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Published on December 10, 2020

How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)

How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)
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Ever wondered how to homeschool your children? Like, is this idea even possible? Do you even want to?

While the thought of watching your child develop before your eyes is typically a happy, calming thought, with the current climate in consideration, many parents are left grasping for straws at what they can do to help usher in academic growth for their students. Families have happily homeschooled for years and for many reasons.

But is this the right thing for your family? And, assuming your local school district has left you no choice, how would you even start?

Thankfully, there are many online resources these days that can make your decision to homeschool your children a seamless one (or at least, not an impossible one)!

Read on to learn more about the following sections, and I should note: you’ll want to follow them in the order presented. Let’s get started!

1. Molding the Mindset for Home Learning

If you are cradling a bubbling soon-to-be kindergartener at home, perhaps the thought of homeschooling doesn’t seem like that much of a big lift. After all, you’ve probably been reading to, writing with, and building in collaboration with your little munchkin for years now.

The thought of codifying some time to craft our letters a little better, memorizing the order of the numbers, or simply getting lost in the tranquility of how the leaves in the trees move around in the backyard (look at that squirrel!) may not be a large leap. And that’s wonderful!

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You should truly adopt a mindset of incremental learning goals—not too different from the books you’ve exposed your kiddos to since they were babies. They started with books without words, then books with few words, then books with smaller pictures and more words, and on and on! That’s how your homeschool journey should start: understanding that there will be some things to focus a little more attention on (or not, as we will learn in section three), and allowing plenty of time for play!

Is your kiddo a little older? Are they somewhere in the middle of elementary school, middle school, or even high school and remember what life was like when school was outside of your four walls? (Now, of course, COVID is making this obsolete, but I’m trying to also be timeless here, people!)

Hope is not lost, and you shouldn’t worry! As we will see in the next section, crafting a schedule will be your biggest asset. First, though, you’ll want to have a conversation with your child (and now, student!) about applying their best effort with you during the times you set out to spend in an academic mode. And please, don’t think you need to be like the sequel to Stand and Deliver. You’ll be just fine!

Let’s talk about that (sanity) schedule—that should ease your mind a bit.

2. Creating a Sanity Schedule

Let’s start again with our lovely, cute little kindergartener (or sub your early-elementary student in if that’s more helpful for you). This is the best time for learning, really. If you think about it: exploring every nook and cranny, finding which outlet stings the most, and mixing every marker cap with a different colored marker—just to have a little fun, right?

Learning is beautiful and should be encouraged whether or not you have a homeschool environment or are simply playing in the afternoon. The point I’m stressing here is that school, regardless of the location, should be about discovery—about molding what is already interesting and adding some definitions to how that curiosity will be measured. Creating a daily schedule is key!

You do not want full Montessori-style happening at all times, and you never want your kiddo to eat or get their head out of the paint. Some structure is good, and some say it is necessary. This isn’t a boot camp, of course, but you will be far better off if you nail down a process to how each day will proceed.

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Perhaps your day with your kiddo starts with some breakfast and stretching, and then you spend some time coloring and building legos, have a morning snack, practice the day of the week and some numbers, have some lunch, they (heck, maybe you, too) take a nap, and then play outside for the afternoon (or do creative play inside, should weather not be appropriate).

For older students, they don’t quite need all of your handholding, and you can collaborate on making a schedule with them that is publicly posted, perhaps on a refrigerator door. Having the whole family understand and stay accountable to the schedule allows everyone to understand what’s going on.

You will want your child to have some say in how their day is scheduled with you to create buy-in, and when you have that, the rest is gold, baby! So, if you’re a digital type of marker-on-poster person, get creative with a daily schedule that works with your family structure.

Next, let’s discuss what you’ll actually be doing during your homeschool day.

3. Identifying Proper Curricular Resources (or Not!)

There are two, perhaps three, varying schools (pun intended!) of thought about the idea of homeschool being exactly like school, nothing like school, or a mix of traditional school and, something else.

If you’ve heard of unschooling, for example, you’ll know what I mean. The idea, basically, is to remove all of the formal structures that a typical academic setting would impose upon a child.[1] Simply speaking, expose your child to proper interests that they may have, and let the child progress through at their own pace with material or experiences that they find fruitful. This idea is similarly related to Montessori schools, though not completely.

For those families that want a little more stringent accountability on what their child is learning, many online programs are available at little or no cost. Identifying reading programs is probably most critical, and sites like Readworks.org or NewsELA.org allow students to easily access contents at their reading level. Khan Academy is phenomenal for math and science education at a student’s pace.

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For more official support, you can contact your state’s academic agency to see a list of homeschool-approved curriculum in your area. Truly, you can be as “by the book” or “off the beaten path” as you’d like to be.

Your type of curricula is not nearly as important as the mindset (“we are creative beings on a quest to learn more about this world of ours”) and the daily schedule you set up with your family. A simple online search can open a door of opportunities for you and your student to explore—but mindset needs to be cultivated, and schedules cannot be built by Google.

Finally, let’s tackle the often publicized role of monitoring the learning progress of your child at home.

4. Monitoring Your Child’s Learning Progress

Once again, Pinterest is your friend here (or not). Children get excited when they realize they are growing—be it the pencil marks that delineate their different heights or stickers that show their journey towards learning how to spell their name. When you can create a compelling scoreboard of accomplishment, your child will feel pride and a sense of the important life equation hard work plus focus equals positive results.

But how exactly do you know if your student is growing in fluency at the proper rate? Or that their writing is on par with others at their grade level?

Well, that answer is not so simple—going back to where you see yourselves falling on the line of philosophies to education in your house. If you’re of the “unschool” mentality, the simple observation that your child is having a renewed interest in a variety of things is enough for you. If you’ve adopted a more bounded curriculum approach, you’ll be more interested in seeing finite proof that your child is improving. So, some helpful tips for you folks are included below.

First of all, the ability to attend to a task is perhaps the most important observable and measurable feature of homeschooling. A good general rule of thumb for how long a student can stay focused on a given task without needing a break is simple: their age multiplied by 4 (minutes). Your six year old should be able to focus intently on a task that is interesting to them for 24 minutes (6 years x 4 minutes).

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Of course, this general rule of thumb doesn’t always apply, but it’s a good start. Remember: this applies to focusing on interesting tasks. Staring at a multiplication worksheet for 24 minutes will probably just drive them mad.

Next, focus more on what you are having them do, not so much (initially) on how well they are doing the task. For example, you probably shouldn’t be so focused on the number of words your child can read if you first haven’t established a routine that every night at 6:00 pm, we read for 20 minutes. Establish the routine first, then start to see how your child is progressing.

A very simple reading check is to time your child reading for one minute, making a mental note of the words they read incorrectly during that one minute. That roughly indicates your child’s fluency (words read per minute).

As your child gets older, you will be able to monitor more things—multiplication facts, division processes, and the ability to research and write reports with little grammatical error and full quoted evidence. Have fun with the process, and realize you’re on a journey of learning that should be exciting!

A Possible Next Step

As you think about this important decision, be sure to include every member of your family. Schedule a time to chat about this decision, even if your student isn’t fully aware of what homeschooling is. Allow them to share their excitements, their worries, and be open with them as well.

Take that next step, though, to ensure this is in the best interest of your family, especially your child. Of course, you may not have that time and you may be forced into making a decision, in which case, I hope you found this guide helpful.

More Tips on How to Homeschool

Featured photo credit: Jessica Lewis via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Charlie Moynahan

Educator in Sacramento, California

How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide) How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

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Published on July 22, 2021

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week
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It’s 5 p.m., and you’re exhausted. The kids are hungry, but no one knows what they want to eat for dinner. With very little energy, you force yourself into the kitchen and look through every cabinet, hoping for a spark of inspiration. Eventually, you toss a few ingredients together and hope for the best. It won’t win any prizes and falls short of what you consider “healthy,” but it fills everyone’s stomachs.

Feeding a family can be stressful, even tiresome. It’s hard to find the energy and creativity needed to cook healthy but simple family meals. It’s easy to fall into the “anything goes” mentality. When you’ve got a busy lifestyle, meals become more about survival and less about nutrition.

Here are 20 quick and healthy—but tasty—recipes followed by tips on making these family meals more nutritious. These recipes can help you have a healthy family meal on the table in an hour or less. Remember, swap ingredients out if someone in your family has dietary restrictions or if you avoid certain foods.

1. Mini Meatloaves With Green Beans and Potatoes

    These miniature meatloaves come together quickly and cook faster, too. You can have a family favorite on the table, paired with seasoned potatoes and fresh green beans, in just 40 minutes.

    Get the recipe here.

    2. One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta

      This classic will taste like you spent hours cooking, but the preparation and clean-up couldn’t be quicker. One-pot cooking makes this dish practical, while fresh basil, parmesan, and garlic add a special touch.

      To try this recipe, go here.

      3. Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas

        Skip the restaurant and make fajitas at home. The ingredients go on one sheet pan, meaning you won’t spend all night cleaning. Zesty chicken, bell peppers, and warm tortillas can be on the table in 40 minutes. Add sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato, and any other favorite toppings.

        Check out the recipe here.

        4. Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

          Lose the carbs but keep the cheesesteak flavors with this quick family meal. Kids will love the pepper “bowls,” and you’ll love giving them a meal full of veggies and protein to keep them healthy.

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          Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

          5. Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl

            This veggie-packed meal adds an extra boost by using the superfood quinoa instead of rice. Flavorful yet simple, this meal makes an excellent packable lunch or dinner for your whole family.

            Find the recipe here.

            6. Spinach and Chicken Skillet With Lemon and Parmesan

              The complex flavors of lemon and parmesan come together nicely in this gourmet-like dish, but you don’t have to exert the effort or spend as much as a gourmet meal.

              Get the recipe for this dish here.

              7. Oven-Fried Fish and Chips

                Fish and chips can also sometimes be healthy as evident in this oven-fried version. You won’t miss the calories with this favorite family meal.

                You can find the recipe here.

                8. Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

                  Tangy pineapple and sweet teriyaki will have everyone coming back for seconds. Frozen vegetables make this simple family dish even easier to make and enjoy.

                  Find the recipe here.

                  9. Mozzarella, Basil, and Zucchini Frittata

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                    This egg dish is usually served for breakfast, but a frittata can make a fantastic dinner, too. High in protein, packed with zucchini, and delicious, there’s no reason to wait until morning.

                    Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                    10. Chicken and Sweet Potato Grill Packets

                      Skip the pans and throw everything into foil with this fun family recipe. Kids will love loading ingredients into their pack, and you’ll love its versatility and simplicity.

                      The recipe for this meal can be found here.

                      11. Chicken and Spanish “Rice”

                        Cauliflower takes the place of rice in this low-carb family meal, but it’s so flavorful and filling, no one will miss it.

                        Find the recipe here.

                        12. Honey Chicken Stir Fry

                          This honey chicken stir fry is the healthier version of a restaurant favorite that can be served up quicker than you can order it.

                          Find the recipe here.

                          13. Chicken Skewers With Tzatziki

                            Greek chicken and tzatziki sauce will have you yearning for the Mediterranean, but you can make this recipe at home for your family to enjoy.

                            This easy recipe can be found here.

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                            14. Healthy Walking Tacos

                              Traditional walking tacos are a party favorite, but they’re not usually healthy. However, this recipe keeps it fun while making it more nutritious.

                              Find out how to make it here.

                              15. Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

                                This classic comfort meal can be ready when you walk in the door. All you have to do is add noodles, and it’s ready to serve.

                                The recipe can be found here.

                                16. Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

                                  This usually takes a little over an hour, but the preparation time is only 30 minutes. You’ll love how easy it is, and the cheesy rice is sure to please.

                                  Find the recipe here.

                                  17. Crockpot Rotisserie-Style Chicken

                                    Skip the checkout line and have a rotisserie-style chicken ready at home. A staple in many quick meals, you might find this family meal recipe among your most-used.

                                    Get the recipe for this flavorful chicken here.

                                    18. Santa Monica Street Tacos

                                      Named after a simple taco found on the streets of California, you’ll be surprised that something with only a few ingredients can be so flavorful. Your kids will surely enjoy them.

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                                      Find the recipe here.

                                      19. Pizza Pasta Salad

                                        Enjoy the flavor of pizza without the hassle of making a crust. Use a fun pasta shape to make this even more appealing to your family, especially kids.

                                        Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                                        20. Slow-Cooker Lasagna Soup

                                          Everyone loves lasagna, but it can be time-consuming and messy to make. However, this soup version has the taste you want but with the ease of a crockpot.

                                          Get the recipe here.

                                          Bonus: 3 Simple Ways to Make Meals Healthier

                                          Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of money, time, or thought. Any improvements are a big step in the right direction.

                                          Here are three easy ways you can make meals healthier for your family.

                                          1. Lose the Sugar

                                          Are you looking to improve your health? Cut processed sugars from your diet—the more, the better, and that includes artificial sweeteners.[1] Why? Studies show that sugar increases the risks for weight gain, heart disease, acne, type-2 diabetes, depression, cancer, fatty liver disease, cellular aging, and low energy levels.[2]

                                          2. Avoid Highly Processed Foods

                                          Many processed foods are fine to eat. Even fresh fruit and vegetables go through some processing to stay fresh longer. However, highly processed foods have added salt, sweeteners, saturated fats, preservatives, and artificial colors. These types of food have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[3]

                                          3. Replace Simple Carbs for Complex Carbs

                                          Lowering daily carbs can do wonders for your health. Studies show that low-carb diets lead to lower insulin levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, visceral fat loss, weight loss, reduced appetite, and can be therapeutic for many brain disorders.[4]

                                          When eating carbs, choose complex carbs over simple carbs. Simple carbs, such as white flour, rice, and degermed cornmeal, lack nutrients and spike blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as sweet potato, brown rice, and oats, are usually more nutritious and aren’t digested as quickly, giving more sustained energy and less of an insulin spike.[5]

                                          Enjoy Family Meals With Less Stress!

                                          Dinner can be enjoyable again now that you’re armed with simple and nutritious recipes for your family. These healthy and tasty family meal recipes can help you feel even better about what you serve. Best of all, you’ll have the extra time and energy you saved from cooking and spend more time with your family.

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                                          More Healthy Eating Tips

                                          Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

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