As we are getting closer to completing our current curriculum, I am beginning to think about ordering our curriculum for next year.  Of course, being a complete cheapskate, I have to make sure I am getting a bargain.    In comes my price sheet……………………….. I use this sheet to:

  • check prices at homeschool conventions
  • check prices at used curriculum sales
  • check prices at online sites selling used items
  • check prices at online sites selling new items

Here is how I do it……..

Step 1:  Make a table 

Make a table….mine is four columns and eight rows. I made this on Microsoft Word, but many programs can do this same function.

 Step 2:  Label the Columns and Rows

Label the rows and columns. The first box in the first row will be labeled “item.” All other boxes in the horizontal row will be labeled with the names of the companies that you want to compare. The first box in the first column will be labeled “item.” All other boxes in the vertical row will be labeled with the names of the items that you want to purchase.

Step 3:  Open a tab for every site that you are comparing. 

Open each site in a separate tab. Open them in the same order that they are listed in your table. (Click on this to make it bigger.)

Step 4:  Check the prices and record them on your table.

Look at the first item on your list. Check the prices at all sites. Record them on your price sheet. Look at the second item on your list. Check the prices on all sites. Record the prices on your price sheet. Continue…

Step 5: Use this sheet as a baseline when shopping for new and used curriculum.

Other Factors to Consider

  • Shipping:  How much will shipping be?  When I write the price on my price sheet, I am not factoring in shipping costs.  For most items, Amazon will offer free shipping on purchases of $25 or more.  When ordering from Christianbook.com, I ask the salesperson for free shipping.  As long as I am spending over $100, they have always told me yes…..so far!    I have heard rumor that Rainbow Resource offers free shipping, but I think it is for very large purchases.  So, while their prices are a little cheaper on a few things, I might choose another supplier to avoid shipping costs.
  • Taxes:  When shopping at homeschool conventions, please remember that you will have to pay taxes!  Many online stores do not charge taxes!  That can be a huge savings!  I found a curriculum that I wanted to purchase at my local homeschool convention.  But, I would have to pay close to 9% sales tax.  While the base price was a little cheaper at the convention, the taxes made it more expensive overall……and I didn’t have to haul it all over the convention hall for the rest of the day!
  • Shopping Used:  While I am incredibly thrifty, I rarely buy used books for my core curriculum.  Why?  I’ve been burned.  Thinking I was getting a great deal, I have unknowingly purchased curriculum with broken or missing components.  Currently, I am struggling through a used math book that is missing all of the reproducible math sheets.  If it is an art book, read-alouds, readers, or an educational puzzle, then I will scour the used sales.  But, for the subjects that really count, I usually buy it brand-new.   Also, many times the used prices are only a few dollars cheaper than my rock-bottom new price with free shipping.  I would rather pay a few dollars more for a guarantee that I will have all the pieces.

What are your money-saving tips for buying curriculum?  Tell me in the comments! 

Read More →

During the month of May, I encounter the same question over and over…..”Are your kids ready for summer break?”   My response?  We school year round.

According to my nephew, who is in public school, schooling year round is a great injustice….one that no child should have to bear.  My sister informed me that he wants to have a talk with “Aunt Jenny” about all of the reasons why my boys should NOT have to do school in the summer!

While my boys might tell you that they hate it, at the end of the day, they understand that they benefit from schooling over the summer.

Why We School Year Round 

  1. Life is Year Round.  Kids get sick.  Holidays happen.  The house gets trashed.  Mom gets tired.  Hubby needs my help.  All year.  Consistently.  When I schooled using a nine-month schedule I would stress out over “life.”  I felt like we couldn’t take a day off to go to the dentist.  If my husband asked me to run an errand for him, I was frantically trying to figure out how to “stick with my schedule” and assist him at the same time.  Illness was a major inconvenience.  My little one needs snuggles?  No time.  I felt like a drill sergeant most of the time.  When we homeschool year round, we take a day off (or two or three) whenever we need it.  Unlike before, we have plenty of available “schooling hours” and I know that we will reach our goals.  The list might get checked off today or it might get checked off tomorrow, but it will get done.
  2. Great Weather:  When the weather is beautiful, we want to be outside! In May, we might take an entire day to go to the zoo or read a book under our favorite tree in the park. It’s gorgeous! Who wants to be cooped up inside?  Not me.  July is another story, though!  Humidity.  Heat.  Blazing Sun.  If you aren’t wet, then it is miserable.  We love swimming, but you can’t swim for twelve hours a day.  Why not do a couple hours of school before going to the pool?
  3. Shorter School Days:  Because we school over the summer, our school days are shorter all year.  A few days ago, my husband and boys drove by a school bus dropping kids off at their home.  My sons had been done with school for about four hours.  As they passed the bus, my kids yelled “SUCKERS”  out the window.  Okay, probably not appropriate….but, they understand that their school days are shorter because of our summer routine.
  4. Happy, Not-so-stressed Mom:  As I said earlier, I tend to become a drill sergeant on a traditional schedule.  I feel pressured to cram it all in over nine months.  Year round schooling helps me lighten up!  With a flexible twelve month schedule, I don’t have to fight to get it all done.
  5. More field trips and outings:  Since our schooling is more flexible, I am released to do more field trips, nature walks, park playdates, and socializing without feeling like we are “skipping school.”  If my kids complain about their “lot in life,” I drive them by the local public school and show them that while they are on their way to the park, their friends are sitting at a school desk.
  6. No Need for Review:  Kids forget things over a long summer break.  Teachers spend the first couple months re-teaching previous concepts.  Kids don’t experience that gap when the learning never stops.
  7. More Chances for Logical Consequences:  Over the summer, we are constantly going/doing/moving………swimming, playdates with friends, camps, VBS, etc.  Our rule is that they must get their schoolwork done before they can do those things.  If it isn’t done, they can’t go or they will be late.  Because of their excitement for the “fun thing,” they focus on their work and get it done more quickly! It is not uncommon for them to stumble out of bed at dawn and go directly to their schoolwork!  When this happens, we can swim even earlier!
  8. Holidays and Special Events:  We switch to a lighter load when we are busy with holidays, birthdays, and vacations.  During these times, we will go to the basics:  reading and math.  Sometimes, we will take a break completely.
  9. More Time to Explore:  Sometimes my kids get incredibly interested in a topic.  I am able to veer from our plan and dive into their areas of interest.
  10. Catch Up:  In the summer months, I am able to catch up in areas that we have fallen behind.  Also, we can devote more time to the areas in which I see my boys struggling.
  11. Enrichment:  Usually, I don’t have time for enrichment activities during the regular school year.  But, we make up for that over the summer.
  12. Light Fridays:  Nearly every Friday is a light school day.  The kids do math and reading and we spend the rest of the day doing chores, errands, field trips, or outings.
  13. Struggling Learner:  I have one son that struggles with school. Learning does not come as easily to him.  If we took the summer off, he would have a very difficult time.  The daily learning routine keeps his learning stable, consistent, and forward-moving.
  14. Staggering new subjects:  As we complete a level or book, we move on to the next one immediately.  Rarely, will that happen in more than one subject at the same time.  So, we tackle new subjects and new books one at a time instead of starting the new school year with five or more new pieces of curriculum.
  15. Character Education and Life Skills:  Some days we need to focus on learning to speak kindly to our siblings, how to fold laundry (without shoving it under our beds), or how to persevere through hard tasks.  I have time to focus on every aspect of my boys’ learning- not just their academics.
  16. Less fighting:  For some reason, the more unstructured time I give my kids, the more they will fight.  I have grand dreams of a peaceful, lazy summer with smiles, Popsicles, and time to relax.  As I am breaking up another argument over “he stole my water gun” I wonder where that picture has gone.  My boys need structure.  Like it or not, they can’t handle three months of free time.

Tips for Schooling Over the Summer

  1. Time Off in June:  When all the other kids begin their summer break, I let my kids have a whole week off, also.  By the time the newness has worn off, we start school again.
  2. Lighter Schedule:  While we school all summer, our workload is much lighter.  Rarely, do we school past noon.  When we are done before lunch, they have plenty of time left to play with neighbors, jump in the sprinkler, and enjoy the lazy days of summer.
  3. Choose Subjects Wisely:  Don’t give them busywork.  Continue with what you are already doing.  If they finish a math book then start the next one.  Review your previous history and science topics.  Add in a few things that you didn’t cover adequately over the school year.  Are there are a few enrichment projects that you wanted to do, but didn’t have the time to tackle?  School with purpose, not busywork.
  4. Take Days Off:  During VBS or camp, it might be easier to skip the entire week of school.  No big deal!  Pick up where you left off when life is back to normal.
  5. Make a Flexible Plan:  Every summer I make a plan of all the things we will accomplish before September.  Nearly every year, we don’t get to everything.  It’s okay. Our plan is flexible.

Much to my nephew’s dismay, year round schooling is here to stay!

Anyone else school year round?  Tell me about it!

Read More →

Previously, I informed the world that we homeschool our kids year round.  One reason we do this is to prevent summer learning loss.  Unfortunately, many kids come back to school in August, having forgotten some of what they have learned over the school year.  As a former public school teacher and a current homeschool teacher, I can tell you that learning loss is a little bit annoying!  Nobody likes to reteach the same thing….again!

But, while our family has made the decision to continue our learning all year, I realize that:

  1. Everyone doesn’t homeschool.
  2. Among those who homeschool, many are not willing to school year-round.

This post is for those folks!

Preventing Summer Learning Loss in One Hour a Day

While the kids might forget a few things, this summer learning plan will cover most of the important stuff…….

20 minutes:  Read aloud to an adult.

20 minutes:  Kumon Math workbook

10 minutes:  Xtramath.org

10 minutes:  Spelling Test in Spelling City

More Details

Read aloud to an adult:    The child must read aloud for a minimum of twenty minutes.  The adult chooses the book.

Kumon Math Workbook:  Kumon books are awesome because they focus on one skill instead of jumping around from topic to topic.   You can explain the format once or twice and they have an entire workbook full of similar problems!  Most workbooks available at local stores are mixed with all types of problems.  This means that you will have to do lots of explaining to them!  Choose the workbook based on your child’s grade and strengths/weaknesses.  If you aren’t sure which one to get, I recommend the Word Problems book that is associated with your child’s grade level.

Xtramath.org:  Xtramath is a wonderful tool for parents.  Previously, I wrote a lengthy review of it.  The short version:  it helps them master math facts.  It is free.  There aren’t any ads or pop-ups.  It only takes ten minutes!  If your child can master the basic math facts, then you will see a significant improvement in their math skills!  If you don’t like Xtramath, check out the review on the Flashmaster.  It will accomplish the same purpose, but it isn’t free.

Spelling City:  This free spelling website allows the child to practice the spelling words that they had over the school year.  The parent inputs the words.  (You can use leftover spelling tests that you have saved.  If you haven’t saved them, then just make up your own words for them to practice.)  The site offers tests and games for the words.  In my house, the child is required to take a test first.  Each day they take the same test until they have scored 100% two times on that test.  Once that happens, they can move onto another test.   When they finish taking a test, they can play games if they choose.   FYI:  This site has a paid portion, also.  The free version is sufficient, but they have more game options with the paid version.

If You Have More Than an Hour

1.  Read Silently:  Have him read to himself.  Mix it up:  fiction, non-fiction, poetry, how-to books, magazines, etc.  When he is done, have him tell you all about it!

2.  Typing:  Summer is an easy time to practice typing.  My boys like Typing Instructor for Kids.

3.  Read-alouds: You can read aloud to him!  Choose a book slightly above his grade level.  Snuggle up.  Enjoy.   Here are some of our favorite read-alouds.

The Logistics:  How to Get Them to Do It

1.  First Thing in the Morning: Before going anywhere, they have to spend one hour a day working on their schoolwork.  If they don’t do the work, then they are late to their activity.  Or, if you aren’t going anywhere, maybe no tv or video games until the work is done?  Get it done early so they can spend the rest of their day swimming, eating watermelon, going to the park, or hanging from trees!

2.  Set a Schedule:  If you know that you won’t enforce it everyday, then set a lighter schedule.  Maybe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?   Then you could schedule your all-day outings on Tuesday and Thursday?

3.  Set a timer:  Set a timer to ensure that they are not doing too much or too little.

The Disclaimer

This plan is good for kids that are on track, slightly behind, or ahead in their schoolwork.  If your son is significantly behind, then you may need to increase the length of time that you work with him or include other subjects in which he struggles.

What do your kids do to prevent summer learning loss?

Read More →