With everything becoming connected online, is there really any reason to physically attend a homeschool convention? After all, that comes with the added expense of travel, and then you can’t just shop online in your pajamas…
There’s just no substitute for community and face-to-face contact, and a homeschool convention offers benefits that you won’t find anywhere else!
Finding Your Tribe I can’t prove it, but maybe the reason homeschool conventions begin in early spring is because they know we’ve been cooped up all winter, and most families are suffering from ‘February Fever.’ We have to break out, find other homeschooling families, and shake off winter!
An Ounce of Encouragement It can be lonely homeschooling, whether you live in a big city or a rural area. Getting into a crowd of people who have made similar life choices can be affirming. Plus, you’ll be able to bounce ideas off of others, get new ideas, and remember that we’re all in this together.
Information from the Source It’s one thing to read a book. It’s another to actually sit down and talk with the author and get personalized information. You can actually do that at conventions! Reap the benefits and wisdom of experienced homeschoolers. You can do this in the vendor hall, in a one-on-one setting, walking around the hotel (but be mindful of their limited free time), or within the workshops themselves.
Workshop Paths Many conventions these days are creating ‘paths’ of workshops, meaning they have a series for new homeschoolers, those with special needs children, and those preparing for college. You’re not confined to those workshops, but by following the path that fits your family best, you have a pre-set schedule that will allow you to maximize what you learn from these experienced speakers. Oftentimes, there are special discounts offered within the workshops, too! J
Curriculum Discounts The exhibit hall is packed full of vendors offering fantastic discounts on their curriculum. There are usually some pretty nice extras to supplement the curriculum that you won’t find anywhere else, too! If you’re in the market for something new, you can actually flip through and examine various selections, talk to the publishers (or authors) about them, and make a well-informed decision for your family. You can maximize your time by looking ahead to see which vendors will be represented and make a note to visit their booths. (There’s a page for this in the convention planner!)
It’s a Family Affair There seem to be two types of convention-goers….those who take the whole family, and those who make it a girls’ weekend. (Having done both, my preference falls toward the latter…everybody needs to cut loose with friends sometimes, right?!) If you take the whole family, though, you’ll have a (typically) rare opportunity to get Dad involved.
Usually the dads are off working full-time so that moms can stay home and homeschool. Both parents care about education, but Mom is the one fully-entrenched. Taking Dad to a convention will give him a different perspective, and new appreciation, for the daily grind of homeschooling. As for the littles, there is usually some sort of day camp set up for them to enjoy time with other kids while Mom and Dad get some one-on-one time to either attend workshops or go sleep in the hotel room…
We’ve put together a convention planner to help you organize your weekend and keep track of workshops and vendors. Take this FREE 20-page convention planner to your next event!
Tips on Choosing a Homeschool Conference
Some questions to consider include:
Are there any speakers that you really want to see? (Research some of the ones you don’t know and you might locate a gem.)
Is there child care or an activity available? If not, are children allowed in the presentations?
Will there be a vendor hall or used curriculum sale? (You can usually get great deals here!)
Does the total price (tickets, transportation, and hotel) fit in your budget?
Is it religious or secular? Does that fit with your beliefs?
Jointhe Homeschool House crew in Rogers, Arkansas!
This is a come and go event that will feature crafts and baking projects for the various winter holidays. Reservations are required in order for us to have an accurate head count for food and supplies.
One Friday per month for five months….January 17, Feb 7th, Mar 10th, Apr 3rd, May 8th…and a free field trip sponsored by OERB sometime at the end of May / beginning of June.
$10 / kid for entire semester (with possible additional fee for crafts class) – covers the whole semester. Anyone who takes on the commitment of teaching / hosting a class for all dates gets a family fee waiver. No one gets dropped off; parents must stay on premises; Book Shack is open during co-op dates.
class schedule – 10am – 3pm
OERB Science – broken into three groups (Holly – high; Deedee – middles; Nicole – littles)
GeoClub geography – middles & high – Heather & Erin – get a country, do research, make a meal and bring in for potluck lunch —- (Littles in circle time)
History Bites – Holly & Clay – broken into group by age
Arts & Crafts – Erin – broken into group by age
Automotive Maintenance – Rob – middles & high — (Littles in quiet time)
Well it has happened AGAIN! As I sit and look at my lesson planner, it hits me, like wrecking ball! (But, I am fully clothed LOL)
Thanksgiving is in 27 days and Christmas is in 54! Where oh where did the days go? I imagine planning for the holidays in a public school is stressful, but as we homeschoolers know…we can either rock it….or pull our hair out !
I know when mine were littles, we would really RELAX during the weeks between the holidays. One year we decided to have a homemade tree. We hand made all the ornaments, we used water balloons and bright tissue paper and made some amazing paper mache’ ornaments! We also used standard balloons and made large ornaments to hang from the ceiling. It was really a lot of messy fun. In other words, we did all of our art for the year in a couple of days!
I love the holidays and homeschooling! You can incorporate so much into your teaching! We have studied Christmas traditions in other countries, researched the first Thanksgiving…and being of Native American Heritage, we did a focus on the First People’s history of Thanksgiving!
As our gift to you, we’ve put together a holiday bundle, with several crafts and activities, plus three full-length history-based holiday unit studies!
So, dear friends as we prepare for the Holiday season, we as mommy educators can do so much to make a holiday more than food and gifts! We can do history, art, science, and language arts (family Christmas letters), and hand writing…..and they will never know!
One of the hidden costs of homeschooling is time. It takes a lot of time and focus to properly homeschool, which makes working a full-time job difficult. There are, however, many homeschooling moms (or dads) that work part-time or seasonal jobs.
HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) estimates that homeschooling families spend approximately $300 to $600 per year, per child, on educational needs. This can really add up! There are ways, however, to save money…
The biggest chunk of change you’ll notice right away is the
cost of curriculum. There are so many
different types of curricula out there that we recommend doing a little bit of
investigation before investing money into one.
If you have access to one, attending a homeschool convention is an excellent way to get your hands on several types of curricula, flip through the pages, and see which ones will or won’t work for your family. Personally, when we started homeschooling, my husband and I started ruling out which ones we didn’t like for our family, as that helped narrow down the shortlist to about six that we wanted to check into further.
You can check curriculum websites for samples, often
full-module downloads to try out you’re your family. If you’re near Oklahoma, you can come by the
Book Shack and take home some different types of curricula to try. Mardels or a used bookstore are also good
options for this, though you won’t be able to take them home (free) to try out
with the kids.
If you choose curriculum carefully, you should be able to
reuse it for subsequent children or resell it.
For example, we use Saxon Math and only had to purchase each textbook
once. We purchased one student book for
each child to use (and could have had them write on notebook paper, but student
books aren’t that expensive, and it was easier for the kids to write in the books).
Co-ops, Classes & Extracurricular Activities
Foreign language, homeschool band, physical education, debate
classes – these are things that work best when taught in a group setting, and
are often covered in cooperative settings…but that costs money. It is, however, cheaper than weekly lessons!
For some families, especially at the high school level,
science or math classes get outsourced to a ‘real teacher.’ Not everyone feels comfortable teaching at
those advanced levels, particularly for a child who is preparing to attend
All of these expenses cost money, but should be included in
the homeschooling budget, because they are a necessary part of education.
When we were roadschooling, nearly 90% of our homeschool
budget went toward field trips. After
all, if you’re only going to be visiting a place once, you make the most of it,
We still spend money on field trips each year because
experiential learning is a fantastic way to cement concepts and foster a love
of learning! There are many options for
frugal and free field trips if you just dig a bit.
Follow your local museums on Facebook, and you’ll see when they post free days for educators, homeschoolers, families, or just the general public.
Visit the fire station, police station, or town mayor for a lesson in civics and emergency management.
Most new homeschooling families spend more money than
experienced ones. This is partly due to
needing to purchase curriculum and all of the materials upfront (whereas more
experienced ones tend to have leftovers on hand, or purchase in bulk during
Another pitfall is purchasing several different types of
curriculum. Sometimes things don’t work
out as intended; sometimes they’re just not a good fit for your family. Many times, new homeschoolers aren’t ‘in’ on
where to get curriculum at a reduced price.
Bibliomania – This homeschool consignment store is one of the Book Shack’s biggest supporters, and we love to support them, too! They have a walk-in store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where you can come and visit with the proprietors and thumb through all kinds of curricula. They also have an online store at Amazon. You can also call the store directly, or private message through Facebook, and have the option to pay with Paypal or credit card over the phone.
ChristianBook – If you hit ChristianBook at the right time (sign up for the email list, and they’ll tell you when this is), you can get curricula at deep discounts. They also have books, craft kids, home décor and stuff for adults, and (my favorite!) “surprise boxes” — $100+ in books for only 9.99.
Amazon – Not surprisingly, since they sell everything but the kitchen sink (actually, the probably sell those, too!), Amazon is a great resource for finding books, supplies, science kits, craft kits, and even curricula…sometimes at cheaper costs since you can buy them from a third-party vendor.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com – This online resource offers all core classes, plus several electives, for every grade level…up to adult learners! Use code TRIAL to get the first month for only $5. By doing so, you’ll have an automatic, ongoing monthly discount but also will get your first MONTH as a member for only $5. If you don’t love it, just cancel it after the first month and all you will have lost is a skinny latte. Find out more about ST here.
High school is when we begin to transition our students into college life. A big part of that transition is learning time management. As a teen, your student is juggling classes, extracurricular activities, athletics, a part-time job, and friends and family. It can be difficult to remember all of the details!
A good planner works for you and your needs. What is right for one person may not be the best option for someone else, so take a moment to investigate each option and find the one that works best for your student.
Two great planners, Clever Fox and Panda, were not included in this list because they are only designed to last six months…which isn’t enough to get you through the school year.
Artfan Planner Undated planner allows you to start at any point.Smaller size makes it easier to carry.Hourly blocks for every day of the week.Hardcover and band-closure makes it more durable.Includes calendar stickers for quick planning.Includes references with calendar, goal tracking, reflections, and inspirational quotes.Includes a gift box and pens, for use as a nice gift! Read more reviews…
At-A-Glance Planner Follows the academic year, from July to July.Simple design is more popular with males.Weekly pages have blocks for each hour of the weekday.Weekend spaces for notes.Tips on studying, note-taking, and time management. Read more reviews…
Erin Condren Life Planner Available in several colors and styles.Months are tabbed for easy navigation.Blocks for each day allow you to see the entire month.Includes folder and pouch for papers.Inspirational quotes and goal-setting pages.Hardcover makes it more durable. Read more reviews…
Freedom Planner Pro Undated planner allows you to start at any point.Section for reflections and goal-setting.Blocks for planning each hour of every day.Includes inspirational quotes.For both academic and professional use. Read more reviews…
Global Printed Planner Dated from July to June, this is designed for the academic year.Comes in a variety of colors and styles.One column with blocked hours; one ‘To Do List’ column.Space for reflections and goal-setting. Read more reviews…
Worried about getting all of the pieces right in the high school homeschool puzzle?
Through the Door will help you with what you need, from a homeschool perspective, to confidently face high school and college.
This book & worktext set will help you and your high school student breeze through the steps of college and scholarship applications, as well as brushing up on study habits and life skills. The worktext includes activities, worksheets, and planning pages, and accompanies the book.
FAQ Who am I? With 20+ years experience in education and counseling, I have a passion for helping other homeschool moms. I’ve worked in elementary, middle, and high schools in both a teaching and school counseling capacity. For the past seven years, I have been homeschooling our two boys – one gifted and one special needs – and understand the struggles that many moms face.
Who is the online self-paced workshop for? It’s for parents and students in middle and high school. Many of the modules are for the college-bound student, but it is helpful to the career-bound student as well.
How will it be delivered? This is a downloadable book and accompanying workbook.
Top Ten Best STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math – Subscription Boxes
The use of hands-on projects is a great way to reinforce concepts learned while having fun! With the subscription box phenomenon, you can get all the pieces needed for a project delivered straight to your door, along with extras like video lessons. Here are some of our favorite STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, and math – boxes to encourage growth and a love of these subjects…
Some of these boxes have fantastic coupon codes for first time buyers, so be sure to check the purchase information and look for the code!
This is the perfect box for teens who want hands-on projects. It’s also a convenient way to try out new hobbies, use your hands to create, learn skills you can keep using, and have fun, too! Comes with real tools, complete kits, and a new project every month. There are also video reviews for this box on the Homeschool On the Range YouTube channel.
Each month is a new project based on the old-world craftsman skills from the 18th and 19th centuries, and they combine math, engineering, and art skills. Your students will be using real-world math as they measure materials for woodworking, create proportional dimensions in woodcarving, and calculate how many chains are needed for each row of chain maille. They’ll also put artistic skills to use in life drawing and leather tooling!
Build Cool Machines! Code Your Creations! Grow As You Go! Bring your child’s STEM learning alive with fun hands-on projects that get kids excited about engineering and coding. Turn basic electrical components into working machines while learning about circuits, sensors, and more! Learn to code with easy step-by-step help!
Using the Arduino platform, students learn basic electronics and computer coding skills. In our digital age, these are the building blocks for innovative technologies! Middle and high school students can get in on the ground floor with Make Crate projects, which walk you through the beginning concepts, step by step. Each project also comes with an educator curriculum and videos to help you, the parent, work with your child for deeper understanding.
The perfect box for Lego enthusiasts, each month you will get unique items including LEGO, LEGO compatible products, and brick items. These are bricks that you won’t find in any store, and they’re pretty unique! Some of the themes we’ve received in the past include Ancient Mythology, gaming, Thanksgiving, magic….the list goes on…each box is uniquely fabulous!
Building blocks are the tools for young engineers, and this box combines both the structural design and math calculations aspect with pop culture through themes such as Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Christmas! Each box contains a pre-designed build, extra blocks for creating an additional design, a poster, design booklet, stickers, plus other cool gear (such as t-shirts) to get your child excited about building. Perfect for the Lego fan who wants something new and unique.
Learn how to program and build electronics with new and more challenging projects delivered to your door each month! Creation Crate uses hands-on projects to teach 21st century skills! Users receive a new project/course every 30 days with access to an Online Classroom. Projects become more challenging as you learn new skills. All projects and courses are approved by STEM.org
Combing coding and electronics, this box fosters creative thinking and designing innovative technologies at the middle and high school level. Each box comes with access to educational curriculum to supplement the projects, and the boxes build upon each other. With each new project, your student will reinforce skills learned earlier and then learn another new electronics skill!
Explore space exploration and the specialized machines built to study the dark frontier and the mysterious worlds floating around us. Each month’s package may include pins, mission patches, stickers, info cards, concept art, or more about a specific spacecraft, its mission, its design, and its journey.
There are two options here – space and prehistoric life. We’ve used the space exploration one, and the boxes are fantastic for the astronaut dreamer! Box contents are designed to encourage further study of the topic through research, and can be used to prompt writing assignments as well.
Beautiful Discovery kits use visually and kinesthetically engaging patterns of nature to unleash your hidden pattern power and give you STEAM skills. Items include eco-games, art, origami, drag and drop code, models, natural wonders, full color informational cards, full color picture books and booklets, paints and colored pencils, drawing sheets with art lessons on patterns seen in the natural wonders.
Perfect for the student who is hesitant about math, but all about art! This box combines the beauty of nature with real-world math through projects with seashells, crystals, dried leaves, flowers, for their beautiful patterns. There’s even an computer coding element with simple drag and drop block coding that will simulate the patterns seen in the natural wonders studied in each box.
When you join Owl Crate, you’ll get a cool themed box of high quality young adult books and bookish items. There are two young adult options – writer and artist. YA Artist subscription comes with one new YA book and a new art medium every month! The YA writers subscription includes one YA book and writing materials that will inspire any modern day writer!
Each month brings a new book with hands-on projects to accompany it. Your student can choose between artistic projects or writing projects that will center around the theme of the reading selection, and the box includes all materials and extra curriculum needed for these projects. Perfect for the creative teen!
Salty Owl Box is an innovative activity box that is made for families with kids 9+. An art project, a new game, a unique snack, a recipe, and a monthly movie pick does the prep work for you. All the materials, instructions and inspiration you need is shipped to your home.
For the family that likes to learn together, this is a unit study in a box! Each month has a theme, and all of the supplies are centered around it. There is a cooking project and hands-on creation (drawing, painting, building) to accompany the movie selection….and it’s all included, so you don’t have to dig up any of the pieces!
Each month, you will receive a selection of art supplies. You’ll get to try a wide range of products, from pens to paint. You will receive everything you need to create a work of art. The supplies in the box are ideal for beginners, professionals, or anyone in between.
With three different options to choose from, you can encourage a budding artist, exposure younger children to various medium, or create an entire art curriculum for older children from the tools and projects included here! They also have a YouTube channel with tutorials for the lessons.
Teen+ Comic Crate has comics with detailed artwork, advanced language, violence, and occasional profanity/suggestive themes. Examples of Teen+ Rated comics include Avengers, X-men, Justice League, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman. Comic books are a great reading experience for all types of readers. Reluctant Readers enjoy comic books because the short bursts of text and vivid images are easier to read than the solid text in a prose book. English Language Learners can match the text to the images in comic books to help decode and understand the text. Also available in PG and G rated.
Reluctant readers can appreciate the artistic format of the illustrations while still getting the content from the book. They are not all pop culture-based, and include some scientific concepts that can be taught through graphic novels. Use the Comic Crate as a jumping off point for having your students write their own comic! Choose a scientific topic, research the basics, and create a 6-10 page comic illustrating those concepts.
Subscription boxes make an excellent gift suggestion for family members who aren’t sure what to get….they are the gift that continues to give each month, and this selection also helps boost your homeschooling! So which one of these do you think your students would most enjoy?
Parents of special needs children have a difficult row to hoe…one fraught with worry, sleepless nights, and a seemingly never-ending list of doctor and therapy appointments. Some hope that public schools will help address their child’s needs. Some avoid the school system and go for the tailored education approach. There is no right or wrong path to take…only the one that is right for your family.
If the special needs student attends traditional school, they will be given an IEP – an individualized education plan. This is a legal document that defines what a student needs according to his or her diagnosis. It outlines a special education program that provides tailored instruction and support services, such as speech or occupational therapy.
Within the homeschool, an IEP can also be a valuable tool. By sitting down and taking stock of the student’s needs – really taking stock and writing it down – you can evaluate where you’re at, where you want to be, and design a plan for how to get from point A to point B.
Crafting the Individualized Education Plan
When crafting the IEP, consider the following:
What are your student’s biggest struggles? Include academics, motor skills, and life skills.
What is your student’s preferred mode of learning? Visual, audio, kinesthetic? How can you tailor lessons to that learning mode?
Realistically, where is your student today? Where would you like your student to reach? (Be realistic.) Which ONE goal would make the biggest difference in your student’s performance, either in the classroom or in daily life?
The first thing you’ll want to do is take an honest look at where your student is performing. It doesn’t matter how many grade levels behind that may be, just record the level of current performance in each subject. This will give you a realistic picture of where you are.
Second, list any support services that you will need, such as speech, physical, or occupational therapy. This plan is appropriate for students with mild to moderate special needs, as students will severe special needs most likely have been working with a provider since shortly after birth. Also address any life skills you’d like to see addressed.
Create academic goals for your student. Make them realistic, or you’ll be setting both you and your student up for frustration. For example, if he is six grades behind in reading level, aim for growth of two grades per year. You might be surprised and find that you have a ‘jumper’ – a late bloomer who ‘jumps’ six grade levels in one year! Write down your goals, and include strategies for how you will meet them.
Create life skills and support services goals for your student. Write them down, addressing strategies for how you will meet each. For example, ‘Speech Therapy, 30 minutes three times a week’. Some of these skills and goals may seem basic, but when you’ve identified the need and written it down as a goal, you’re more likely to address it!
At the end of the school year, reassess your student to see which strategies worked. Given the informal nature of homeschooling, feel free to continually reassess and alter therapy / strategies as needed. This is one of the perks of the individual attention you can offer at homeschool.
Some homeschooling families are fortunate enough to have speech and occupational therapy services offered through the school. For these families, they have created an IEP with the public school as part of the process for obtaining these services. Oklahoma is not a state, however, that provides educational support services to homeschoolers.
Once you have determined your student’s needs, see if your medical insurance (including state insurance) will cover any of the services. If they will, your family doctor can refer you to a provider. If they will not, you can begin working with your child at home until the situation changes. Check out Speech Therapy for Homeschool and Occupational Therapy in Homeschool for free / frugal therapy ideas.
Once you’ve explored homeschooling styles a bit, you’ll probably set off looking for curriculum. Here are some places where you can score curriculum and materials for free!
Many of these are digital resources and require no extra resources or use books you can check out from the library. Just remember that you’ll still need to pay for any printing. Here is one of our favorite places to print!