38 Ways to Teach Writing (that are FUN!)

teaching writing

Writing is an integral part of the language arts classes taught at Sparks Academy. We offer four levels of instruction, each building upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! But maybe you don’t want a full class….how can you make writing fun at home?

Literature Studies & Living Books

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool. Scroll down to snag pre-made bundles of novel studies!

Literature Units for Middle School

Virtual Classes
  • My Side of the Mountain & Wilderness Survival
  • Serafina and the Seven Stars & the Biltmore House
  • Serafina and the Black Cloak & Appalachian Folklore
  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart & Writing a Ghost Story
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Alex Rider & Spies
  • Ranger’s Apprentice & Creative Writing
  • Theodore Boone & Understanding the Legal System

Literature Units for High School

  • Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
  • Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism
  • The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
  • Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
  • The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
  • Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa

Online Classes

Another fun option for teaching writing is through the language arts classes Sparks Academy! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High School 3, and Level 7. (The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Writing Projects & Activities

Writing Units

Writing Activities

Maybe you just need help with writing feedback for your student? We’ve got you covered!! Use the form specifically for the Good & Beautiful or any other curriculum.

writing styles pin

18 Ways to Teach Science through Literature

science nature homeschool

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach science through literature, here are 18 units to try….

science literature pin
  • Fever 1793 + Epidemics in World History
  • Willa of the Wood + Basic Foraging
  • Shouting at the Rain + Severe Weather
  • Nick & Tesla + Nikola Tesla / Electricity
  • N&T Robot Army Rampage + Introductory Robotics
  • N&T Secret Agent Gadget Battle + Spy Gadgets
  • N&T Super Cyborg Gadget Glove + Robotics
  • N&T Special Effects Spectacular + Making Special Effects
  • N&T Solar Powered Showdown + Solar Energy
  • Misty of Chincoteague & Horses
  • Hugo Cabret & Clocks / Time
  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
  • Fuzzy Mud & Microbiology
  • Hatchet & Outdoor Skills
  • Legacy of Flight & Airplanes / Flight
  • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
  • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
  • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

Another fun option for teaching science is the Physical Science class offered through Sparks Academy! This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Using Living Books to Homeschool

When you were a kid, did you learn more from textbooks or from reading books just for fun? I definitely learned a lot more from historical fiction than from any history textbook!

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). But, by using living books in your homeschool, coupled with family-style learning, it can be so much more FUN and rewarding.  Plus, when you use living books in your homeschool, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What is a Living Book?

Living books are reading material that pull you into a subject and get you emotionally involved with the characters (a la chapter books), so it’s easier to remember the events and facts.  These books literally bring the event(s) they are talking about to life with storylines and imagination! When is the last time a textbook made you feel alive and invested in what was being studied? Probably never.

Living Books….

  • Allow the reader to visit another era and experience the culture or history.  During the ‘Rona, one of the books we read together was Fever 1793. We like to take our read-alouds and turn them into learning units, like this one, to reinforce concepts learned in the story.
    • TIP: If you’re using read-alouds as a base for school, it’s helpful to read multiple books about the same event. Having different perspectives helps students to learn critical thinking skills.
  • Put the reader into the book.  This allows your children to experience different cultures and places that they may not otherwise see. The more detailed the descriptions, the more vividly your child will relate, and it is through learning about and relating to other cultures that we break down barriers. 
    • TIP: Cultural literacy is learning about other perspectives, including across genders, world regions, and historic eras. It is helpful if you have some background knowledge to incorporate the protagonist’s perspective — so if you are going to read a book set during the Civil War, do a bit of research on the Civil War before reading the novel. It will help bring the story to life!

Benefits of Family-Style Reading

Reading together as a family helps to encourage a lifelong love of reading and literature. Whether you begin when your child is a newborn or as a teen, there are so many positive effects!  

Note to parent: If you do not start reading aloud until your child is a teen, there will be a transitional time as they become accustomed. Do not give up!

Tips for Using Living Books as Read-Alouds

1. Do the voices

Sure, you might feel goofy at first, but nothing gets children engaged in a story faster than having a different voice for each character! Through the years, we’ve had many a good laugh as mom tried to pull off several accents, with varying degrees of success. But you know what? They remember the stories!

2. Let them be active

Legos, play-do, and coloring books are great quiet activities to keep hands occupied while ears are listening. It never hurts to pause and ask a few questions, but you’ll probably find that they are more engaged than you think.

3. Read from many genres

Mix it up, with historical fiction from multiple eras, contemporary fiction, and the occasional non-fiction.

4. Keep a home library

Yard sales, Facebook groups, and consignment stores are a great place to scout used books. Even if your child is a toddler, when you find a classic piece for a few years down the road, go ahead and snag it. A good home library will encompass many different topics and genres, including both fiction and non-fiction books.

5. Read every day

Whether you read for five minutes or an hour, set aside some time each and every day to read.  We get it…busy days mean shorter reading times.  But it’s too easy to get out of the habit, so make it a priority!  If necessary, use an audiobook to do the reading in the car.

6. Pass the book

If your children are old enough, take turns reading. Keep it age-level appropriate and for short lengths of time. When my children started reading aloud with the family, they read one paragraph at a time, then a page, and then a full chapter.

7. Read at level AND below level

As an adult, do you only read collegiate-level and above books? Neither do I. Sometimes it’s nice to settle in with a fun book, regardless of the target age range. For struggling readers, this can help them feel more successful, too, as they build those skills.

8. Use picture books.

In the non-fiction realm, picture books are an excellent way to help illustrate and explain difficult concepts… I’m looking at you, science! But also understand that not every book needs pictures. Not having pictures in a book allows children to stretch their imaginations and come up with those mental images.

Choosing Quality Books

As with everything in life, there is yin and yang. When choosing living books for read-alouds, or as a base for studies, keep in mind that not all books are “good” books.  “Good” books…

  • Have realistic characters. They are flawed. They live in the real world. But they often learn to overcome their flaws during the story.
  • Teach a moral lesson. Whether through acceptance or overcoming, the protagonist learns some sort of character lesson in the story.
  • Are engaging. These are not dry reads, but intriguing plots full of details that will keep the reader hooked and involved.

“Bad” books…

  • Are not real world. In these books, everything is awesome. Or horrible. There are no real-life events. Or they are overly moralistic.
  • Are poorly written. With poor grammar and speech (we’re not talking about the use of dialects, which can add to the authenticity), these books do more harm than good for your student’s mastery of language arts.
  • Have poor characters. They are boring, self-absorbed, and do not learn anything through the story.

Using Living Books to Study Core Subjects

Sparks Academy

The language arts classes at Sparks Academy utilize five to six novels each year to teach history, geography, character, and literary concepts. Each of the four levels builds upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college!  There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1High School 2High School 3, and Level 7(The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

It’s Time for Holiday Homeschool! {18+ Tips & Unit Studies}

holiday homeschool ideas

The holidays are a time for creating moments with the family.  Many homeschooling parents choose to take the entire month of December off to participate in holiday events, including the Sparks Academy co-op, but there is a way to incorporate holidays into those school days, and there are many Christmas & Chanukah resources for your holiday homeschool.

Even if you live in a state with strict requirements on hours and subjects, there are ways to be creative!  Cooking is home economics; shopping is budgeting and math; writing cards is language arts.  Kids in public schools are spending most of the month of December – particularly in elementary grades – doing arts and crafts, and there’s no reason you can’t, too.

Classified by age group, pick and choose from these resources to create a #HolidayHomeschool plan that’s just right for your family!

Chanukah Resources

Chanukah homeschool resources
  • History of Hannukah (elementary / middle)
    • Learn the history of Chanukah, how it relates to Alexander the Great, and how to play the Dreidel game in this holiday-themed unit.
  • All About Chanukah (family)
    • Each of the ten unit studies in this year-long bundle centers around a book for middle school level and includes videos, cooking projects, hands-on activities, writing assignments, and more.  There are also resources for younger children in eight of the ten units.
  • TalkBox.Mom Chanukah story (family) – This free Hebrew printable also has an English translation and comes with an audio download to assist in pronunciation.   {Bonus:   Get $15 off your first TalkBox when you bundle it with your book! Use coupon: REFGSZXRLU9KL}

Christmas Resources

elementary homeschool christmas resources

Elementary

  • 12 Days of Christmas Math
    • This huge 200+ page PDF is stuffed with hands-on activities and printables to complete 12 fun Christmas themed math lessons!  Each day includes complete directions and printables, plus bonus tips, extension activities, and worksheets to reinforce the concepts your kids are learning. Harness that Christmas excitement to make homeschooling fun this season with this easy-to-use resource!
  • 12 Days of Christmas School
    • Press pause on all the traditional curriculum for an easy to implement and fun Christmas curriculum for homeschoolers! The 12 Days of Christmas curriculum includes: Language Arts, Science, Nature Study, Math, Art, Music, and World Cultures. With over 12 days of lessons, this is the perfect curriculum for those crazy days between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Give your elementary student a full curriculum for the holidays!
  • Budgeting for Christmas
    • Using catalogs, mailers, flyers, gift books that you collect, students can create shopping lists and budgets for a holiday gift giving.
  • Candy Cane Unit
    • This 23-page unit study includes the history of the candy cane, candy cane puzzles (Math), a candy cane STEM challenge, and funny candy cane mad libs (grammar). You’ll also watch how candy canes are made (both by hand and in a factory), conduct your own candy cane experiment, and finish it all off with a fun treat.
  • Christmas Around the World
    • Your family will love studying world cultures and geography this season with this Christmas Around the World unit! This print-and-go resource will transport your family around the globe to study 7 countries. Kids will use the critical thinking skills of comparing and contrasting as they study what makes each culture unique. And the best part is that all the facts are included- no need to waste hours searching for resources and doing research. Enjoy celebrating Christmas Around the World with your kids this season!
  • {Techie} Christmas Around the World  
    • Learn about 10 countries and their Christmas traditions, create hands-on and digital projects, and prepare an ethnic Christmas feast!
  • Christmas Science Projects
    • This downloadable PDF includes 4 science projects in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. Each experiment ties in with a popular children’s Christmas picture book. Complete supply lists and step by step directions make it easy to complete the projects. Each project includes a printable observation chart to help kids make observations, collect data, and record their experiment results. Each experiment also includes a brief explanation of some of the science concepts that kids will be learning about. Bonus extension activities are included for 2 of the experiments.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    • Let’s read the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Then let’s go on rabbit trails of discovery about Christmas, Mistletoe, Santa Claus and more! We will toss some magic dust in the air and jump into the book with hands-on adventures. And when we’ve finished the book, let’s throw a party and celebrate like the Whos in Who-ville!
  • {LIVE} How the Grinch Stole Christmas:  Part I & Part 2
    • Jon Miller, Instructor of Humanities at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, has been reading ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ to the delight of students and alumni (and their children) for over 25 years.
  • NORAD Santa Tracker  
    • NORAD has done a great job with video shorts that introduce your children to landmarks and Christmas traditions from around the world! In the Village, kids can play games, build gifts, code Santa’s computer, and more!  
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.

Middle

  • A Christmas Carol
    • In this course, A Christmas Carol Online Book Club for Middle School, we will read through the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As we are reading, we will go on rabbit trails of discovery into history, science, art, and more. We will find ways to learn by experiencing parts of the book through hands-on activities. At the conclusion of the story, we will have a party school to celebrate this classic Christmas story. This online literary guide has everything you need to study the book. This course includes vocabulary, grammar, rabbit trails, and a writing project. It is perfect for advanced elementary or middle school level literature.
  • Have Yourself a Little Latin Christmas
    • Get into the holiday spirit while continuing Latin studies with these 22 pages of games, activities, and history!  Includes: Crafts, Caroling, Reading, Games, and Puzzles.
  • Budgeting for Christmas
    • Using catalogs, mailers, flyers, gift books that you collect, students can create shopping lists and budgets for a holiday gift giving.
  • {Techie} Christmas Around the World  
    • Learn about 10 countries and their Christmas traditions, create hands-on and digital projects, and prepare an ethnic Christmas feast!
  • Christmas Science Projects
    • This downloadable PDF includes 4 science projects in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. Each experiment ties in with a popular children’s Christmas picture book. Complete supply lists and step by step directions make it easy to complete the projects. Each project includes a printable observation chart to help kids make observations, collect data, and record their experiment results. Each experiment also includes a brief explanation of some of the science concepts that kids will be learning about. Bonus extension activities are included for 2 of the experiments.
  • Home for the Holidays
    • Homeschool through the holidays with this holiday bundle that includes three full-length history-based holiday unit studies plus several extra crafts and activities!  Full length units include: 1940s Christmas, Victorian Age Christmas, and Christmas in England.
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.
  • Symmetry Snowflakes
    • If you’re looking for a way to decorate for the holidays while also proudly declaring your love of science, here are templates for paper snowflakes with winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics incorporated into the designs.
  • Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop
    • Includes 20 full-length, step-by-step video art lessons. Each unique art piece reflects a different aspect of winter – Christmas, snowy winter scenes, winter flowers, winter poetry and even a few delicious holiday recipes! And for the holiday season, we’ll be including easy and beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments to create. In this workshop, we explore and experiment with various art forms including: sketching, acrylic painting, watercoloring, collage art, sculpting, hand lettering, art journaling, and MORE!
high school homeschool christmas resources

High

  • A Christmas Carol
    • In this course, A Christmas Carol Online Book Club for Teens, we will read through the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As we are reading, we will go on rabbit trails of discovery into history, science, art, and more. We will find ways to learn by experiencing parts of the book through hands-on activities. At the conclusion of the story, we will have a party school to celebrate this classic Christmas story. This online literary guide has everything you need to study the book. This course includes vocabulary, grammar, discussion questions, rabbit trails, and a writing project. It is perfect for high school level literature.
  • Have Yourself a Little Latin Christmas
    • Get into the holiday spirit while continuing Latin studies with these 22 pages of games, activities, and history!  Includes: Crafts, Caroling, Reading, Games, and Puzzles.
  • Advent Calendar Project
    • Art meets home economics when your high schoolers create a personalized advent calendar for the entire family to enjoy year after year!
  • Home for the Holidays
    • Homeschool through the holidays with this holiday bundle that includes three full-length history-based holiday unit studies plus several extra crafts and activities!  Full length units include: 1940s Christmas, Victorian Age Christmas, and Christmas in England.
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.
  • Symmetry Snowflakes
    • If you’re looking for a way to decorate for the holidays while also proudly declaring your love of science, here are templates for paper snowflakes with winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics incorporated into the designs.
  • Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop
    • Includes 20 full-length, step-by-step video art lessons. Each unique art piece reflects a different aspect of winter – Christmas, snowy winter scenes, winter flowers, winter poetry and even a few delicious holiday recipes! And for the holiday season, we’ll be including easy and beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments to create. In this workshop, we explore and experiment with various art forms including: sketching, acrylic painting, watercoloring, collage art, sculpting, hand lettering, art journaling, and MORE!
family style homeschool christmas resources

Family-Style

  • Christmas Around the World
    • Eighteen countries (not including the United States) are addressed in the e-book.  It also includes a recommended reading and activities list, cultural movies, and Christmas music from around the world.
  • Friday Boxes
    • Give the gift of gratitude for Christmas and the New Year to follow!
  • History of the Holidays
    • This includes eight holidays, and each unit has introductory text, which will give the student the holiday’s history and customs. After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students. You will also find a short list of reading books and fun hands-on activities!
  • Spanish-English Christmas Carols
    • Celebrate Christmas and practice your Spanish foreign language simultaneously! This 14 Christmas carols are beautifully printed in both Spanish and English – to help with language learning and for your caroling pleasure.
  • TalkBox.Mom Christmas stories 
    • Available in seven different languages, these free downloads have English translations and also come with audio to help you with pronunciation!

Keep in mind: 

  • Flexibility is good, but try to keep some semblance of a schedule.  This will make it easier when you go back to ‘regular’ school in January.
  • Time spent reading together as a family is never time lost.

Looking for something? Check the Gift Guides for Families

Holiday Homeschool Giveaway!

The last two years have been crazy to say the least! We all know families that have been hit hard with job loss, displacement, and more. In efforts to ease financial burdens and help you further explore your homeschool opportunities, we’re giving away over $1050 of homeschool and educational printables, courses, and curriculum! Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re able to give back to not one, but 3 lucky homeschool families in the best way! Inside the giveaway, you’ll find more than $1050 spread across 3 prize packages to bless three amazing families! Learn more about each of our prize packages:

Prize Package 1 ($378 Value)

Cover Story Cloud Set (Grades 6-9) from Clear Water Press, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, DIY Printables for Teachers and Homeschoolers from Living Life and Learning, Planet Voyagers from Simply Fun, a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber, and a Complete Diagnostic Assessment package from Basic Christian Education.

Prize Package 2 ($391.90 Value)

Annual Family Membership from SkillTrek, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, God Made Music from Praise Hymn, Inc. (Winner chooses grade level and either CD’s or MP3), The Homeschool Garden Ancient History I morning time curriculum from Everyday Graces Homeschool, Holiday Big Book Bundle from The Successful Homeschool, Year 1 Curriculum + the companion Discovery Pack from Let’s Go Geography, and a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber.

Prize Package 2 ($391.90 Value)

Online Music course of your choice (up to a $97 value) from Music in Our Homeschool, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, 2 Titles from The Great Science Adventures series (K-8) from Common Sense Press, The Good Manners Resource Pack (digital edition) from Homeschool Adventure, Julia Rothman Notebook Companions Complete Set from Daily Skill Building, 3 books from Carole P Roman’s diverse cultural and historical series from Carole P. Roman, Mommy & Me Journals (Complete Year) from In All You Do, and a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber.

Want to enter to win? Simply enter by following as many sponsors on the form below, and you’re in it to win it! You are responsible for reading the Terms and Conditions before entering. Entering this giveaway confirms that you have read and understand the terms.


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Homeschool Planning for Parents & Teens

Homeschooling is a big job!  If you’re trying to be mom, wife, housekeeper, chauffeur, and teacher…you’re going to tucker out quickly.  Homeschool planning can help you start off on the right foot! 

Remember this, you can be flexible and creative with your schedule.  There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families.  Also, your home is not a school, and you don’t have to re-create school, so don’t be afraid to do what works for you!

Homeschool Planning: Getting Started

You’ve heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Some folks may think they don’t need a planner (I’m guessing these folks are under 40), and truthfully, failing to plan may not be quite that bad, but it does mean forgetting important things.  Maybe you’re a tech person, or maybe you prefer pen and ink, but find a planning method that works for you!

Start by outlining the year.  Make a note in each month of birthdays, holidays, vacations, and any planned time off.  This could include upcoming moves, pregnancy due dates, or other big events.  After noting these, make sure you have the minimum number of required school days for your state (usually 180). 

While you’re planning, include some field trips.  If you like routine, maybe plan a specific day each month (eg, third Friday), or you can just wing it!  Also be sure to leave some blank spaces – days for catching up, following bunny trails, and for those #LifeHappens moments.

Homeschool Planning: Choosing a Groove

Now that you have an idea of what your calendar year looks like, decide what rhythm you want the school year to have. 

  • Do you want to follow a traditional school schedule, mimicking the public school calendar of August through June, with similar breaks?  This might be a good option if your children have cousins or friends that they want to see on school breaks.
  • Do you want to school year-round, spreading out the work at a relaxed pace and taking time off regularly?
  • Do you want to have a four-day school week, leaving one day each week free for field trips, appointments, and playdates?  This can be a good option if you need to schedule regular appointments, as you’ll know you always have this day of the week free.

When you’re making your plan for the year, you’ll want to put in scheduled appointments and schedule out the first few weeks of school work, but don’t plan too far in advance.  Why?  Because life happens.  You might need to adjust the class work load, adding more or relaxing it, depending on your student’s progress.  No need for you to waste time planning every single day of school when it will change.

Each month, reevaluate where your student is and plan out schoolwork for the next month around the appointments, field trips, and blank spaces.  Oh ya.  And write in pencil.  Because things change.  When it comes to planning, we follow the Robinson’s advice with curriculum lessons and just, “Keep Moving Forward.” 

For older students – in middle and high school – it’s never too early to help them start their own planning as well.  This teaches personal responsibility and time management.  Check out the Five Best Planners for Teens to find an option perfect for your teen. 

Homeschool Planning: Ages & Stages

Depending on the age of your student, you’ll need to plan a little more or a little less.  In general, the younger the child, the laxer you can be.

Birth to Age 3

This age is about learning through play.  Life skills, motor skills, and language development are the primary goals.

Preschool and Kindergarten

While children should still be focusing on learning through play, there can be a slight switch to academic goals.  Learning letters, numbers, sounds, how to print their name are the primary goals.

Elementary School

There is still some learning through play, but more focus on academic goals.  This is the time to decide what type of curriculum you want to use – classical, traditional, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc – and be sure to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as introductory science and social studies.  Follow your student’s interests and curiosities!

Learn more about types of curriculum here 

Middle School

This is when students really begin to buckle down in academics, becoming more intentional about learning.  Classes become more difficult, electives are added into the day, and students begin to think about career options for down the road.  Students become more independent and start taking more responsibility for their learning at this age, too.

High School

Start with the end in sight.  Have an idea of what your child might like to do after graduation, and plan courses around this.  Classes are divided into core subjects (science, math, language arts, history) and elective classes.  Don’t forget to plan for standardized testing if college is a possibility.  Internships, hands-on projects, and volunteer hours should all be recorded, too.

Find more specialized advice and inspiration for a variety of lifestyles and challenges in the Homeschooling the Upper Grades series.  If you are confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated by the thought of tackling homeschool planning in the high school years, Sparks Academy offers academic advising and college planning assistance.

Homeschool Planning: Outside of School

Meal Planning

You may not consider meal planning part of homeschooling planning, but it’s really important!  Without having a plan in place for dinner, it’s suddenly five o’clock and you have nothing thawed out.  This leads to a lot of take out, going out to eat, and stressed, hungry family members.

Consider your weekly schedule when meal planning.  If Tuesdays are a full, busy day with evening activities, plan a freezer meal.  Or make a large meal on Monday and serve the leftovers the next day.  Save those time-consuming family favorites for days that are more flexible.

Freezer meals and slow cooking are two easy methods for getting healthy dinners on the table every night AND doing so while saving money.  Try these simple meal ideas to help you get started!

Take a Deep Breath

You have everything in place to have a wonderful homeschool year!  But don’t forget to attend to yourself, too.  Homeschool moms are notorious for wearing twenty hats at once!  We go and go and go and go until we just can’t do it anymore…it’s called burnout. 

Plan a few ‘blank spaces’ and Moms’ Night Outs in that yearly calendar.  Pick up an encouraging book specifically for homeschooling mamas.

homeschool coffee

Must-Have Supplies for Homeschooling Moms!

This is sure to be the most-unusual back-to-school season in our lives…  How will it work?  Where will we school (for those families who outsource some or all of the school day)?  What will we need?  Will masks be a school day requirement?

Seasoned homeschool moms will attest to this list. We welcome new homeschool moms into our fold…..no denim jumper required! Here are fourteen must-have supplies for moms homeschooling middle and high school…

Food / snacks

The number one most-under-projected purchase is the amount of food you’ll need to keep on hand for any one day of school. These are teens…and they’re home ALL DAY….and don’t forget about Second Breakfast!

Library Card

Each December, our library spits out a little piece of paper showing us how much we’ve saved that year by using the library instead of purchasing the items we checked out. Without fail, that number has been over $25K every year! And it’s only grown as the kids have gotten older and their materials have gotten pricier. That’s not to say we don’t buy curriculum, because we definitely do, but those subject-specific books (like “The Real Fighting Stuff“) can be really expensive…thank heavens for the library!

3 hole punch

One of the most underappreciated members of the secretarial lot, the 3-hole punch allows you to take a chaotic mess of papers and organize them into binders. There is not beauty in the chaos when you have three kids’ papers scattered all over the kitchen….punch them, put them in binders, and put them on the shelf until you need grades.

Coffee / wine

Whether it’s 6 am or 6 pm, one of these is always going to be appropriate. Which end of the day you choose to put them is entirely up to you…. Just don’t let your stock dwindle. That could be a bad day.

Shortcut to ST on desktop

We can’t say enough about SchoolhouseTeachers, which basically lets you sign the kids on and then teaches them all their classes. Video-based, downloadable, interactive…pick your poison. Each student’s desktop needs a shortcut directly to their SchoolhouseTeachers dashboard so you can turn over the algebra headache instruction… What is ST?

Favorite chocolate hidden in a tampon box

You made cookies and didn’t get any. You bought your favorite candy and only found empty wrappers. We’ve been there. Solution? Get your favorite chocolate, and hide it in an empty tampon box! No one will steal it now…

Stapler

This one seems like an easy oversight, but every home office needs a stapler. ‘Nuff said.

Desktop / laptop

Whether you choose cumbersome or portable – and they each have their benefits – it’s good to have an actual computer on hand, rather than just tablets and cell phones. There are so many things that require all the functions of an honest-to-pete computer, both online and offline.

Printer & ink

Did you buy digital curriculum? What about that nifty five-page freebie you just had to have? Are you really going to pay someone to print out eight pages of flashcards for you?

Computer paper

See above. Seriously… Must. Have.

Sense of humor

None of us got out of high school unscathed…so why would we think we can get out of teaching high school unscathed? Some days are going to be better than others. Pull on your big girl panties, try to keep it light, and remember what Annie said…. ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

Quiet place / lock on bathroom door

Hmmm. Those days when our toddlers would just barge into the bathroom? They’re not gone. The kids just stand behind the door now talking to you. I like to keep the tap running…for an hour…so that I can’t hear them…while I read quietly in the bathroom.

Laminator

Everyone thinks they don’t need a laminator. Until they do. And you do. Need one. That is if you don’t already have one. Flashcards, printable games, and dry-erase worksheets are all vastly improved and gain an extended life with a laminator. We also like to make booklets, like the Memorization Book, which will last kid after kid after kid…

Plan / goals

Um, yeah. Your kid is in high school. Which means that s/he is about to leave the nest (hopefully). Do y’all have a plan? College, votech, career? This is the time to make goals and help your student move ever closer to the edge of the nest…get those wings ready!

Dry Erase Pouches

Not just for elementary school parents! These dry erase pouches are fantastic for reusing with things such as graph paper, mapwork, and geometry graphics. Students who need a little extra practice on math facts and handwriting can put them to use as well.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

If your older student has younger siblings who are doing schoolwork or playing, it can be distracting and frustrating trying to concentrate on schoolwork. Noise cancelling headphones help your student tune out the pitter and tune in to classwork.

Coil binder

You might think you don’t need a coil binder. If you have a great printer – such as Family Nest Printing – you might not. But you’ll want to ask them to bind your printed books for you. This allows you to buy digital curriculum once, print a book for each kid (as it’s needed), and bind it up like printed textbooks!

Pre-Planned Goodies

Remember that analogy about putting on your own mask on an airplane before putting one on your children?  Homeschooling moms can easily fall into the trap of forgetting to take care of themselves, too… Schedule a monthly reminder to step back and regularly take care of yourself! See our Seven Ways to Pamper Mom!

Want to know what’s on your kids’ back-to-school checklist? Check our the Must-Have Supplies for Homeschooling Teens!


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