New to Homeschooling? Here’s How I set Up My Year

Homeschooling for my daughter and I began only two months ago, and has been going amazing thus far. I believe the journey has been successful because of three major things: it being the path God created for us, support and planning! As I stated in my previous posts about homeschooling, Homeschooling: The Best Choice for Us and How To Get Started With Homeschooling, it has turned out to be the best choice for my family, and we also receive tons of support which makes our journey absolutely beautiful. However, had I not done the proper research and prepared like I needed to, I would probably be in the corner crying somewhere and feeling like I’d failed my daughter. When you’re new to homeschooling, there is so much to learn as the parent/teacher, and it’s a huge adjustment for the child(ren). I’ve set high standards for myself, and have failed to meet some of my expectations in many ways, but I’ve also exceeded the others in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I mentioned in “How To Get Started With Homeschooling” that it is great to connect with other homeschooling parents in order to get helpful insight on some of the methods of homeschooling that worked for them. One of my huge questions for other homeschooling moms was, “what does setting up the school year for your child even look like?” Where does one start?! The most neutral answer I received for choosing your first steps was, pull out a calendar and search for a curriculum. So I pulled out my general calendar (with all of the holidays), notepad (this allows for ideas to be written and edited freely), lesson planner (for when you’re ready to plan your subjects in detail) and laptop (pull everything together). If you don’t wish to purchase a personal or lesson planner, there are helpful apps out there that provide calendar and lesson plan templates.  I also received a helpful tip from a friend and printed out the calendar for the public schools in my state in order to see what their breaks were like. Once you have those items, you can then proceed with planning your school year!

Choose what your first and last days of school will be. Lawfully, there has to be 180 days of school. The public school calendar assisted me with this step. I looked over when the state would take their holiday breaks, when they would have professional development, half days and holidays that were only one day. My calendar is altered throughout the year because we may take a day off throughout the month, but it doesn’t hurt us because I have no need for a professional development day. On the rare occasion where we miss more days than expected, I add an additional day to our school year.

After those few steps, I went rogue. I mentioned in my posts from earlier that I took the unconventional step and chose to create my own curriculum and lesson plans rather than purchase one. If you plan on purchasing a curriculum, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! There are so many available, you want to make sure you’re choosing the best for your child(ren). Look at the reviews, search YouTube responses to the curriculum, visit the website, participate in free trials, use the free the samples and call the publisher if you need to! You’re investing in your child and into the curriculum. As a frugal parent, it’s best you do your due diligence before purchasing, but there are cases where you will purchase and the curriculum just doesn’t work for your household. It’s called trial and error…it happens! It’s not favorable, but you live and you learn.

When creating my curriculum, I worked through each subject one at a time. This is where your notepad comes in handy. I used my working knowledge of what Taniya learned in her subjects during the school year, and then thought about what I wanted my daughter to know, and found appropriate for her age. This is a tedious process, and isn’t the route most will take, but it worked for me. I thought about all the things Taniya found interesting, things I wish I learned in school, and things I wish Taniya was able to spend more time learning while in school. For example, I wish children had more than a month to learn about Black History. I remember feeling terrible as I got older and realized I couldn’t remember the significance of the many heroes in Black History. I then thought about how children are given a project that focuses on one person, and then they learn through the presentations of the other students, or through a program. That’s ok, but it’s not enough for me. In one months time, Taniya couldn’t tell me what she learned through her peers presentations. I decided that Black History would be taught through each subject all year round. It’s the theme of my curriculum. In science, she learns about plants, animals and sea life and more, in addition to Black scientists and inventors. In music, she learns about different instruments and Black musicians. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I knew Taniya would have the general knowledge of what is taught in school so that she would be able to have an understanding when going out into the world, but it was vital that she had thorough knowledge of her history. Another example of having a recurring theme throughout your subjects is relating everything to science or technology. You really have to let those creative juices flow.

Once I had pages worth of notes, I googled what the common core standards were for the grade level my daughter would be entering. You want to be sure that your set up matches what is required by the state. I saw there were only core standards for English and math, which was perfect! Those were the two subjects I wanted to have more structure in, and needed a little more guidance in. Everything was clear and concise on what your child should know for each grade level.

Afterwards, I used my calendar in order to give each topic for each subject, a month for learning. I allotted for days where there is no school and months where there are specific holidays where we can learn about certain historical events tied to that month. I also selected days where I wanted to use them for field trips. When you’re done with all of that writing, you should have pages of notes with points scratched out, notes on what you need to do further for a subject and more. I’m pretty sure you’re able to read it, but you’ll struggle trying to understand what you meant when reading and creating lesson plans from some of those points.

Grab your laptop and create a spreadsheet! I love spreadsheets! You’re able to organize those thoughts, put them into tables, create graphs for progress, keep record of attendance and more. Spreadsheets are so neat and organized. You can add notes without having jumbled thoughts across your paper. This year, I opted for my spreadsheet to show all of my subjects, the months, topics, and all of the resources that I can use for continued learning.

Although I use a spreadsheet, I also make use of great lesson planner that I got from Target for $5. I like to plan my lessons for each day a month prior to having to teach them. I use my spreadsheet as a reference in order to know what I’ll be teaching, what resources to use, and what field trips we can take to support the lesson(s). I choose one weekend out of the month in order to plan for the next month. It allows me to have an idea of what I will be teaching, and relieves me of having to make time each day to figure out what to do the next day. If we need more time on a topic or surpassed the time frame I had in mind, I adjust the days to reflect our needs.

As I’ve stated in my posts before, this was MY process, and it worked for ME. I do believe this method will work for other homeschoolers, but I’m also sure that some will frown their faces when reading. There are so many different techniques to teaching your child(ren) and preparing for the school year. Grab and take from this post and the other resources that you’ve researched.

If you wish to learn more (one-on-one) or to view my spreadsheet, please reach out to me through the either platform listed on the homepage and we can discuss further.

Happy Homeschooling!

Breastfeed Here, Breastfeed There, I’ll Breastfeed Everywhere!

Except for the bathroom… or a closet. I would never nurse my child in those places. It’s unfortunate however that many people in the world are so against breastfeeding that they’d rather a mother take their child into a public bathroom and nurse. I guess it’s extremely difficult to turn your head and continue to mind your business on this strange planet called Earth.

I wrote a blog titled To Cover Up or Not to Cover up? back in January when my youngest daughter Jayla was three months old. I was still getting the hang of the new mom life for the second time, and was in the early stages of breastfeeding. I became engulfed with all things motherhood and breastfeeding. One thing I found myself uncomfortable with was nursing without a cover. I didn’t disagree with women who chose not to cover, I just preferred to keep myself and daughter covered. It gave us as much privacy as we could have in public.

I had no idea what would transpire only five months after I wrote that post. Jayla turned eight months and grew irritated with being covered. Partially because of the Summer heat, majority of it being because she needed to see my face and feel my skin. She and I would go back and forth playing “tug of war” with the cover the entire time we nursed in public. I would be embarrassed each time my breast was exposed. I didn’t want any negative attention or encounters. I had been reading about so many terrible experiences women were having while breastfeeding in public places, and was also witnessing pictures and videos going viral of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. More specifically, the black woman who was breastfeeding her child uncovered on the airplane.  I was appalled that someone would find her nursing her child uncovered disgusting, but had no issue with recording her baby and bare breast. To top it off, the video went viral.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wasn’t totally confident in myself or my breastfeeding journey. Although it had been eight months, it was still new to me. It’s new each month I go on because it’s a month longer than I expected I would nurse. I had to get my mind right QUICK because Jayla wasn’t in the mood to give me a grace period. So I upped the ante on the amount of breastfeeding pages that I followed on Instagram, and  joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to surround myself around women who were on the same journey as me. These women were unashamed of their purpose no matter the size of their breast and the setting where a feeding would take place. I grew to feel empowered.

I had to “get rid of my stinkin’ thinkin'” and remember my purpose is to provide for my daughter in the most natural way that I can. My breastfeeding journey doesn’t need to be a stressful one because of my fear of stares or negative comments. My baby needs her mother’s milk. I refuse to walk down the formula aisle at the grocery store losing my hair over the prices when I already produce milk for free. I remember that feeling when Taniya was younger.

Once I refocused and got inline with my vision for my mothering and breastfeeding journey, I began to see more positive breastfeeding posts and experiences. Definitely had to change my perspective in order to see this. I began to see animals of all sorts, which is as natural as it gets, breastfeeding their young. Monkeys, dogs, pigs, bears and more. During one of Taniya’s science classes in homeschooling, we learned about the blue whale. I was amazed to learn that baby blue whales, mammals just like humans, survive only on their mother’s milk for their first year of life, gaining about 200 pounds each day. I was getting reminders during a homeschool lesson! Not only is breastfeeding beautiful in all forms, but a reminder that our babies can definitely survive off of our breastmilk and be ok without anything else for the first year of life. I am now 1 year and 2 weeks strong on my breastfeeding journey. I thought I would stop at 1 year, but it didn’t happen that way.

Now I don’t just whip my breast out while I’m walking down the grocery store aisle, but I would do it if I need to. Nurse and continue to shop like I intended on doing in the first place. I’m learning that I can’t let motherhood stop me from doing what I set out to do. I’ve breastfed in the gym in between workouts, before I went out on my high school’s track to do an alumni cheerleading performance and more. Amazingly, I’ve received such beautiful feedback. An older woman at my high school’s homecoming football game said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job! You are out here doing your thing. One moment I saw you breastfeeding your baby, the next you’re out their cheering like you’re still in school.” That same day my mother said, “I’ve noticed that you’re much more comfortable with feeding Jayla in public now. I’m proud of you for being confident. I know that’s been a struggle for you.” My heart was so full.

I am still the mother who enjoys privacy when she breastfeeds though. One because I just love peace and quiet when I’m nursing because it’s calming for me, but two because toddlers are extremely distracted. I can’t count the amount of times Jayla has snatched off my breast to see what was going on wasting precious milk. So when an establishment has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers, I’m in there! If there’s no room, I’m nursing proudly and confidently. Restaurants, my car, the gym, the mall, football games, dentist offices, doesn’t matter. In Dr. Seuss’ voice, I’ll breastfeed here, I’ll breastfeed there, I’ll breastfeed anywhere.

I hope other mothers who are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear of negative responses read this and leave with an understanding that your responsibility is to your child, not the comfort of others. If you are the friend or family member to a breastfeeding mother, please continue to support her and uplift her on this journey. She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t need to hear your comments about how HER child is ready for cow’s milk or formula. Or how HER child is too old to still be breastfeeding. If you’re a stranger and you see a woman breastfeeding and it makes you uncomfortable…. turn your head, and mind your business like a normal functioning adult. Most likely, you’re making that woman uncomfortable and staring for long periods of time only makes you come off as a perv.

 

 

How To Get Started With Homeschooling

I’ve been seeing more articles written about how parents are choosing to homeschool their children rather than send them to a public, private or charter school. I imagine there are several parents out there who have the desire to homeschool their child(ren), or are in the beginning stages of preparing for the journey and have no idea where to start. Keep reading to see how I got started.

As I’ve mentioned before, homeschooling my children never crossed my mind before March of this year. I started Queendom Wife and Mother in December of 2017 and began to grow a following on Instagram. I asked if any of my followers homeschooled and received some great feedback from a few moms who homeschooled multiple children and one individual who had been homeschooled when they were younger. I was given insight on how your child isn’t cut off from the world, and how homeschooling multiple children of all different ages is tough but can be done. I continued to ask questions to see if I wanted to dig a little further in my research and pursue homeschooling. I DID!

Anyone who reaches out to me, I tell them to research, research and then RESEARCH some more! Making the choice to homeschool your child(ren) is a very serious step, and you have to be knowledgeable about what you’re doing. You have to make sure you’re confident that homeschooling is the best choice for your family. Research allows you to understand the true commitment you’re about to make. When I began the research process, I told myself it was vital that I did thorough research because my baby’s education was in my hands. If you don’t take the research process serious, you will be the cause of your child having an unsuccessful homeschooling experience.

I searched on Google 24/7. What does homeschooling really mean? How do you do it? Who homeschools? What are the pros and cons of homeschooling? What are the steps to starting the homeschooling process? What do you need in order to homeschool? Do you need to have teaching credentials in order to homeschool? What is a co-op? What do I need to do to get started in my state? How long does this process take? I had so many questions, and I’m pretty sure you do too. Google was my go to. I was able to find some homeschooling websites, read some articles and other blogs, and found the link to my state’s homeschooling site.

After getting more information on homeschooling as a whole, your next step is to check out your state’s website in order to make sure you follow the steps required to homeschool your child(ren). Every state varies, so I will only be able to share what my state requires, and a little bit about what I searched for the new state we will be moving to.

First, you will be advised to take the proper steps in withdrawing your child from regular and registering your them for homeschool. For Maryland, one is required to fill out a form that will be signed by both you and the state’s local homeschooling office. In my case, we were switching to a new school district so I simply told my daughter’s school that she would not be returning the following school year, told them why, and provided proof of our homeschooling documents. I had the option to mail, fax or email the form; I chose to email it.

Once you’ve officially registered your child(ren) for homeschooling, you will want to read the state laws carefully. Honestly, you should read these first to see if you’ll still want to homeschool. Many of your questions will be answered there. For example, in order to homeschool your child(ren), you must have at least a high school diploma or GED, and there must be a total of 180 school days. You will also learn the subjects that you are required to teach. From what I’ve seen, math, reading, social studies, science, art, music, history, and health/p.e. are neutral across the board. It’ll go further into detail about who can teach your child, the options you have on how you will homeschool your child, record keeping and testing as well.

You’ll want to join a few homeschool newsletters, and read as much as you can also. I learned there are several teaching styles, but what’s important is knowing your child’s learning style. This will allow for you to find the best curriculum for your child. For example, if your child is a visual learner, you’ll want to find a curriculum that shows a lot of videos or has games.

When trying to figure out what to teach, I found it helpful to research the core standards for each subject for my daughter’s grade level. Next, I browsed the different curriculums. As I searched, I realized I wanted to be heavily involved in my daughter’s day. I didn’t want her to be stuck to a computer screen, and I also didn’t want her to be bored with a workbook all day either. So I created my own curriculum mixed with the core standards and what I want my daughter to know. I actually know a lot of people who are educators, and a few offer services where they create a curriculum/lesson plan for you. I reached out for their guidance wherever I felt I needed a little assistance.

There are several homeschooling associations out there that you can operate under also. It’s an option you can take, which usually costs a small fee, instead of being under your school district’s supervision. These associations should be state approved and registered with the school district. They typically help you to make sure you are meeting the requirements for homeschooling.

Another thing. CONNECT, CONNECT, AND CONNECT! Homeschooling is no easy fete, and isn’t for everyone,  but it doesn’t have to be dreadful and lonely. You will be spending a lot more time with your child(ren) and may have questions or just need other homeschooling parents to connect with. This can be physically or virtually. I knew that my family would be moving soon, so I connected with women who are stay-at-home and homeschooling mothers in that state. I used my good friend Google and found them through the website “Meet-Up,” and then we connected over Facebook and Instagram.

In order not to become long-winded in the post, I’ll end with this. Research, connect, research and connect! Be confident in your decision as well because everyone won’t understand why you’ve made your choice. Also, make sure you know your legal obligations as a homeschooling parent. If you don’t get this right, you are lawfully required to admit your children back into the school system.

This is not the end! I will have a few more follow-up posts on being a new homeschooler.

Best of luck!