Thursday, August 9, 2012

10 random things I wished I’d known about in the “homeschooling rookie” years


So I was inspired today.



Lucky you!



In love



Seriously, though.  On my Raising Little Rhodies FaceBook page I shared a link to Joanne’s teacher appreciation days coming up this weekend.  I also have a sharing freebie app addiction over there too!  But a newbie homeschooler fan asked a GREAT question about Joanne’s.



“Ok probably a silly question but I'm new to homeschooling this year. What do you show to get the discount??”



I answered her question there but it inspired me to share a few random (and in no particular order) things I would have loved to know when I was still wet behind the homeschool mommy ears. 




Even if you’re brand spanking new to home education, chances are you’ve already heard about Home School Legal Defense Association. I know it’s tempting to use the membership money elsewhere (family zoo pass, anyone?) but I’m a HUGE advocate of becoming a member of HSLDA (or other such groups). The perks include: a wonderful magazine subscription, quick support in the event any issues arise, fast answers to the questions you will surely have…






A handy dandy membership card to present for teacher’s discounts!  Like at Joanne’s this weekend!  Some stores (Staples, for example) are more particular.  Make sure you do your homework first and have your HSLDA card ready too!  You can also make your own ID card with this Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op freebie.



Homeschool Tracker


How many ways can I say I love Homeschool Tracker?  Not too many, that’s for sure!  I use the FREE basic edition and it works great for me.  There are cooler editions which you can purchase if you like bling.  The Basic Edition is a simple download which allows you to track your student(s) attendance, field trips, reading logs, assignments and so on.  It makes printing End of Quarter/Year reports super easy! 


There are other trackers out there, but for the price I think Homeschool Tracker Basic Edition is a keeper!



The Homeschool Lounge


Another great great great tool!  THL is an online support group with forums for everything under the sun!  SO much practical advice and just, well, support to be found in The Lounge.  If you join (and I totally recommend you do) be sure to add me as one of your Lounge Sisters!



Join (or start) a Local Support Group


Virtual support is great and all.  But I wanted to plug into a local support group (or two) too.  The thing is…everything seems to be based on the other side of the state!  RI is small…but there’s all that water in the way!  The other side of the state is way outta my “20 minute” zone.  I have a 20 minute max willing to travel zone.  So one day a local girlfriend and I decided to start a Mommy Needs Coffee Group once a month.  From that group (which btw…never really took off) we also launched a FaceBook Group (which did).  I’m still a member of the other FB Groups too…but I love having one for the moms on my side of the state because it makes field tripping together SO much easier!  



I’m on a couple local FB groups – it’s just nice to be in the loop even if I can’t/won’t drive that far.  I like having the choice.  In love



Make Friends with a Public School Mommy

or Two


My kids have benefited from being involved in many of our community’s programs.  Programs that I never would have known about if it weren’t for my PS mommy friends!  SO many kid/family friendly events go home as flyers in backpacks.  Your local school district might have an email list that you could request being on as well.  Friends are nice though.  You can meet PS mommies at playgrounds, town youth sports or library activities. In love



Speaking of the public school…you might want to think about reaching out to the principal of your local school to ask about fun things your child might be able to plug into.  My kiddos joined an after school art program one year – and it was WONDERFUL!  I have a friend whose daughter attends Music Class at her local PS.  Another friend’s girls are involved with the high school drama program.  Our town has homeschoolers on both the boys and the girls high school soccer teams too!



If you’re a first year homeschooler, it might be overwhelming enough just to organize AT HOME this year.  But don’t be afraid to explore the extras that might be available for your kiddos. 



Sue Patrick’s Workbox System



I was several years in before I learned about workboxing.  Upon which I fell immediately in love!  One of my biggest weaknesses is the actual planning/organizing.  I’m great with the doing.  But the planning just gets me every time.  I always felt lost and scatter brained.  Not that workboxing has completely cured that in me…but it has helped me gather my wits SO much!



Sunflower Schoolhouse has a Workbox Blogroll for the visual learners like me!  You can peek to your heart’s content at how other homeschool moms are workboxing.


I have a Workboxing Style Ideas Pin board too.



LakeShore Learning’s Teacher’s Club


I love love love my little laminator.  I use it for any and everything.  Well, everything except the stuff that doesn’t fit. 



Enter:  Lakeshore Learning’s Teacher’s Club!



It’s easy peasy to sign up (I did right in the store) which allows you to use their self serve laminating machine to handle the big stuff at just 29cents per foot!  Eat your heart out, Staples!  In love



The Well Trained Mind



Oh I’d heard about this thing called The Well Trained Mind.  And Classical Education.  I’d just never actually explored it.



Until a couple weeks ago, when I found the book listed in my library’s resources.  Our library happens to have quite a few homeschooling resources.  Which is another hint:  always check your library first.  I like to browse online and request books that way.  Our library’s system even allows me to create various lists.  I’ve been working on my Read-Aloud and a Mystery of History lists this week.  Yep, online requesting makes library trips SO much easier.



I immediately requested a copy of The Well Trained Mind and spent the next several days with my nose buried.  I just can’t say enough about how much I appreciate the practicality of this book!  I loved it so much that I bought a copy (hard backed and everything) of my very own. 



Online CAT


I’m such a worry wart.  A scatter brained worry wart.  And by the end of my third year homeschooling my oldest, I was totally second guessing myself.  Everything, really.  I was convinced I was failing him and I needed more than just words to comfort my heart.  I don’t even remember how I stumbled on them.  All I know is when I learned I could purchase an online CAT for just $25buckaroos…I was sold! 



Everyone has an opinion about the whole “to test or not to test” philosophy.  I’m not taking a stand on either side.  I’m just saying…that I needed those tangible, black and white, results to help my heart feel secure.  And just in case you find yourself second guessing everything one of these days too…it might be nice to know that you can easily access testing to help put your heart at ease.  



It’s OK to Ask



Homeschoolers have different schedules than other schooled kiddos.  Maybe you’d love your daughter to take horseback riding lessons but you’d rather squeeze it in during your school day.  Even better if it were with other homeschooled kiddos riding with her!  Try asking.  I did!  Yep, that’s right, I called a local stable and asked if she would consider hosting a budget friendly riding class for homeschooled kids.  She said YES!  Bristel had a blast and she looked super cute in the riding costume! 



Bristel Horseback Riding Lesson (5yrs old) (20)

Bristel Horseback Riding Lesson (5yrs old) (33)

Bristel Horseback Riding Lesson (5yrs old) (25)


Our YMCA hosts a homeschool swim class because someone asked.  Same with our local Gymnastics program.  I’m pretty sure either Michael’s or AC Moore has even developed a field trip just for us homies!  I bet it’s because someone asked!


My kids participate in a lot of the town youth sports but sometimes it’s nice for them to hang with other homeschoolers.






Just a handful of things I’d share with you if we grabbed a coffee and chatted homeschooling.  Oh…and btw…I still consider myself a rookie!  I’ve just learned a few tricks along the way! 





  1. Great pointers, Danielle! (I headed over to look at Toby's workbox again. I'm still tempted to do something similar with my kids...keep everything in one spot AND portable for on-the-road.) I still have yet to read The Well Trained Mind! (I know, I know! LOL)

    1. I was super tempted to buy those rainbow workboxing thingies from Joanne's. They're SO cute. But then I remembered how much I love our file totes. I really really LOVE them. It does make travel SO much easier. If you do get em'...just buy reinforced hanging folders though. I need to replace all of mine because...well...I have an 11 year old boy. 'Nuff said!


  2. Great tips!! We are in our 3rd year og homeschooling and these helped me a lot!!

    1. I'm SO happy, Sara! Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Great suggestions! I would also add that you don't need to buy every single curriculum or workbook you see because you don't know if you'll need them!
    I'm embarrassed to say I bought everything under the sun!