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Saturday, July 23, 2016

First Day of School Scavenger Hunt

First Day of School Traditions can set the tone for the rest of the year.  We always take a picture the first day, each boy individually, and then together, in front the same tree.

Last year we added a First Day Scavenger Hunt. I hid clues around the house, with a prize at the end. It only took 5 to 10 minutes, but was a huge hit. We had to learn teamwork, making sure to take turns with who got to read the clue.  If you have older kids, you can make it challenging by hiding in harder spots in the room (like in the pillowcase of the bed instead of on top the pillow).

If you know your child's love language, the hunt is also a way to fill their love  tanks; one of my boys is gifts and loved receiving the prizes.  The other boy is quality time, so he enjoyed the hunt done as a family.  I also made a prize a game  we can play together this year, to extend on the quality time. If you child is words of affirmation, maybe add encouraging words to your clues (I like you because), or act of service for the prize (no chores for a week)

Prizes can be anything you want, ranging from small piece of candy to clothes or school supplies.  Last year's prize were Star Wars wrist watches I had bought at an after Christmas Clearance Sale, which had a double meaning of setting the tone of increasing responsibility for the year. This year's prize is going to be new chapter books and the spelling game Appletters .

As a homeschooler, we did only one or two subjects after the hunt, very gently introducing the curriculum & theme for the year.

  • CLUE #1 Give to the child
  • CLUE #2 Hide in a bathroom
  • CLUE #3 Hide on any bed in the house
  • CLUE #4 Hide with your broom
  • CLUE #5-Can be hidden in fridge, or in your garden
  • CLUE #6 Hide in game chest or shelf where you store board games
  • Prize- Hide by your family computer
First Day of School
Scavenger Hunt


The dentist says you’re good with a tooth brush,
now go to the room where you give the toilet a flush


Personal hygiene is good to keep, now go to a room where I can sleep


You like to play toys in your room, now go to the place we store the broom


Now you’re in a cleaning mood, go the place we get healthy food

CLUE #5-

Eating food is quite nice, now go to the place we store dice.


Games are really a lot of fun, but in the computer room the hunt is done.



Free Piano lesson, Our Review of Hoffman Academy

4 Gluten and Dairy Free Chicken Freezer Meals

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Friday, July 1, 2016

I want to Homeschool in Indiana... Where do I start?

How To Start Homeschooling in Indiana

Many are surprised by how much homeschooling law varies from state to state.  We are blessed in Indiana to have homeschool friendly laws, but it can be overwhelming to bring a child home from public school, or to start the journey of homeschool no matter where you live. 

Researching can be confusing with an overload of information, some of it not reliable. Indiana's Department of Education (DOE) Website is quite misleading about what Indiana requires of homeschooling families, which is unfortunate since it is where most moms go for Homeschool laws. 

I highly recommend seeking information from Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) 


  •  Indiana Homeschools are legally considered non-accredited non-public schools. Just think of yourself as an exclusive private school, so exclusive only people who you are your children can attend! 
  • You do not need to register with Department of Education.  The DOE website strongly implies this, and some school district may pressure you into it, but legally you do not need to register. You may choose to, but there are not advantages of being in the their tracking  records. 
  • You must have 180 days in your homeschool year.  Indiana has no stipulations on what a "day" looks like in your house, or how many hours it is; which means Indiana can not mandate your curriculum choices, pace, or yearly schedule. 
  • Your child does not need to participate in any standardized testing.*  As a homeschooling student, your child can not take the ILEARN.  Testing is done so that Administrators and Legislators can see what children are learning in school.  As their direct teacher, you won't need that information through testing, because you will be there everyday working with your children and grading their assignments.  
*If you really feel like you'd like to have your child tested, you may pay a small fee for your child to take IOWA STANDARDS Accredited Test, or local academic tutoring .  We tested our children in middle school just for curiosity, and to get them some testing practice, but in my opinion I would not recommend too much standardized testing earlier than middle school because Elementary is a time to learn HOW to learn, not to connect learning to testing. 


Are you transferring your child from public school to homeschool?

  • Transfer, not withdraw. Instead of the word WITHDRAW, I would recommend the word TRANSFER, Indiana Homeschools are considered non-accredited, nonpublic schools, which is why (IAHE) recommends using the term "transfer" instead of "withdraw" when informing school.
  • You can do it anytime. You can take your child out of public school ANYTIME of the year, no need to wait for semester breaks, after any testing, or end of school year.
  • Public Schools do not know homeschool laws. Many times any push back you get is because the district is just ignorant of the homeschooling laws of the state. Become a member of HSLDA if your district gives you any problems. Even though Indiana is a free Homeschool State, it doesn't mean every district/principal/superintendent is homeschool friendly.  
  • No Need for Registration with Department of Education. You DO NOT need to register with the state Department of Education (even though the DOE's website strongly implies this).  Parents may choose to register, but this is your family's decision.  We personally have never registered our children with the DOE in 7 years of homeschooling.

Are you homeschooling from the beginning? 
  • Age of Compulsory Education The Age of Compulsory attendance is not until 7 years old (for public and homeschool).  You may begin any curriculum you'd like before, but only need to begin tracking your 180 days when your child reaches 7 years old. 
  • No Need for Registration. You DO NOT need to register with the state Department of Education (even though the DOE's website strongly implies this).  Parents may choose to register, but this is your family's decision.  We personally have never registered our children with the DOE in 7 years of homeschooling.

Find Support (for you and your kids)
Find a Local Homeschool Group Online
This step will help you with all the rest.  I can point you in the first direction, but your local homeschooling community can give you info on local field trips, play-dates, curriculum choices, dealing with unsupportive in-laws, and finding resources in your area. I am part of a local homeschool facebook group with over 1,200 families. 

Attend Home-school Classes and Activities 

Check your local YMCA, Library, and/or local Parks and Recreation for Homeschool-geared activities.  The homeschool community has grown in the past 20 years, which means many communities who have begun to offer resources and activities during the school day.

Homeschool Cooperatives (Co-op)

A Co-Op is just short for Cooperative.  Not all homeschoolers enjoy co-ops, they are just another resource if you choose to use them.  It is only a true cooperative if the parents all have a job, helping teach or assist in some way. Co-Ops are all different, because they are what the Moms make of them.  Some meet weekly, some monthly, some just for field trips.  A Co-op can be big with dozens of families, or just you and one other family. See more on my post- What is a Homeschool Co-Op?

Homeschool Style

The beauty of homeschooling in Indiana is you can have find a curriculum and routine that works best for your child. I suggest that before you begin looking for specific curriculum, spend just a few minutes reading about different homeschool styles, it will take hours off your curriculum search.

 You DO NOT HAVE TO PICK YOUR STYLE RIGHT AWAY, just familiarize with them before you search for curriculum. Not many people are entirely one style of homeschool, but you lean towards certain styles based on your own personality and needs of your children.  

How does knowing homeschool styles help? If your child hates to read on their own, you can avoid an entirely Charlotte Mason approach. If your child hates to sit, you would probably not do only traditional or classical. If you only have one computer in the house, you won't pick an online school for your 3 different kids. If you like schedules and predictable curriculum, you may not like Unschooling.  

We personally tend toward Unit studies, with a lot of living books from Charlotte Mason Philosophy.
See 5 of the most common homeschool styles here- Five Homeschool Styles.


Homeschool Curriculum
We are in a golden age off curriculum choices, but that can also be extremely overwhelming. My biggest advice is ASK YOUR NEW HOMESCHOOL FRIENDS.  They can help you touch and see curriculum.  Also see tips my personal tips How We Survived and Thrived Our First Year of Homeschool. 

While there several options of styles, most curriculum fits into a few different categories based on your family needs.

  • Boxed- Open and Go Boxed curriculum come with a teacher's Manual, and all the books you need for teaching your child.  This is the best option for new homeschool moms because it builds confidence. No hours of planning or seeking out books, just open the manual and teach each day from the books provided in your box. You can go at your own pace, but the template of the teacher's manual is extremely helpful. I am heading into my 8th year, and still love my Christian "open and go" curriculum, My Father's World. For secular Open and Go- check out Build Your Library.
  • Online Public School- K-12 and Connections Academy are a tuition-free online public school options that are done in your home. K-12 and Connections Academy are not technically homeschool: it is public school at home, meaning you have no authority over your content , pace at which you cover the materials, or schedule.  You will be following DIFFERENT LAWS, not homeschooling laws.  That said, it is an option that has helped many families. This is a good option for the mom who wants their child to stay lock-step with the public schools. This could be for someone who knows for sure homeschool is just a season, and their child will be going back into public school eventually. 
  • Eclectic -Make your Own Many moms piece together their curriculum from different publishers, and use a homeschool planner to plan their day.  Sites like Little Green Schoolhouse and Christian Book have homeschool books for every subject. You can piece together an entire curriculum with a few clicks. The increase in homeschooling families equals more resources available, meaning you can pick the curriculum that best meets the needs your family, child, and budget. 
Homeschooling can be as expensive or as cheap as you'd like. 
 Check out my hard-earned tips on How to Homeschool on a Tight Budget!
How to Homeschool When You Can't Afford It

Four "Open and Go" Boxed Homeschool Curriculum

Welcome to searching for a homeschool curriculum! The term "Open and Go" Boxed curriculum   comes from the idea that these publishers sell a whole year of subjects all in one package/box.

You just open your box and go!

"Open and Go" works well for new and veteran homeschool moms!!  

Some think that once you gain confidence in homeschooling, you should abandon the boxed "Open and Go" curriculum, but I highly disagree. I am pretty confident in my homeschooling, but I still love the ease and organization of my Curriculum after five years. 

The teacher's manual is the main resource in most boxed curriculum, and mine has saved me COUNTLESS HOURS of work trying to align the subjects to make a meaningful unit.  I am a trained teacher, and completly capable o making my own manual and gathering my materials, but also KNOW how much work goes into gathering and coordinating these amazing resources!  

For example, a few weeks ago we studied Ancient China. 

  • In history we read about the Terra Cotta warriors that guard the emperors' tomb
  • In Latin Root Words we read that "terra" means earth/land
  • In science we studied that Earth is a terrestrial planet (a derivative of the latin word terra). 
If I had tried to line all those items up, I would have taken years off my life. 

As my kids get older, I am able to adapt it a little more to fit our needs & add supplements, but I still can't imagine not using these wonderful resources.  Why not benefit from the YEARS OF WORKS that  another homeschool moms spent putting together these wonderful manuals? Take what you can, and leave the rest out!

SMALL DISCLAIMER for any boxed curriculum: 
 Remember your teacher's manual is not god. 
 Just because the manual says to do it, doesn't mean your kids will have educational gaps if you leave it out.  Our current curriculum, My Father's World, has more than enough to fill our day, and we tend to leave out many items each day, simply because they are redundant to our lifestyle.  For example, my kids attend Awana for a Bible Memorization club, so we don't use MFW's Bible memory verses.  

We survived our first year of homeschooling by studying our family , not just our manual, to know how best to use our curriculum. 

I asked around in our local Facebook group of 800 women, and below are the four of the the best "Open and go" Christian Boxed curriculum. They are in order of costs, including their homeschooling style, link to their site, and some short pros and cons based on the reviews I was given. I haven't researched all of them as thoroughly, but it may be a good starting point for you!

Homeschool Styles-Traditional for the most part.

This is not exactly a boxed curriculum, because it is all online, but it fit in the list of an all-in-one curriculum that also has a schedule already laid out for you.

  • No need to add any other subjects, like language arts or math.
  •   Very child directed, they log in and do their assignments for that day
  •  Very good if your child is going back to public school some day.

  • Online, if you are doing more than one child, you need more than one screen. 
  • Lots of screen time for the day  (you can cut back on this by getting books from library instead of them reading them online)

 Heart of Dakota- About $100- $300 (depending on supplements)

Homeschool Style-Charlotte Mason

  • Very easy to implement, teacher guide very easy layout.
  • You can keep your kids in separate programs or combine close in age them into one (combines up to 4 grade levels with supplements for adding older kids to each grade). 
  • 4 day week, with 5th day for catch-up.

  •  If you combine more than 2-3 year gap in ages, you have to buy separate supplements packages for older kids.
  • For older grades (above 1st grade) You have to buy and teach Math and Language Arts separately, depending on ages (they have recommendations on their website for those subjects or you could do math & L.A on Easy Peasy free website).  
  •  You would also have to go to library once every few weeks to pick up books from book list. A lot of writing in a notebook (pro if your child likes to write)

 My Father’s World- $250- $500 *  

*This is what we have used for 8 years and love.

Styles-Traditional, Unit studies, Charlotte Mason 

  • Everyone learns together!!! Best for a family teaching several ages together. A multi-age classroom, you teach only ONE geography, science, and history lesson to all your kids, then split off for individual subjects of Language Arts and Math.
  • Structured-Super Easy to follow teacher guide with subjects for the each week. 
  • Flexible- Easy to skip activities you don't need or don't fit your child. Example-We made homemade tortillas when learning about Mexico, but never made any of the craftier art projects suggested. We also skip all their Bible memorization because the boys go to Awana.
  •  4 day week, with 5th day for catch-up.
  • Majority of their profits go to Bible translation around the world.
  • For older grades (above 1st grade) You have to buy and teach Math and Language Arts separately, depending on ages (the have recommendations on their website for those subjects or you could do math & L.A on Easy Peasy free website).  
  • You would also have to go to library once every few weeks to pick up books from book list (I see this as a pro, but you may not).
  • There are several hands-on activities with the units which can require more planning (we skipped a lot of these on busy days and still had plenty to do)

 Sonlight $900+ for a full grade package

Style- Charlotte Mason

  • Open and go, very easy to implement teacher's guide. 
  • All books are included, so no need to ever run to library, or sub a book that isn’t at your library. 

  •  Not a multi-age program, so you will be teaching four history lessons if you have four children. 
  • You have to buy and teach Math and Language Arts separately, depending on ages.


How we Survived and Thrived Our First Year of Homeschool

Homeschool Workboxes