your homeschool day and to get started and focused again after lunch. The benefits of building this time into your schedule are numerous.
  • Paired Subjects– Some of our kids will be pairing up for parts of their day for Biology and Ancient Studies this year.
  • Current Events– We can have a discussion at various appropriate levels on the news of the day. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage your kids with what’s going on in the world.

I’m excited to see how the kids will collaborate with one another this year.

How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool

Leaving Time for Discussion in Your Homeschool Day

Not only do your students need direct instruction when they are younger, you’ll find they need lots of discussion time as they get older. Your discussions can be on many topics and take many forms, but here are a few examples from our homeschool.

  • Discuss Academic Topics– anything from the book they are reading to thoughts on a historical moment.
  • Talk about Books– Book discussions are an excellent way to increase communication with your teens! If you want an easy way to talk with your students, discuss books together. That means you need to read them too!
  • Mentoring– Guiding our students as they get older and no longer need our direct instruction all of the time.
  • Consulting– I’m always available to our kids as they work on their projects. They can consult with me on how things are going and I can encourage them in their work. This is part of keeping the work going and moving in a forward direction!

As your children grow, you’ll find they need a teacher less and a mentor more. I’ve written a chapter on this topic for The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas. If you purchase a copy, you’ll find a host of tips on how to make the transition from a teacher to a mentor.

Project Time as Part of a Homeschool Day

No homeschool day is complete at our house without project time. Each of our students has a Project Workspace where they can leave out their work and spend a lot of time working and researching. Project time might include things like:

  • Following a tutorial
  • Learning a new computer programming language by reading and testing it
  • Designing a new model rocket or custom mini-fig
  • Pinning a new insect
  • Drafting a fashion design
  • Reading & Researching on a topic
  • Building a machine like a catapult
  • Testing a hypothesis
  • Writing to add to stories and novels
  • Attending seminars and workshops related to an area of study
  • Collaborating with each other on progress

All of these are born out of their interest in a topic & represent the amount of time we’ve poured into these interests. Much of our homeschool day is wrapped up in project time. This is the time when I get to be a mentor and consultant and listen and encourage their efforts.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day

Allow Room for Making Adjustments to Your Homeschool Day

For all of these ideas that work well, we’ve tried some which haven’t worked so well. You might find that a student you thought could work well independently doesn’t. Working with a more flexible routine is a double-edged sword. What makes it so appealing is also the thing that can go the most wrong!

Working consistently and experiencing forward progress in their endeavors is key. If you aren’t seeing it in your homeschool, then perhaps it is time for an adjustment. It could be a small adjustment to the schedule or it could mean rethinking your approach to the schedule all together.

How do we gauge if our routine is working? That’s a question easily answered with some links below. There’s a list of the ten things that make a great homeschool day. What makes your homeschool day feel successful? Do you regularly experience those things? If not, it could be time for a schedule adjustment or it could mean that it’s time to adjust expectations to meet your stage of parenting and homeschooling.

More Routine Related Posts at Blog, She Wrote

How to Make the Most of Your Read Aloud Time

Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day– If even a few of these Ten Things happen on any given day in our homeschool.

The Snake Project– An example of a project our then 8th grade daughter engaged in for science.

How to Engage Your Teen with Books– Discussion with teens is a major part of our schooling at this stage. This post gives ideas for working with high schoolers and books.

How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool– A post all about how we incorporate news of the day into our homeschool with all ages.

Using Writing Conferences to Coach Writing– This is a nuts and bolts post about how we approach writing with any age in our home.

How to Make the Most of Your Read Aloud Time– Need ideas or want to get started? Here are some great ways to incorporate this into your day.




facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather

Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning EnvironmentIt’s time to share our learning spaces with everyone! We’ve been homeschooling for ten and a half years and our learning environment has changed a lot over that time. When Ethan, our 12th grader, first started homeschooling half way through first grade, we had just one small table in our living room and a bookshelf for his school things. As we added more children to the official homeschool roster, we added books, larger tables and we dedicated part of our playroom to homeschooling. Two years ago,when we began looking for a new home, we knew we were looking for some place special. It had to have space for our learning materials, our homeschool library, and our project spaces.

Essential Elements for Our Home Learning Environment

school 10-1

Our focus is not to recreate a school classroom in our home. However, with four kids immersed in learning throughout the day, it’s hard to miss that we homeschool. Here are a few “must haves” for our learning spaces.

  • Bookshelves for our homeschool library– while we do use the public library extensively, it’s important to have a variety of print material in our home. Bookshelves are essential.
  • Media Area– for the computers the kids use for school and projects. We keep them in the media room.
  • Slate Chalkboard– I adore slate and we had a smaller chalkboard in our last house, but this lovely piece of slate is a recent addition to our home learning environment and as you can see it has seen a lot of use in the few weeks it’s been up. We do a lot of math on the slate!
  • White Boards–  I often use it for explaining things along with a chalkboard. Or to write down assignments and reminders for the day. And sometimes the kids work problems and their own explanations on the board. I keep portable white boards on hand too for working math problems and playing games.
  • Large Table– for school work and projects. Though the kids can go to any area to do their work, they often work there together. We put it right in the large window so there would be plenty of natural light.
  • Storage Cabinet– or closet for homeschool materials that are not books. We have one large wooden cabinet which was a very special gift from specials friends and we have bookcases in our basement which hold everything else.
  • Project  Work Space– We wanted to provide a place where each of our kids could work on their own and plan and work on projects. This is an essential for us because a place for diving into and leaving out their work is important.

Using Walls for a Homeschool Learning Environment

school 9

While it would be homier to not use posters and maps on our walls, the extra immersion is great for growing minds! The only thing I’d change? I’d put wooden frames around each one if I could!

  • Maps– both US and World. I’d love a large physical map of the world too. We have a laminated set I bought at Staples many years ago.
  • Periodic Table of the Elements– I went for the one that has pictures of the actual element by Theodore Grey.
  • Calendar– a regular wall calendar is all you need, but I was compelled to buy a pocket calendar. I do not have calendar time! Conversation about the calendar has successfully taught all of my children the nuances of the calendar year. However, I keep a large calendar there for reference.
  • Bulletin Board– for student work and other displays
  • White Board/Chalkboard– previously mentioned.
  • Student Work– on display this could be work hard earned, work done well, and art work. Love to display art work.

Homeschool Technology

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment


We make ample use of technology in our homeschool. Here are a some examples:

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a KindleManaging the Internet in Your Home

How do you handle internet access in your home? This important question is surely a part of a homeschool learning environment. Dan wrote a series of blog posts on Internet Filtering & Access Control. He answers questions like:

  • How do you control when your kids are on the internet with your router?
  • How do you filter content once they are there?
  • Using OpenDNS as your content filter

Blog, She Wrote: Managing the Internet in Your HomeTips on Using a Homeschool Library

We have books in almost every room of our home. Here are a few tips on handling homeschool books and making sure they get noticed and read:

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environement

  • Rotate books– especially if you don’t have room for all the books to be out or on a shelf
  • Reference Books– should be easy to find and use. We have a magazine rack that is our reference shelf.
  • Library Shelf– to shelve books we have borrowed from the library.
  • Display Area– this is the top of the library shelf for us, but I use it to put out books I want the kids to notice and leaving the book open is very inviting!
  • Coffee Table– is a great place to leave books you want kids to notice. Both the coffee table and the display area never fail to promote interest in a book. Try it!
  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library– Helpful tips on storing and using books in your home library. You don’t want to miss this!
  • Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have– What’s in your home library?
  • The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– Ideas for how to make your home encouraging to readers regardless of age!

Other Learning Environment Links from Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Take a look at these other posts on our learning spaces– they are all still in use today.

  • Our Supply Cabinet– this is where we store our paper and art supplies for school. This post gives a list of what we have on hand in there.
  • Learning Spaces Full Tour– from last 2012. Things look nearly the same though we’ve upgraded some bookshelves and added more books!
  • Displaying Art– a post on how we use student work all over our home.

Thank you for joining us today at Blog, She Wrote for a look at our learning environment. Please sign up to receive updates in your inbox so you don’t miss the rest of the Not-Back-to-School Hop and Geography Quests here at Blog, She Wrote!



facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather

Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Here we are in September. Where did the summer go? If you are like me, you are just beginning a new homeschool year. We’ve looked at curriculum and learning spaces. We’ve visited routines and students in August. How about a look at supplies? The tools of the trade? Today is all about our Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool. This is a look at what we keep on hand to keep the working in progress.

Must Have Basic Homeschool Supplies

Do you have a favorite brand of pencil? Do you keep them common or does each student have their own?

  • Ticonderoga Pencils– I like American by Papermate as well, but the Ticonderoga cause the least angst among teachers and parents.
  • Mechanical Pencils– We have a large stash of the disposable Bic and Papermate brands.
  • Three Prong Folders– I like to keep a large stock of these for special notebooking projects and other time my kids want to bind their work. Cheap and easy to store, these are a long time favorite in our homeschool.
  • Pens– Half of our children are in high school. It’s time to use pens! Just the plain barrel sort from Papermate are what I have, but I like Bic as well. Oddly, I’m not as brand loyal on pens as other things in my life. (Coke is IT, friends)
  • Erasers– The white Staedtler brand are the best and this year we added pencil topper erasers made from the same polymer.
  • Scissors– The pointed Fiskar student scissors hold up really well. Rebecca upgraded to a larger pair of paper scissors this year and she loves them.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Paper Products for our Homeschool

Every homeschool needs paper. I like to buy mine from Staples. The writing paper is the smoothest around and they carry poster size in “bulk”.

  • Spiral Notebooks– both college and wide ruled. We use them mainly for Life of Fred math, but one never knows when it’s time to start planning the next project and a spiral notebook is the place to begin! I like the smooth writing surface on the Staples brand notebooks.
  • Loose Leaf Paper– We have stacks and stacks of the Staples brand. I stocked up last year during back to school time.
  • Engineering Paper– Ethan uses this for his math. He’s used it for years and I think Calculus is going to look pretty good on it this year! He’ll be the only writer around well versed in the use of engineering paper.
  • Poster Board– Plain white poster board is great for presentations and anything else you want on large sized card stock paper.
  • Butcher Paper– We’ve had a roll of butcher paper since our nearly 16yo was a toddler. Great for projects of all kinds, you cannot go wrong with this.
  • Watercolor Paper– Rebecca insisted I add this one to the list. It is essential for her projects.
  • Drawing Paper– I like a 50lb weight in this and the butcher paper just so it can handle wet and dry media.
  • Card Stock– plain white and colored are used all the time here.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Adhesives for a Project Based Homeschool

From time to time we need to stick things together. The right adhesive for the job depends on the job! You’ll always find these in our cabinet:

  • Glue Sticks– a perennial favorite of most households, these cut down on the mess. You have to apply plenty or things will come apart and though it’s fun to be prepared, these will dry up. So go easy on the purchasing in bulk!
  • Clear Glue– We use this in craft projects and Rebecca uses it in her flower pressing activities.
  • Glitter Glue– Every now and then it’s fun to have some bling when you stick things together. I like to use this as a glaze on the top for a hint of sparkle.
  • Double Sided Tape– Other than the cost, double sided tape is far superior to glue sticks. This is probably why our glue sticks last so long now.
  • Craft Glue– Stronger than most glues, you can hold items together longer, but it takes time to dry
  • Glue Gun– Rebecca is fond of her low temp glue gun. Even the dollar store variety will do. Just don’t forget to unplug it! The advantage of a glue gun is the instant hold. Can’t beat it!
  • Rubber Cement– This is an oldie but goodie. The hold is quick and there is little mess or bubbling.
  • ModPodge– Who doesn’t love this stuff? We often like to use this glaze on our finished projects for an extra layer and finished look.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Planning Tools for Our Homeschool

Many people have a favorite planning tool. Most folks fall into the category of having found the perfect planner or they are constantly on the search for one. Several years ago, I stopped chasing planners and I started using a plain paper notebook. The first year it was a plain store bought spiral. After that, I made my own using my favorite notebook paper and a Pro Click Binder.

  • Spiral Planner– Made by binding loose leaf paper with my ProClick Binder. In the front I have the Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each student. I’m required to prepare one for NY State and it makes sense to remember our goals along the way. The open format of the blank notebook page makes it easy to jot notes and other information. I don’t have to worry about using too much space on any one day. It’s freeing!
  • Student Planners– Or, if you prefer, student assignment books. I’ve tried several formats for these as well including electronic ones. After being there and back again, I’m sticking with a hand written list. The time for maintenance on the online planners (and I’ve tried them all) is too great for me. I need to spend that time on working with my students.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a Kindle

Must Have Technology in Our Homeschool

It goes without saying that we take advantage of technology in our homeschool. Your list of “must haves” here may be different than ours, but these are items we make regular use of.

  • Printer– Now that our kids are older, we don’t actually use the printer as much as we did when we were printing handwriting practice and other notebooking doodads. However, we still use it frequently. Our current model is the Canon MX922.
  • Desktop Computers– Highly recommended still if you have a lot of people sharing a computer. If you only have one, make it one that will stand up to many users.
  • Laptops– We have two that the kids use which are older models and have a limited life expectancy. Multiple machines are important when you have four kids using them to write papers and do research. To be sure, we have a lot of books, but finding relevant information can be just a few clicks away using the internet.
  • LEGO Mindstorms– We are having trouble with our NXT brick, so we may have to upgrade to the EV3 but we remain hopeful that Dan can Frankestein several of the ones we have into one working brick. We use these for programming and engineering work.
  • Kindles– Both the eReader and tablet models. These are invaluable to our homeschool days. Click on the picture below to learn all the ways we make use of these during our school days.

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Must Have Storage for Homeschool Project Supplies

So, where does all this stuff go? We have a variety of places where we keep our many supplies.

  • Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment– This is the perfect post to tell you where you’d find all these items in our homeschool.
  • School Cabinet {Supply Central}– A look inside our early American cabinet. The perfect home for many of these supplies.
  • Project Workspace– Each of our kids has his/her own project space and they keep supplies on hand their for the work they are doing. Some of the work requires more than just these basics sorts of supplies, but we keep everything available so it’s easy to work with when it’s time.

While these are many of the items we keep on hand for general school and project time, it does not include art supplies. Even before we knew for sure we had an artist in residence, we had a lot of art supplies. I think these deserve their own post.

What are your favorite supplies for homeschooling?

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather