Guilt-Free Homeschooling Summer Camp: Encouragement Around the Campfire

Sitting around a campfire can be a time of great encouragement as you share thoughts and stories with your friends, so we’re here to share some encouraging thoughts with you. And what Summer Camp experience would be complete without a craft or two? Don’t despair if you’re not the crafty type–we’ve done the hard part for you. All that’s left is the coloring—the fun (and therapeutic) part!

Below are some of the “mottoes” that helped us through the darker days of homeschooling, those days when books disappear, memory banks go blank, and everything you touch seems to turn to dust and fall through your fingers. Those days. These are the lines I found myself repeating over and over in those talking-to-myself “Parent/Teacher Conferences.” These are the lines that I shouted in defiance at the discouraging “voices” that were playing on repeat in my head. These are the lines that reminded me of what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what a difference I was making in my kids’ lives.

Click on any image, save it to your own computer, then print it out in whatever size you prefer. Color it yourself or invite your kids to color it or decorate it in any manner, and place the finished product in a location where you’ll see it often. Make as many as you need! Put a small one on your bathroom mirror; put a big one above the kitchen sink; keep several in your planning notebook; make individual ones for your kids (they need encouragement, too); share them with your friends around the campfire (or anywhere), and share the homeschool grace. Listed below each graphic is a link to an article pertaining to that topic, just for a little more encouragement.

Top 10 Homeschool Mommy Myths

Who Taught This Kid to Walk, Talk, and Potty?

Every Day Is a Learning Day, and Life Is Our Classroom

What Didn’t Work for Today Can Be Changed for Tomorrow

What Didn’t Work for Today Can Be Changed for Tomorrow

So You Think You’re Not Smart Enough to Homeschool?

Who Wrote This “Rule Book” and Why Do I Think I Have to Follow It?

I Give One Grade: 100%—But You Get to Keep Trying Until You Get It

What Is Your “Best”?

Read the entire GFHS Summer Camp series:
Homeschool Mommy Summer Camp
Homeschool Summer Camp FUN!
Homeschool Summer Reading Activities
Homeschool Summer Scheduling
Encouragement Around the Campfire

Teaching the Satisfaction of a Job Well Done

Have you ever noticed that cooking is much easier to do if the counters are clear, and the dishwasher and dish drainer are empty? I think a clean kitchen is a pleasure to be in and to work in. A sparkling clean bathroom makes me feel more like I’m vacationing in a nice hotel room than enduring yet another ordinary day at home. When my family all pitched in, and we cleaned the house super-fast for short-notice visitors, I always marveled aloud at how nice it looked! I wanted my helpers to feel appreciated, but I also wanted them to focus on what they had accomplished and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The big question on your mind may be how to get your children to pitch in and help. Should you bribe them? If you routinely reward them, will they always expect some tangible payment for helping? And would a regular reward really be any different from a bribe? A bribe is something promised in advance in order to obtain a desired result. A true reward should be a surprise given after the fact as a bonus for desirable behavior.

I gave my children occasional rewards for cooperation and patient endurance after a grueling day of errands or shopping. You did a great job of helping without whining or complaining, so now you can pick out a treat! Usually, the rewards were simple things like a candy bar or a small toy, nothing to break the budget, but enough to say Thanks — you’re appreciated! At other times, when our children mentioned a more expensive item they might like to save up for, we made them a surprise gift of it, as another unexpected reward for being a good, cooperative, and helpful member of the family on a regular basis.

My kids tidied up their own bedrooms as one of their normal duties, but about once each year I would help each of them with a thorough overhaul. We went through all of their clothing, culling the outgrown or damaged things. We deep-cleaned the closets and corners that usually got ignored. We rearranged the furniture to suit their latest whim or growing-up needs. That much work often took more than a single day, but when we were finished, I had helped each child see the benefits of all our progress: more floor space for playing board games, new bookshelves for organization, or a desk in their bedroom for a private work space. Many of the decisions along the way were left up to the child in question, so that they had a true sense of ownership in the reorganization process, and along with that came the satisfaction of having things the way they wanted them. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to part with a favorite shirt when the child can still get into it (sort of), but the feeling of moving on to a few new clothes (and making some new memories) will be well worth it. Completing this laborious task should be marked by several moments of admiration and recognizing the satisfaction in a job well done.

There is satisfaction to be found in even mundane tasks. Emptying the kitchen trash can is hardly anyone’s favorite job, but once it has been done, it is much easier to toss the next item in! Nothing falls out and slithers to the floor, you don’t have to cram the pile down to make room for anything else, and you won’t be reminded (again) that the trash still needs to be emptied, and it is still your turn to do it.

We moms often find ourselves expending all sorts of energy to get tasks done, but we need to save a little of that energy for praising the job well done and bestowing our satisfaction in the accomplished task. You worked a long time on that! It feels good, doesn’t it, to have it finally done! And you did a good job, too — I can tell that you put a lot of effort into your work! Who wouldn’t like to hear that? Even when no one else had helped me with my own large or time-consuming tasks, sometimes I still exclaimed aloud over a finished job and expressed how nice it looked or felt to have it completed, just to inspire my children to look for satisfaction in the completion of their own tasks.

You can bribe a student to complete a lesson on time (or ahead of time), or you can surprise them with a reward for the lessons they finish quickly under their own motivation. The latter will be less stressful and more beneficial to all involved. When the child is surprised with a reward, he feels satisfaction at knowing his accomplishment was appreciated by others. When he has been bribed, he feels relief that the distasteful task is now out of his life and (perhaps) a greedy glee that he tricked someone else into paying him to do said distasteful task. A student who learns to enjoy satisfaction as its own reward does not need constant tangible gifts, as the object of bribery does. Teach your children to find satisfaction in doing their best and completing their tasks in a timely manner. It will be a lesson they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Are You an “Over-Protective” Mom?

I hear this from concerned, young moms all the time: “My friends tell me I’m an over-protective Mom.” I suspect your friends are wrong. What you are is a Mom — period. You should not be penalized or chastised for simply doing your job to the best of your ability. Neither should you lower your standards to match those of your acquaintances who may have chosen to offer their children on the sacrificial altar of peer pressure.

How many people would consider the following to be over-protective?

  • Mom wants to have a say in what her child is taught.
  • Mom wants to have a say in when he is taught it.
  • Mom wants to have a say in what friends her child associates with.
  • Mom wants to have a say in when he associates with them.
  • Mom wants to have a say in what type of food her child eats.
  • Mom wants her child to avoid substances that will cause him to suffer allergic reactions.
  • Mom wants her child to be safe from harmful substances.
  • Mom wants her child to be safe from harmful influences.
  • Mom wants her child to be safe from harmful situations.
  • Mom wants her child’s needs to be met in a reasonable manner and time period.
  • Mom wants her child to know unrestrained love.

Just in case you are not sure how to answer the above question, let me broaden the subject a little bit. Suppose that instead of talking about an ordinary Mom, we are discussing the owner of a business:

  • The employer insists that his staff members learn to do their projects to his standards.
  • The employer insists that his staff members complete their projects according to his schedule.
  • The employer insists on hiring only staff members who exhibit a work ethic similar to his own.
  • The employer insists on establishing safety regulations and further insists that all employees follow those regulations.
  • The employer insists on approving the production materials that are used.
  • The employer insists on exercising his right to reward superior performance.

Essentially, a Mom performs all the same general functions that a business owner does, but the businessman is usually praised by his peers for his efforts to achieve excellence in productivity. The Mom is, unfortunately, scolded by her peers as being over-protective.

  • Where the employer may be seen as caring and compassionate, Mom is considered “smothering.”
  • Where an employer may be considered efficient, Mom is called “dictatorial.”
  • When an employer chooses high standards to produce an excellent product, a Mom, doing exactly the same thing for the same reasons, is often regarded as “too picky” and “a perfectionist.”

Moms, take a good, long, serious look at your principles and your standards and your reasons for choosing them. If those standards and principles were applied in a business setting, would they be praised by your customers and envied by your competitors? If your methods would be lauded for their excellence by the business world, then you can tell your critics to go find someone else to harass, because you will no longer be listening to them. (Then walk away with your fingers in your ears to prove that they have lost their audience.)

As just another Mom myself, I understand that caring Moms are not trying to control their universe; they are simply trying to do what is best for their children’s well-being. No sane mother wants to see her child kept isolated on a silken pillow as an object of adoration. On the contrary, mothers have hopes and dreams and aspirations for whatever level of success each child will attain, and every sane mother knows that this success cannot be achieved without hard work. Hard work means struggles, and those struggles come from encountering difficulties. Therefore, mothers actually want their children to confront and overcome certain difficulties, since that means that they are on the road to success.

Our job as Moms means that we act as road maps, traffic cops, crossing guards, and travel guides to help our children learn where to go, how to go, when it will be safe to go there, and how to get around once they arrive. Anyone who sees that as being “over-protective” is in the same category as those who feel automotive seat belts, traffic lights, and speed limits are “restrictive” infringements on their self-expression.

A caring Mom keeps her children from being side-tracked away from the truly important issues. A diligent Mom keeps her children moving in the proper direction and at a pace appropriate to the circumstances. A conscientious Mom is not being over-protective: she is doing her job and doing it well. Go, then, and do your job as a Mom, raising your children to the best of your ability. You have my approval.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Standing Up Against “The Lie”.

21 Things That Can Slow Homeschooling Progress

Typically, homeschoolers talk about the blessings and benefits of homeschooling, which are myriad. However, sometimes Life throws us a curveball — and once in a while, several curveballs — too many to deal with casually as part of the normal course of events. If you have found yourself the unwitting recipient of these circumstances, you may be worrying that your family is just not progressing with homeschooling as quickly as you should or even as well as you used to do. If you feel you are on the verge of a homeschool breakdown, the cause may not necessarily be something you are doing wrong — it may just be due to too many complex situations occurring at the same time or in rapid succession. The following list of unique situations may contain some of the things your family has experienced that you previously had not considered as being directly related to your rate of academic progress (or lack of progress).

1. Homeschooling for the first time
2. Leaving public or private school to switch to homeschooling
3. A reluctant learner who balks at the idea of schoolwork in general
4. An eager learner who wants to explore extensively into each topic
5. Pregnancy
6. Childbirth
7. Adoption
8. An infant
9. A toddler
10. A special needs child
11. A chronic illness or other health crisis affecting any family member
12. A severe injury requiring extended recovery or rehabilitation for any family member
13. An elderly parent/grandparent who needs care or must be moved to a care facility
14. Extensive property damage from fire, flood, or natural disaster
15. A legal or financial crisis
16. A job change
17. Moving to a different home
18. A wedding
19. A divorce
20. A death in the family
21. Miscarriage or stillbirth

Please note that this list is not complete. You may be experiencing some things that are not listed here and yet have been just as devastating to your “normal” routine. If your family has experienced more than one of these items in the past year or in consecutive years, please consult the article Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace and Topical Index: Doing Your “Best” and Topical Index: Encouragement for Parents for some much-needed comfort and uplifting encouragement. If you have reason to anticipate any of these events in your foreseeable future, try to plan ahead as much as is humanly possible in order to prepare yourselves for the upcoming event and its schedule-altering effects. Please note that some of these factors cannot be predicted at all, some will last only a few months, but others may continue for years or for a lifetime (such as a special needs child).

Above all else, know that when your family encounters the types of situations listed above, your children will have experienced Life up-close and personally, and that in itself is an education that no textbook can provide!

Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace

No, Grace is not my name, nor is it my daughter’s name. “Homeschooling with Grace” refers to making homeschooling a real possibility for you. If your mental image of homeschooling (before you began) was much different from what your homeschooling reality has become, perhaps you need a dose of Grace. Sit back, relax, and lower your standards just enough to allow yourself to breathe easily again as we look at the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace.

10. You can provide your students with as much time as they need to truly understand a concept, and you can allow your students to skip redundant portions of lessons they have already learned. [Grace is patient, but Grace also recognizes achievement.]

9. You meet other homeschooling families who do things differently than you do, and you smile, knowing that all homeschoolers are unique. [Grace appreciates the differences in life.]

8. Every member of the family relaxes, knowing that Grace bestows forgiveness, second (and third and fourth) chances, and hugs when you need them. [Grace understands, and Grace loves anyway.]

7. You give up “flying under the radar” to avoid attracting attention as a homeschooling family and boldly traipse through parks, stores, and other public areas between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., knowing that anyone foolish enough to inquire why your children are not “in school” will have to endure a barrage of giggles, several quippy answers from each child, and at least 3 recitations from recent history and science lessons. [Grace accepts Life as a good teacher.]

6. You redefine a “clean” house to mean one that looks lived in but can still be occupied without fear of actually contracting any truly scary diseases. [Grace knows that perfection is unattainable on this side of Heaven.]

5. You no longer cringe at the thought of friends dropping by unannounced, realizing that they are more interested in sharing 5 minutes of conversation with another grown-up than in performing a white-glove inspection of your bookshelves. [Grace prefers people to things.]

4. You realize that no one who really loves you will care if the breakfast dishes are still in the sink when you start supper. Or that once in a while last night’s pizza boxes can be found on the coffee table. At least the leftovers are all gone… thanks to the family dog. [Grace knows when you need a break.]

3. The thought of seeing your family pictured on the cover of a homeschooling magazine would mean that chore-boot footprints and mud stains are being featured in that issue’s Art Corner. [Grace knows that Life is not tidy.]

2. You lower your expectations of homeschooling to include only those things your students might actually be able to accomplish in this lifetime. [Grace does not expect the impossible.]

And finally, the Number One Benefit of Homeschooling with Grace is:

1. Grace. Just when you think you’ve messed up everything beyond all hope of repair, God gives you the Grace to start fresh and try again. [His mercies are new every morning–Lamentations 3:22-23]

So You Think You’re Not Smart Enough to Homeschool?

Suppose your child wants a special cake for her birthday. What will you do? A few moms may be practiced in the fine art of baking the perfect cake from scratch, combining flour, sugar, and eggs in the correct proportions to rise to delicious heights without falling. Some moms will grab a boxed mix, whip it up, and top the resulting cake with ready-made frosting and colorful sprinkles. Other moms will simply stop by their favorite bakery and purchase a completed cake. In each case, the problem has been solved, and the birthday will be celebrated.

The same strategy can be applied to teaching in a homeschool setting. You can research topics yourself, much like looking for recipes in a cookbook or online or asking friends to share their favorites. You can collect a few do-it-yourself elements and put together your own curriculum, as with the mom who used the cake mix, canned frosting, and instant decorations. Or you can purchase an assortment of courses fully prepared by someone else, as in the case of the bakery cake.

I have met many people whose reaction to homeschooling is “You would have to be smart to do that!” Knowing what really goes on behind the scenes in homeschooling, my thought is “What is smart?” How intelligent does a person have to be to homeschool successfully? I do not have to know all the answers in order to be a good teacher, I just have to know where or how to find the answers. I do not have to be able to do something myself in order to be able to teach about it.

In my past educational experiences, I have had art instructors who effectively taught me about DaVinci and Rembrandt, but who could not duplicate the works of those masters themselves. I had English instructors who taught me about Shakespeare and Longfellow, but who had never written comparable works. I had history teachers who had done nothing memorable themselves and geography teachers who had never traveled the globe. My science teachers had made no remarkable scientific discoveries, and yet they were able to pass on accurate scientific knowledge. These successful instructors all relied to some degree on the resources and experiences of others.

A successful homeschool teacher is one who is able to impart the material to his or her students. The source of the material is not relevant if no one is able to learn from it. There are homeschool students whose curricula cost hundreds of dollars and students whose books are borrowed for free from the public library, and both learn equally well. There are homeschool teachers who write every page of their own lessons and teachers who read word-for-word from purchased, scripted manuals, and the students of both learn equally well.

If I had waited to begin homeschooling until I felt confident enough in my own knowledge and abilities that I could answer any question my students might ask, well, I would still be studying. In reality, I learned right along with my students. If I became hopelessly confused on some topic, the resources and experiences of others were nearby in the form of other homeschoolers, reference books, internet websites, or packaged lessons. When we encountered an unfamiliar word, we consulted the dictionary together. When we stumbled over a math problem, we worked it out together. When we were stumped by a reference to an exotic location, we leafed through the atlas or did a quick “Google” search together. The bonds created through learning together taught my students more than just new information. My students saw first-hand that learning can be an enjoyable and profitable, life-long process.

If you are intrigued by homeschooling, but feel you may not be smart enough, I encourage you to give it a try. You can supplement your knowledge through the materials you choose, increasing your teaching staff from one (just you) to dozens or even hundreds of experienced and qualified tutors (the authors whose works you consult).

If you currently use pre-packaged curriculum and would like to try your hand at creating a lesson on your own, go ahead and give it a try. There is no Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book that states you must always continue using the same method with which you started. If you currently are writing all of your own lessons, but find yourself so overwhelmed by recent developments in life that you would really like to try an all-in-one package, go ahead and give it a try. There is no Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book that states you must always continue using the same method with which you started. That non-existent Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book also does not prevent you from switching back to your original choices if you find you really prefer them. Variety is the spice of life, and flexibility is the blessing of homeschooling. Take a break, take a chance, and watch the learning continue.

If you are able to create your own lessons out of thin air, God bless you. If you prefer to use pre-prepared lessons purchased from an experienced publisher, God bless you, too. Guilt-Free Homeschooling frees you from the competition for Most Original Lesson Plan and allows you to use the method that works best for you and for your students. How smart do you have to be to be able to homeschool? Just smart enough to use what works.

Am I Doing Enough?

This has to be the question that plagues homeschoolers more often than any other: Am I doing enough? At times, this question appears in my mailbox accompanied by an arm-long list of academic pursuits and supplemental activities that can make me feel tired from just reading it, while other parents are truly puzzled by where to begin teaching their children. For homeschooling parents who are organizing their own school days, there is often no guideline or rulebook for what needs to be studied when. While homeschooling is often a blessing in the way it does not depend on a specific plan, the list below will help parents evaluate their children’s interests and levels of involvement in various academic and leisure pursuits. That evaluation will help you to determine whether you are doing enough within your own homeschool.

Have you stopped to analyze why you feel your schedule may be inadequate? Do you feel you are not doing enough because your homeschooling routine takes very little time to complete each day? Do you worry that other students may be learning more than your students are learning? Do you fear that one day your students will be confronted with a situation they are not prepared to handle? On the other hand, at least one homeschooling mom has lamented that, even if she could teach everything, there was no guarantee that her students would learn everything. The way I viewed it, my most important task was to teach my students how to learn. Then I could relax, knowing that, if necessary, my children would be capable of teaching themselves anything they wanted to know — for the rest of their lives. That did not mean that I dropped our daily schedule of educational fare, but it did mean that I no longer felt I had to worry and fret every minute that my students might miss something.

Here are twenty questions to help you determine if your homeschool schedule is satisfactory and if your children are learning valuable skills. While some of the questions cover areas that are not addressed during the main academic portion of your homeschooling schedule, they are designed to adjust your perspective of homeschooling, education, and life in general.

20 Questions

It may be helpful to take this quiz multiple times, focusing your answers each time on a different child. Questions and answers should be adapted for various ages — obviously, a high school student should possess more advanced academic skills than a preschooler, and the free-time activities should also reflect the difference in ages. Please consider the use of he/his/him to be generic. This is a non-scientific quiz, based solely on personal experiences.

Score as follows:
5 points
for a definite “Yes/Nearly Always” answer
2 points for a “Maybe/Sometimes” answer
0 points for a “No/Rarely” answer

1. Is your child interested in his schoolwork?

2. Does your child have multiple interests and duties to fill his time each day (schoolwork; home chores; pleasure reading; hobbies; playing beneficial or educational video or computer games; playing board, table, card, dice games; open or unstructured playtimes not involving TV; outdoor sports and activities; and artistic or musical pursuits)?

3. Is your child able to entertain himself during free time?

4. Is your child involved in any hobbies that could become lifelong pursuits?

5. Does your child read anything for pleasure (books, magazines, comic books, internet articles, etc.)?

6. Does your child beg to keep the light on past bedtime so he can “finish the chapter”?

7. Can your child read and follow directions (directions for traveling to another location, directions for assembling a new toy or playing a new game, and directions for preparing a recipe)?

8. Does your child possess an extensive vocabulary for his age?

9. Does your child willingly speak when spoken to? Will he answer questions from relatives or friends regarding his schoolwork? Does he give complete answers using full sentences?

10. Is your child comfortable (considering his age) speaking in front of a friendly group of people (family or friends) in an informal setting?

11. Can your child react appropriately to people he does not know in acceptable situations (store clerks and sales associates, restaurant wait-staff, police, and medical professionals)?

12. Does your child play a variety of games (board & table games, card games, dice games, solitary games & group games, and games focusing on math, geography, and varied trivia)?

13. Can your child accurately handle money and make change (whether in real life or as part of a board game)?

14. Does your child help with home chores on a regular basis?

15. Does your child possess basic life-skills? Can he prepare a simple meal (make a sandwich or scramble eggs)? Can he clean himself, his clothing, and his living quarters?

16. Does your child possess basic computer skills (type with more than two fingers, control the computer mouse or track-ball, open a word-processing program and begin a document, and navigate through safe internet sites)?

17. Does your child possess basic research skills (finding a specific book at the library, finding a specific number in the telephone book, finding a specific place on a map, and using a dictionary)?

18. Does your child witness and/or assist in a variety of adult responsibilities so that he will be comfortable when faced with those situations himself (paying bills, balancing checkbook or bank account, simple home repairs or auto repairs, meal planning, making appointments, and organizing a home)?

19. Can your child take notes from a speaker? (Your pastor’s sermon is an excellent training ground for taking notes in future college lectures.)

20. Does your child possess basic religious beliefs and know why he believes what he believes? Does he know how to learn more about his faith?

Below 40 points — You need to consider doing more. Begin working on any areas where you scored a 0, and try to include your students in a wider variety of activities. If your children are very young (especially age 7 and younger), be sure they have a wide variety of playtime activities.
40-85 points — You are off to a good start. Use your score sheet to help you see where you need improvement, and do not disregard time spent away from the pencils.
Above 85 points — You are definitely doing enough! Congratulate yourself and your students on your achievements and take tomorrow off as a Reward Day. If possible, invite Dad along to share in your celebration!

[Note: a completely revised and updated version of this quiz is now available in our book, Diagnostic Tools to Help the Homeschooling Parent.]