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!

Encourage Yourself (Throwback Thursday)

       What I have observed in people today is lack of self encouragement. We look to others to make us feel good about ourselves and inspired when what we really need to do is look for inspiration in ourselves. Each and every person has a story. Somewhere in that story is where strength stems from and is why you can use your own life and your own story to encourage yourself to get out of the bed with joy and to go on with your day. If you’re already doubting yourself at the start of your day, or every day, it’s going to be extremely difficult for others to believe in you. If you can’t believe in yourself, what makes you think other people can believe in you. Believe in yourself first, and others will follow. ENCOURAGE YOURSELF. It is possible.
     From personal experience, it’s exhausting trying to encourage someone who depends on that encouragement every second of the day. YES it’s a good deed, but it’s also kind of selfish. We should be able to help ourselves at some point.
     Yes, the people who surround us in the media or in our everyday lives can and do inspire/encourage us, but what’s wrong with using YOUR experiences, YOUR success, YOUR beauty, and more to encourage yourself? Each of those people have experienced their own struggles and are “encouraged” to continue on with life because of their struggles. So encourage yourself with your OWN struggles to continue on with your life.
     Life always throws us bowling balls, unexpectedly and at full speed, but it builds character. Your personal character. Whether it is a struggle with illness, family, friends, relationships, work, school or yourself, it is very much possible to take a moment and encourage yourself. I guarantee you if the people surrounding you see your “self-encouragement,” it will encourage them. It will “encourage” them to encourage you more and to do the same for themselves.
     I believe it starts with taking that step with ourselves first. Encourage yourself first, and the results of spreading encouragement will take place like a domino effect. Person after person will begin to do the same…


Emotional Trip

It’s been weeks… one week shy of a month since I last blogged. I had (still have) so many things I’ve wanted to write about, but I just couldn’t. I honestly didn’t have the time. For three weeks, I haven’t had time for myself emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. I was staying strong for the duration of those weeks, but as each day passed by I began to slowly fall apart. So no, this post isn’t upbeat mommy post or a relationship conversation starter. It’s what I originally started this blog for. A space to be transparent, and release what I’m feeling. While I hope that someone is able to relate, it’s not a necessity. It is vital that I write this post before I move forward with the exciting posts that I hope will follow.

I’ve mentioned before that although I’ve grown immensely and am far more secure with myself, I still struggle with “what will people think of me?” from time to time. My husband goes to work for 14 hours each day, what will he think of me when he comes home to takeout once again rather than a home cooked meal? Piles of clothes unwashed? Dishes piled in the sink? Will my daughter wish she had a better mommy because she came home from school, yet again, to a mother who is short-tempered, tired and doesn’t really want to be bothered? I’ve told everyone, even my social media following that I love being a stay-at-home mom/wife. What would they think of me if they saw what was going on in my life right now? Would they understand? Clearly, this can’t be as hard as I make it seem, right?

But like women, mothers, wives do each and everyday, I sucked it up and put a smile on face saying, “I’m doing just fine” to everyone who asked. I nearly chopped my finger off rushing trying to make a home cooked meal in enough time before it was too late to eat at all. Thank God I stopped the knife before getting deeper than my nail.  I almost broke my toe on a bouncer rushing through the house because I’m always on the move. I think at some point I actually convinced myself I was okay. My schedule was nothing new, it just intensified. I had been trying to embrace change, but change was getting the best of me. Sometimes we convince ourselves that slight changes only need small adjustments, not realizing the willpower it takes to accommodate yourself when change has occurred. For example, if you work in an open cubicle work space, what can be viewed as a simple cube mate change, could change your work life. It takes pure strength not to slap the phone out of your new neighbors hand each time they speak at the top of their lungs. It takes strength not to throw up when you hate the smell of the food your new teammate brings for lunch.

My “slight” change came from a change in my husband’s parking space for his work truck. We only have one car, so I’m the family Uber service. When taking  my husband to and from his truck, it used to take (on a good, no traffic kind of day) approximately 15 minutes from home,  and maybe the same amount of time from our daughter’s school. When there was traffic, let’s say it may have taken 30-40 minutes. You know what, here’s a break down of what my day looks like:

*All night, wake up every 2-2.5 hrs to nurse on demand because my child has a surge of hunger or need for comfort at night.

  • Prayerfully wake up at 6am to get oldest daughter ready for school. But this never happens because I’m either finishing up nursing my youngest OR exhausted from the night. So the time looks more like 7am.
  • Between 8am-8:15am, we must be out of the house to have a chance at getting my daughter to school on time. (She has breakfast on the go). Sometimes my husband is ready, others he’s not so I have to leave him.
  • What should normally take 25 minutes of transit time, takes over 40 minutes due to morning traffic. SO my baby is late again for school.
  • At this point in life, my husband is never ready in time because his sleep is interrupted at night as well, so I make my way back home. The time is now approx. 9:30am.
  • Because my husband takes 2hr long poops and moves at the speed of slug, we aren’t leaving the house for another hour and 45 minutes to two hours. In this time, I’ve had a chance to nurse my youngest child again.
  • Now we’ve made it to my husband’s truck by approx. noon. I immediately turn back around to head home. Once I get there, I have approx. one hour to nurse baby again, eat and then head to my daughter’s school to pick her up by 3:15pm.
  • The girls and I make it home by 4pm. (If my husband is done with work early, it takes an entire hour because of traffic to go straight to him. We get in, oldest child immediately begins homework, gets a snack, and then we check her homework. Usually I’m nursing when I check her homework.
  • I send the oldest child off to take her shower, because it is now a little after 6pm and dinner/bedtime is quickly approaching.
  • This is where it gets tricky. I may give my oldest kid dinner and put her to bed by 8pm, but we’ll most likely be heading back out by 10pm to go pick up my husband. OR as soon as she’s done with her shower, there’s no time for dinner in the house, we leave to go pick up my husband.
  • Come home, of course it’s time to nurse baby again and then proceed to go to bed for the night.

This is my schedule everyday until Saturday when I don’t have to rush to my daughter’s school, but I still have to take my husband to work and pick him up. Sunday is our only off day.  Last week, I remember being in the car on Wednesday from 8am until 8pm. I nursed and ate in the car all day. But this week, my body had enough. Mentally I checked out, my emotions were on level 10, and I cried all day. I felt weak. I felt drained. I felt hopeless and didn’t want to talk to anyone. Every time I thought about my feelings I cried. Every time I tried to talk, I cried. Yesterday, I was able to share a few smiles and hold conversations without crying. But my emotions were still on a constant rollercoaster. I could feel myself being ok and moving in a positive direction, and then immediately feeling a drastic drop in my body. My thinking, my feelings, they all shutdown. While I didn’t cry nonstop, it still didn’t take me but a second to cry when I felt the urge. I talked to my best friend who isn’t a mother and she really helped me to get some things of my chest, while reassuring me that I’m okay. I started to vent a little, and she then went on to add some encouraging words that she got from Jada Pinkett’s “Red Table Talk.” She continued to hear me say, I don’t regret having children or getting married, but I’m tired. I just need a break from it all.

She said, “people shouldn’t make mother’s feel inclined to say, “they don’t regret becoming a mother” just to be honest about how they are feeling. Just because you say you’re tired or don’t feel like doing anything mom-like today doesn’t mean you don’t want to be a mother. It just means you need a break.” She was so right and I REALLYYYY needed to hear those words. (Thank you) I didn’t know how to reach out to my loved ones and say I need help, I need a break, I’m struggling, I’m tired without thinking I was complaining. I didn’t know how to express my need for time by myself with no one around without sounding selfish or irresponsible because I was the one who decided to get married and have children young.

Today, thank God I’m no longer crying nonstop like I was on Monday, however there is still a disconnect. I still feel myself getting extremely irritable and then feeling nothing because I’ve shutdown. When I take time to sort through my thoughts, sometimes I cry. I don’t have the urge to create conversation, but I’m able to have one. It’s been a few days since I’ve had a good laugh. But I’m working on it. This week my mother-in-love has been helping out with taking my oldest baby to school and picking her up for me. Yesterday I drove, but today I let my husband drive himself to work. It’s helping.

I haven’t opened up to my mother about how I’ve been feeling lately because I don’t want to worry her, but I know she knows. A mom knows when something isn’t right with her baby. She’ll be over to stay this weekend. I need it. Hopefully my husband and I can have some alone time this weekend as well. We need it.

I’m in that strange place of “do I have postpartum depression?” again. A part of me thinks I do (the other part thinks I’ve just been overwhelmed and need sleep). For so long, I kept saying, “But I love my baby, I don’t feel distant from her or think of harming her or myself.” I had to remind myself that’s only one symptom. There are others and I don’t have to have each one.

The rest I’ve been able to get from the “slight” changes and help I’ve been receiving has really been refreshing and helping so much.

Keep me in your prayers though.