Don’t Homeschool Without The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

Whether  you are a new homeschool parent or a veteran, there are times when you just need a new idea or inspiration. The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas is the perfect resource for those times. 55 homeschool moms share their expertise on 103 topics!

This post contains affiliate links.

big book homeschool ideas

Written by homeschool moms with years of experience, The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas addresses 103 topics that affect homeschooling families. Some of the topics include:

  • homeschooling from pre-school to high school
  • subject specific ideas and resources
    • science
    • history
    • math
    • language art
    • fine arts
  • character development
  • homeschooling a large family
  • homeschooling during a move
  • homeschooling special needs students
  • budgeting & time management
  • tips for handling homeschool critics
  • field trip ideas
  • and much more!

The book is a whopping 500+ pages!

Get this amazing, resource-filled e-book download (including a chapter I authored on inquiry science for middle school) for just $10.99! Click HERE to buy or for more information.

Buy-it-now - Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

New Year. New Goals. Planning for 2014-15

Like many families, the new school year brings new challenges and new opportunities.  Here at Academia Celestia, we begin each new academic year in July. We are excited for the new academic year and the changes it brings.

In addition to the usual changes, 2014 marks a significant change in our homeschool.  My daughter will be entering 7th grade and though her brother is two years younger, we do many of our subjects together.

This year we will begin our history cycle over. We will revisit ancient times and begin to map the world by heart. We will also dive more fully into literature and begin using a new writing program.

This post contains affiliate links, please read my disclosure policy for details.

homeschool planning

Staying Organized

While we approach our schooling in a relaxed way, I rely upon my  Well Planned Day planner to keep me organized.  This year, I also purchased student planners for each of the kids so I’m hoping they will become a little more independent in this regard.

The Well Planned Day planner is designed with an easy-to-use format that will assist you in setting goals, logging academic and extracurricular activities, and ensuring that all of your days are productive. The tool I use the most is the weekly schedule where I can organize our week with class assignments, weekly priorities, dinner menu, and notes.

At the start of each new month, there is also a space where I list the books the kids are reading independently. Additionally, there is a space where I can make note of field trips and enrichment activities in which we plan to take part.

One component that I had not previously used is the report cards.  At the back of the book, there are report card forms printed on card stock that I can use to document each child’s progress through the academic year.  As transcripts will be important come high school, I will begin assessing the kids more regularly and giving grades.


In honor of our new academic year, I will be giving away a My Blog Plan planner book for free. 

This daily planner was designed by Rebecca Scarlata Keliher for the Home Educating Family Association – the same company that makes the Well Planned Day that I love so much. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or just getting started, you’ll want My Blog Plan to help you stay motivated and on track.

  • 376 Full Color Pages
  • Spiral Bound
  • 18 Month Planner: July 2014 – December 2015
  • Organize future blog posts
  • Many articles to help you develop a media kit, utilize guest writers, earn income from your blog, & more!

Enter the giveaway here!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

How I Teach Middle School … A Video Essay

I’m going to go out on a limb and try something new this year.  Yay for new goals! Instead of writing about how I teach numerous subjects, I am going to show you.  That’s right! I’m going to create a video to literately show you how I teach my kiddos everything from beginning algebra to cellular structure.  Everyone says pictures say a thousand words.  A video then can say so much more.

Each day this week, I will share a new video whereby I highlight how we integrate a variety of curriculum choices and learning styles into our curriculum.  I’ll keep each short and sweet.

How I Teach Middle School

How I Teach Middle School Language Arts

How I Teach Middle School Math

How I Teach Middle School Science

How I Teach Middle School History

How I Teach Middle School Fine Arts

Admin Note:  I apologize.  I am struggling with technology.  The program I have used for years, iMovie, hasn’t been working properly despite all my efforts. It is very erratic.

As a result, I have been unable to complete these videos as I had hoped.  You can imagine my frustration.   I will post these videos as soon as I am able.  Again, I am so very sorry.

iHomeschool Network January 2014 Hopscotch

Interested in discovering how other homeschool bloggers teach the different content areas? Check out iHomeschool Network’s How I Teach hopscotch.

4 Steps to Intentional Planning

I wrote a post recently in which I inquired whether we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family?  I haven’t found the answers but I have discovered that I am not alone.  I know balance is something we all struggle with … whether we choose to homeschool or not. Homeschool families, however, have the added burden or joy (depending upon your outlook) of also planning extracurricular activities around the needs to complete curriculum.  As Angie commented,

“People say – you guys are always busy. I say we are always engaged, intentionally. When I ask these same families to join us, I don’t have to ask you to guess their response – we can’t, we’re too busy. We have stacked our days on purpose to have large amounts of free time.”

Like Angie and other homeschool families, we are engaged in intentional activities and varied learning opportunities.  I take advantage of every available resource and seek out opportunities for learning, particularly areas that I can not teach myself.  When we attend community lectures, get involved in fraternal activities or volunteer work, we do so with purpose.  Even so, I constantly strive for balance and to achieve it, rely on the flexibility of our schedule.  Today I would like to share with you our step-by-step guide for intentional planning.

intentional planning

Step 1 :: Create Your Master Schedule

Each trimester, sit down with a master schedule and note the days and times the kids have lessons – extracurricular activities, lessons with tutors, co-ops, etc.  These will undoubtedly vary from family to family but essentially it is any activity you coordinate with another – whether it is attending church service, a private lesson, a sport, or regular volunteer obligation.

In our home, the kids have Mandarin lessons twice a week for an hour each, music lessons once a week for 30-45 minutes, bible study and science co-op are both once a week, and swim team is available five evenings a week (though we generally attend only three times).  On a monthly basis, we have Roots & Shoots outings, Barnesklubb, and lodge business meetings.   I also like to color code activities which also correspond to our family calendar. 

Step 2 :: Plan Lessons & Outings in Blocks

With your master schedule in place, you can now begin to fill in the open time with formal lessons and chores.  I like to do this in chunks and utilize a modified cleaning schedule from the Fly Lady.  Though we do math and language arts daily, we focus on history on Monday and science on Wednesday.  This creates uninterrupted time during which the kids can explore topics of personal interest – crochet, aerodynamics, reading, and of course Minecraft.

winter2014

I also work with the kids one-on-one regularly.  When Sweetie is working with her Mandarin tutor, I work with her brother in math and writing; when Buddy brother is engaged in his piano lesson, his sister is expected to write a letter (and vice versa).   I thereby carry along a school bag wherever we go that contains the kids’ math books, writing paper, notecards and stamps, and a read aloud (a novel or poetry).

I also chunk together our errands around town. Once a month (lodge days), for example, we are away from home for the majority of the day.  I thereby plan our visits to the library (and sometimes the bank or post office) on this day.  Though it makes for a very long day (we depart at 8:30 a.m. and don’t return home until after 9 p.m.); it is easier than making several trips back to the house for only 30-60 minute windows.  On the flip side, our hectic Thursday is always followed by a relaxing Friday with no obligation outside the home whatsoever.

Step 3 :: Allow For Change

When opportunities for play dates or field trips present themselves, forgo your formal lessons.  There is no harm in taking a day off, especially when it is for an educational experience or activity rich in learning.

Peruse your local newspaper, community websites, and bulletin boards – you’ll be surprised at the variety of opportunities that surround you.  Many of which are free!  This week alone, in our local community there is a walking tour offered by the historical society, a hook and needlers club gathering, a vermicomposting class, two fun runs to kickstart the new year, a Roots & Shoots outing, a Mandarin story time at the library, and many more.

Highlight those of interest to you and discuss the possibilities with the kids.  What captures their interest?  Put them on the calendar and go!  These opportunities are not only rich in themselves but provide for experiences the kids can write about and share with others later.

Step 4 :: Let Them Lead

Now that the kids are older and exploring personal interests, conflicts arise more often.  When they do, we weigh the benefits and occasionally make adjustments.  Generally, the conflicts are in the evening when we have swim team.  Fortunately, we have the ability to go to swim practice five times a week (six if we go on Saturday morning), our goal is to swim at least three times a week and we generally able to do so regardless.

My daughter has always had an interest in fly fishing. When I learned of a fly tying class offered in the fall and spring each year (one night a week for six consecutive weeks), my daughter was ecstatic.  It meant giving up swimming on that night but it was her decision. Fly tying has become a passion, however.  She attended Fish Camp this past summer and received a fly rod and reel for Christmas.  She is already learning to balance her own interests.

Next week, I will share a series of video posts describing How I Teach.  Each day will focus upon a different curriculum area – Monday: Language Arts, Tuesday: Math, Wednesday: Science, Thursday: History, and Friday: Fine Arts.  I am really excited for this series.  See you then! 🙂

How I Use My Homeschool Planner

 This post contains affiliate links.

well planned day

Homeschoolers approach each new week of school in a myriad of ways. For many of us, that approach requires a good plan created with the aid of planning resources.  As a certified teacher, there is a side of me that screams, plan ahead!!  But I have come to discover that I homeschool in a completely different manner than I did when I was in the classroom.

I wish I could say that I sit down every Sunday evening with my Well Planned Day Planner, a pencil, the plethora of curricula and books we use spread before me, and dive into planning for a new week.  But that is just not how I roll.  Not anymore.

How I Use My Homeschool Planner

To my surprise, I have come to discover that I am very much an Unschooler with strong Charlotte Mason and Classical influences.  I thereby have a clear picture of where I want to go and what I want my children to achieve during their school years, but I take a very relaxed and gentle approach to get there.  I allow their interests to lead us and I take advantage of what life brings us – travel, community programs, etc.  I thereby use the planner as an ongoing record of what we have accomplished, the lessons we’ve covered, topics we have explored or learned via documentaries, etc.  as opposed to planning ahead what I want to accomplish each week.

Some weeks, I even forget to record anything at all.  The kids always shake their head in dismay when I ask, “What did we learn in history last week? What was the topic of the Oregon Field Guide episode we watched at Papa and Grandma’s?” Perhaps I should be a little more diligent, but for now, the system works for me.

well planned day sample pageThe pages within the homeschool planner that I use the most are the Weekly Schedule pages where I can organize our week’s activities (by day and by subject), weekly priorities, dinner menu, and notes.   There are five subject area divisions –  Bible, Math, History, Science, and English – as well as two subject areas that are left blank (I use these for Mandarin and Music).  I have two children and thereby divide some of the subject areas (Mandarin, math, and music) into two allowing me to keep an ongoing account of what each child is learning.  The other subject areas I teach both kiddos simultaneously (science, history, language arts) – with different expectations as to the product they produce.  I use the bible subject area for all our extracurricular activities – bible study, swim team, Barnesklubb, Sons of Norway, special community talks, library, and art.

I love that the weekly page has a place for planning dinner – this is a huge help for me and helps alleviate stress in the evening.  With weekly swim practice year round and Sons of Norway meetings – our evenings can sometimes be chaotic.  I also enjoy the Month at a Glance pages whereby I can plan field trips, enrichment activities, and keep a list the books I want to read that accompany our current unit studies.

Follow this link if you are interested in seeing more of the variety of planners available, The Well Planned Day Planners.

Planning a Fun Science Fair in 10 Easy Steps

For the past few years, I have organized an informal science fair for our local homeschool community.  It has been such a joy to see the diversity of projects, listen to the kids share their experience, and receive encouragement from one another.  It takes little effort on my part to coordinate the event and I walk away reinvigorated and more enthusiastic than ever.  Today, I share a step-by-step guide to planning an informal and rewarding science fair.

This is the third year I have coordinated this event and the first time I’ve done so here in California.  It is always interesting to me to see how the participant numbers vary.  Regardless of how many students take part – 10 or 45 – it is wonderful opportunity. My children thoroughly enjoy the process and the chance to share their work with others.  I want to encourage you all to take part in a science fair yourself.  If you find your area lacks the opportunity, don’t be discouraged.  You can follow the ten steps here to planning a great science fair of your own.

10 Steps to Planning a Science Fair

1.  Reserve a space

If you aren’t already familiar with a space you can use for free, this could be the most time consuming part of the process.  There are many possibilities around you … be creative and don’t be afraid to ask around.  Possible locations you may consider include:

  • Fraternal lodge like Sons of Norway, IOOF, Lions, VFW Hall, etc.
  • City library
  • Church
  • A public school
  • Hotel conference rooms
  • A common house within a subdivision
  • A conference room at your spouse’s (or a friend’s) work

2.  Set a date

The date will likely be dictated to some extent by the calendar of the meeting space you select.  Keep in mind that science projects require planning time.  I like to plan the science fair sometime in the spring (late April or early May).  I announce the fair on our homeschool boards (Yahoo Groups, Facebook, and at local umbrella schools) in the fall, however, and provide regular reminders throughout the year.

3.  Make a flyer and registration form

With the logistical things out of the way, use a word processing program to create an attractive flyer and accompanying registration form.  Share these with your local homeschool community, including charter schools.  I charge $5 per family (or per participant), enough to cover the cost of the awards, but do what feels right to you.

4.  Determine award criteria and purchase awards

Perhaps you would like to invite a couple scientists to come a judge the student projects.  If so, you will likely want to use a simple scoring guide or rubric.  Alternatively, you may decide not to give out awards at all.  This is entirely up to you.  The fairs I have coordinated have been small, we have thereby had success with simply allowing the kids to vote for their favorite project.  The votes are tallied and prizes are awarded to the top three projects with the most votes.  You may also wish to have grade level distinctions depending on the size of your group.

5.  Get the word out and send reminders

As the date approaches, be sure to send out regular reminders and continue to distribute fliers or registration forms.  You may wish to hang a flier at the library.  You may also consider contacting the local newspaper to invite the public – and even a reporter or photographer – to the event.

6.  Create a program to identify participants

I would highly suggest having a deadline for registrations, perhaps one week prior to the event.  This should allow you time enough to create a program (a simple sheet of paper will do but you can get very creative) listing the participants and their project titles. Many families like to keep these as souvenirs or to take notes upon as the students give presentations.  I have found though that at least in my homeschool community, getting families to commit in advance is like pulling teeth.

7.  Create participation certificates or buttons

I have found the kids really like buttons.  If you have a Badge-a-Mint, I highly suggest you create a graphic image that you can print and thereby use for buttons.  You can even set up a station at the event so the kids can make their own.  Alternatively, you can print simple certificates.  Regardless, the kids appreciate the small token.

8.  Purchase small gifts for the winners

The award value is contingent upon the number of participating families.  This year, we had 3 families (not including my own) and 10 children taking part.  I thereby took in only $15 in registration fees. I thereby elected to award $10 for first place, $5 for second place, and $2 for third (yes – I covered a little out of pocket).  With larger number of participants – and with advance registrations – you can be more creative in awarding prizes. In the past, I have used the fees to purchase gift cards (Acorn Naturalists, Carolina Biological, etc.)

9.  Arrive early and greet families upon arrival

Let everyone know that the event is relaxed and informal.  Smile and be yourself. Depending upon the time of the day and the length of the program, you may wish to have snacks.  You can ask for family volunteers to bring something or if the participant pool is large enough, you can purchase a few things.

10.  Positive feedback and award the winners

Once everyone is set-up and as guests mingle, call everyone together and invite the participants to volunteer to share their projects.  If there are many participants, you may wish to divide into smaller groups (perhaps by grade level).   At the end, ask that the students vote for their favorite, tally the votes, and award the winners.