In the wake of COVID-19, parents choosing to shift from temporary pandemic-schooling to traditional homeschooling has exploded over the past 18 months, currently boasting a whopping 5 million students! Whether this shift will continue and parents will choose to homeschool for the long term remains to be seen. However, parents are engaged in their children's education now more than ever. And that is a good thing!
As with most homeschoolers, these new home educators started homeschooling for one reason but will continue to homeschool to achieve other priorities. Whether you are new to homeschooling as a result of the pandemic or are a seasoned homeschooler, remind yourself at the beginning of this new school year why you continue to do what you do. Draw from this personalized list for inspiration throughout the year and know that, while we often overestimate what we can do in a day, we also tend to underestimate what can be accomplished in a year. So consider these thoughts as you adapt to this year year of parent-led and child-engaged priorities!
If you are looking for additional support on mentoring your young students or your teenager in these and other areas, check out one or both of my programs: The Balanced Homeschooler or The Balanced High Schooler programs.
For additional information on the current movement towards traditional homeschooling, read American Homeschooling Goes Boom, by Suzy Weiss.
In case you missed it! Here is the link to this FB Live event:
Among other descriptors, 2020 is the summer of NOT going to the movies, which means many of us are looking for at-home suggestions. Couple that with the truth that much of what is out there to consume is less than desirable, figuring out movie night can be nothing less than a pain!
In recent years, I have kept a list of titles that we found to be good-to-exceptional for one reason or another, and I have included this current list below. I say "current" since this list is always in the process of being edited, but at least it's a place to start in building your own family's list that even includes some "theme" notes for each one.
Not all movies are appropriate for all ages, so be sure to research each suggestion and use other review sources like Common Sense Media or Christian Spotlight on Entertainment for more insight when making your personal selections. If you wish to filter certain content, consider using a service like VidAngel. I have not included popular blockbuster movies or miniseries formats; I also (for the most part) do not mention the older classic movies or musicals, which are too numerous to list!
Now it's time to pop that popcorn and get ready to enjoy some awesome movies this summer!
23 Blast (Sports, Friendship, Perseverance)
Akeelah and the Bee (Perseverance, Spelling Bee Competition)
Alone Yet Not Alone: (True Story of Survival of Barbara & Regina Leininger during the French & Indian War, Faith)
Amazing Grace (William Wilberforce, Slavery)
August Rush (Music, Perseverance, Family, Forgiveness)
A Beautiful Mind (Genius John Nash’s struggle with mental illness, Loyalty, Perseverance)
The Blind Side (Family, Loyalty, Perseverance)
The Book Thief (WWII, Overcoming Adversity)
Breakthrough (Faith, Healing, Family)
Breathe (Perseverance, Loyalty, Love, Ethics, Special Needs, Polio)
Case for Christ (Christianity, Apologetics; Evangelism)
Chasing Mavericks (True Story, Friendship, Courage)
Cinderella Man (The Depression, Perseverance, Family, Dedication)
Confessions of a Shopaholic (Money, Friendship, Honesty, Responsibility)
Courageous (Faith, Family, Death, Fatherhood)
The Current War (Technology Battle Between Westinghouse & Edison, Perseverance, Ethics)
Dead Poets Society (Love of Literature, Friendship, Loyalty)
Dear Frankie (Father/Son, Healing)
Eddie the Eagle (Quirky true story re: the Olympics, Friendship, Perseverance)
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain (Community, Loyalty)
Evan Almighty (Much better than "Bruce Almighty", Unlikely "Prophet" Chosen to Clean Up D.C., Family, Loyalty)
Finding Neverland (J.M. Barrie's Inspiration for Peter Pan, Friendship)
The Finest Hours (Integrity, Perseverance, Sacrificial Love)
Fireproof (Marriage, Fidelity, Faith)
The Giver (Conformance, Sanctity of Life, Ethics)
God’s Not Dead (Christianity, Evangelism, Principles)
God’s Not Dead 2 (Christianity, Free Speech)
Good Night, and Good Luck (McCarthy Trials, 1950's Broadcast Journalism)
The Great Debaters – (Racism, Perseverance, Debating Process)
The Greatest Showman (loosely inspired by P.T. Barnum’s Life, Family)
Heaven is for Real (Christianity, Family, Life After Death)
Here Comes the Boom (Sacrifice, Transformation, Friendship, Patriotism)
The Hundred-Foot Journey (Racism; Family, Loyalty)
Kit Kittredge (The Depression, Family, Sacrifice)
I Can Only Imagine (Bart Millard Biography, Loyalty, Christianity, Family, Friendship)
I Still Believe (Jeremy Camp Biography, Friendship, Sacrificial Love, Grief, Hope)
The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde Play, Friendship, Social Status)
The Investigator (Sports, Evangelism)
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Hilarious, All-Star Cast Race for Buried Money, Greed, Ethics, Loyalty)
Ladies in Black (1950’s, Multi-Generational Female Friendships)
Let There Be Light (Christianity, Evangelism)
The Little Mermaid (2018, non-Disney fantasy version, Friendship, Kindness, Ethics)
Love Different (Faith, Racism, Parenting, Friendship)
The Man Who Invented Christmas (Charles Dickens’ Process for Writing a Christmas Carol)
The Majestic (Perseverance, McCarthy Trials)
The Man Who Invented Christmas (A View of Charles Dickens and his Process to Write "A Christmas Carol")
Mao’s Last Dancer (Dance, Dedication, Defection from China)
McFarland USA (Sports, Racism, Perseverance)
Midnight in Paris (1920's Artistic Life, Authenticity)
Midway (Battle of the Midway, Perseverance, Patriotism, Friendship, Leadership)
Miracle (1984 Olympics, Perseverance)
Pride & Prejudice (1995 BBC version is the most accurate version)
Queen of Katwe (Chess Prodigy, Sacrifice)
Paper Clips (Documentary, WWII, Holocaust Survivors, Anti-Semitism)
Paper Planes (Competition, Perseverance, Friendship, Family)
Princess Kaiulani (Family, Loyalty, History of Hawaii)
Race (Olympics, Jesse Owen’s Biography, Racism)
Roman Holiday (Top notch Audrey Hepburn film, Friendship, Loyalty)
A Royal Night Out (Teen princesses Elizabeth and Margaret celebrating V-E Day in 1945)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Perseverance, Friendship)
Searching for Bobby Fisher (Chess Prodigy, Friendship, Family)
Secretariat (Underdog (or is it "Underhorse"?) story, Perseverance)
Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Overcoming Mediocrity, Friendship, Loyalty)
Singing in the Rain (Birth of the "Talkies", Friendship, Delightful Musical!)
Soul Surfer (Overcoming adversity, Faith)
Stranger Than Fiction (Quirky Novel Production Process Comedy)
Tea With Mussolini (Italy in WWII, Anti-Semitism)
Temple Grandin (Biographic, Autism, Family, Perseverance)
Tommy’s Honor (History of Modern Golf, Innovation, Family)
The Truman Show (Perception vs. Reality)
Waking Ned Devine (Legacy, Friendship)
The Water Horse (Loyalty, Family, WWII)
Wonder (Special Needs, Acceptance)
Wonderstruck (Family, Perseverance, Death, Special Needs)
Woodlawn (Sports, Loyalty, Perseverance)
Zoom (Fun, Super-Hero Story of Misfits Becoming a Family)
While we know that our students can suffer from "the blank page syndrome" when it comes to writing assignments, we adults can become paralyzed by the pen as well. In a world where people rarely temper their thoughts on social media, we increasingly have issues committing our plans to paper in a way that is thoughtful, strategic, intentional, and comprehensive. For our homeschools to thrive, then, we need to be willing to commit our "essentials" to paper so that we can be accountable to see those points put into action on a daily basis. So, what are your essentials not only for the education you deliver to your child(ren) but for the kind of people you want to mentor them, and in the process yourselves, to be?
This is not an article that will tell you what to put down as your "essentials" but, rather, how to approach this often elusive subject. So, let's look at a few operating principles to consider when working with your spouse to define your list and execute your plan.
For more specific help overcoming the "blank page" syndrome in these and other essential areas, check out The Balanced Homeschooler or The Balanced High Schooler for comprehensive guidance and mentoring resources.
It's that time of year for resolutions, reflections, and revisions. Regardless of our degree of intentionality, most of us to one degree or another will take stock in our personal family circumstances, evaluating both the "good" and the "bad" elements that need to be addressed for either continuation or correction. As homeschoolers, we are also tuned in to how things are going at this traditional break from the middle of our school year. So, how are things for you and your family? For the Christian family, vision is about specifically working through that question and taking Proverbs 29:18 to the practical level of daily living.
Creating a vision statement is a significant point of emphasis I cover in the first chapter of The Balanced Homeschooler, encouraging families to revisit it every year to make sure things are still on track for your family. Note that the vision statement should not mention "homeschooling" but is, instead, a statement that covers what the personal and spiritual goals are for your family as a whole. Thus, this is the statement that should remain fairly static over the years, though your strategies, like homeschooling, to achieve it will vary from season to season.
So, here are some simple ideas to employ if this is a new concept for you and your family:
For more instruction and guidance on this topic, feel free to refer to the steps and samples outlined in the first chapter of The Balanced Homeschooler. For specifics about mentoring your own teen to create their personal vision statement, check out The Balanced High Schooler.
Several years ago, I realized that moms are either off-the-charts excited for the school year to commence or they view it with dread and trepidation. I have yet to meet a mom who was in the middle! So, if you take a typical summer break between school seasons, consider employing a “preview week” before your official launch date. It will either add to your excitement level that is already on a high or it will at least enable you to feel prepared while managing your nerves!
Implementing this approach enables not only your student(s) to orient themselves to their new books and tools, but it also gives you additional grace to address issues prior to starting your full schedule. For example, you may realize that you lack some basic school supplies, forgot to prep certain materials, or experience an issue with a DVD program or other technology-related tool. By easing into school a week prior to your full start date, you and your student(s) can enjoy the transition more by having a lower level of anxiety and a higher level of confidence. So here is a suggested schedule to use for "preview week" when reviewing new materials and tools with your student(s).
At the end of the day, such preparation efforts not only ease tensions but also sets proper expectations. By demystifying what the first school week will look like for student(s) and mom alike, it will smooth the way to a successful launch, setting the right tone for the entire year. As always, remember to ENJOY the journey and preparation is part of the journey!
On this day, we celebrate the empty tomb. Jesus has overcome the Enemy and we who place our faith in Him possess the promise of eternity. A choice was made on the cross to remove death’s sting and dispense the gift of salvation through grace to all of mankind. It is an awesome, unparalleled gift that both lifts our hands to the heavens and lowers our knees to the ground. The Christian joy produced from the gift of Easter founded in Christ’s self-sacrifice has no equal.
Yet some of us also mourn an empty Easter basket. For the past five Easters, Evan’s yellow basket has stood empty: no chocolate, no Legos, no coins, no eggs—nothing. It is a day like all other days where the complete and total absence of our son is right here with us and yet it is different than other days since this special day was so deeply loved by him with many memories of past Easters. It is an acute reminder that empty tries to overtake the fullness of life—his empty chair at the dinner table, empty photo books, and empty journal entries. Empty is hard to take. Nothingness is often deafening. Absence leads to loneliness.
Even so, I want to encourage my friends and others who are missing their son or daughter this Easter to know that we can have joy in our daily walk, pursuing the positive in the midst of our new normal, while still protecting our justification to miss and love our children. Though experts refer to the “grief process” as though it finishes after a final step of acceptance, grief is not linear or even cyclical. Rather, it is a collection of experiential elements that create a new, permanent companion. This companion demands we live with it and make space for it for the rest of our lives. Yet, as Christian parents, we can place boundaries on this companion, forcing it to serve our emotional and spiritual needs in a healthy manner rather than allowing it to inflict unending pain and destruction.
One of the best ways I know how to do this is to pray through the promises of God, which remain unchanged and completely reliable. Gone but Not Lost: Grieving the Death of a Child by David W. Wiersbe was very helpful for me, pointing me towards crucial scriptures and their related promises. For these promises reinforce the nature and character of God while also reminding us how He promises to guide us, teach us, correct us, and cherish us for His glory and our good. Focusing on His promises also reminds us that even when God is silent, allows tragedy, or answers, “No”, He is still God, and He makes a path for us through difficult days, including holidays.
So, I again think of Jesus’ empty tomb and Evan’s empty Easter basket, and I have no other choice but to look upon both with joy. Though I selfishly want Evan with us, he is with the King of Kings on this Resurrection Sunday and every day. He, his younger brother, and the Lord’s other young people who have gone home before us have accomplished a destiny in their short time on this planet that we strive towards throughout the course of our whole lives—to be with Jesus for eternity. Though the chasm that separates us now from our children is great, it is not permanent because Jesus bridges that gap. As Evan professed after yet another medical trial had failed, “I’m so glad I know Jesus and that I know where I’m going. I feel sorry those who don’t know Him. I wish everyone knew Him.” I wish that too, and I also wish all to know that it is because of the empty tomb that I have peace about the empty basket.
I am pleased in this New Year to announce that the 2018 TBH edition is now available!
Every chapter has been updated to include new and changing information and, overall, the program has been expanded to include over 550 pages and 375 references and clickable links. The transcript section has been dramatically overhauled and college admissions information significantly expanded. In addition, the curriculum discussion section has been updated to include many of the newer options available to families, and the "Four C's" curriculum selection criteria has been sharpened. These are just a few of the many updates made to keep in mind when you consider your investment in or upgrade to the 2018 edition.
If you are a current TBH mom, you may receive your updated program via PDF by signing up or renewing your TBH Premier Membership for $29.99. Are you new to our program? Check out the purchase options for the tool first and then consider our Group Mentoring sessions which include one year of TBH Premier Membership for free!
If you wish to self-study the program, you have the e-Manual option that is only $39.99. A self-study Kindle version is also available on Amazon. However, please be advised that the Kindle publishing tool has limitations in its ability to keep the provided links live.
Sandwiches and Scripture don’t seem to mix. However, the “sandwich” style of writing can be seen throughout the gospels as a regular an effective method of communication. While many Christians may be aware of the “Markan Sandwiches” and may be even more familiar with the Apostle Paul’s “praise sandwich” of communication, we may not realize that we have an opportunity to adapt these structural ideas in our modern parenting priorities on how to best build our sons and daughters up in the process of guiding and correcting them.
Using Philippians as an example, Paul first praises and encourages the recipients (1:3-6). This is considered the first piece of bread. Then he shares the difficulties of his own status in advancing the Gospel, addresses the hardships of “living in Christ”, gives directions and corrections on living with purpose, and challenges the people to persevere in all circumstances (1:7 - chapter 3). These points comprise the meat, lettuce, etc. of our sandwich. Chapter four then closes with thanksgiving, praise, and encouragement. Now we have the second piece of bread. This model alone can be helpful to remind us that delivering constructive criticism is often best received when it begins and ends with praise.
Taking this idea a step further for parenting purposes, however, we can think of our communications with our children in terms of not just a “sandwich” but as a “Praise-to-Criticism Ratio”. In 2013, the Harvard Business Review published a telling article about workplace productivity that essentially concluded the following three conclusions. High performing teams praised each other between five and six times compared to every critical comment. Medium performing teams praised two times for every critical comment. Low performing teams praised only one time for every three critical comments.
While concerns have since arisen about the data collection on the research cited in this article, I wonder how we can all potentially benefit from employing a 6:1 ratio of positive to negative comments in our home. So ask yourself, “Am I close to a 6:1 ratio of positive vs. critical comments, or is it more like 1:6!”
When giving praise, make sure to consider these additional elements of practicality to achieve the best result possible.
Remember that in all areas of life, including our “Praise-to-Criticism Ratio”, we are modeling. So, be intentional and improve your pattern. If 6:1 is too dramatic of an initial shift, start with at least 2:1 or 3:1. Ask yourself how you would eventually counsel your adult children on this issue within their own home. If you would guide them to fulfill this differently with your future grandchildren, make the changes now to send an even more powerful message. As values are caught more than they are taught, taking actions to change now will mean more to your children than regretful advice that you may give to them later in life. Stay intentional in your words so that the power of perspective works to both uplift and correct your child’s spirit for a lifetime and not just a moment.
in Admittedly, I am a nerd. I like data, statistics, reviews, proofs, and logic. Understanding how an endeavor is doing, assessing strengths & weaknesses, planning improvements, and implementing changes are all efforts that motivate me to “make things happen”; especially when the end goal is something of significance. So, what happens when a nerd like me homeschools? I assign grades.
Now while many may be cringing right now, there are still others who may be curious to know why I believe formally assessing our children’s progress is a positive goal, worthy of consideration. Even when children are younger, I find value in this process, both as a teacher and as a parent.
But first, let’s consider the common objections to assigning grades. Grades are pointless since my student and I already know how they are doing and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Grades are not helpful since it becomes about the letter or percentage and not about what was really learned. Grades are hard to assign to subjects like writing, reading, and history unless I do formal testing. Grades are not necessary since it creates busy work.
While such objections are common, I do not agree with the perceived drawbacks to grading. So what does grading look like in the Gary household? In the younger years, just keeping a portfolio of the student's best work is sufficient. However, between third and fifth grade, it is useful to still keep a portfolio and to start assigning formal grades annually. By high school, we add to this process the need to assign credits. Once we begin formal grades, I do not simply list subjects and assign letter grades. Instead, I begin with a definition of what the letter grades mean.
Here are the definitions of each letter:
I do not define grades to be lower than a “C” since that indicates a problem with how I am teaching (and parenting) more than it reflects my student’s progress. In practice, however, I do not even assign grades lower than a "B" since we teach the points either to mastery (i.e. for language and math skills) or to a proper amount of exposure (i.e. the humanities like art, science, history, and literature). So, they receive good grades not because I am their mom but because we teach to the point that they have achieved the stated goal!
Now while these grading definitions may at first appear too broad to be useful, there are some essential points to keep in mind about how to assign them, what they mean, and what benefits result. So let's explore these five major areas of how grades, when thoughtfully issued, benefit the student, the teacher, and the family as a whole.
For access to the full version of this ~2800-word article including grading samples, contact Carol Gary at email@example.com and join The Balanced Homeschooler today! TBH moms may use our private Facebook group to access full articles, such as this one, templates, and many additional resources.*
*Current TBH Moms - https://www.facebook.com/groups/thebalancedhomeschooler/ The full version of this article, originally posted on 6-14-17, is currently available in the "Files" section and ready for you to read on our private Facebook!
Homeschooling since 2000, Carol shares in her blog observations, confessions, information, and musings that help provide perspective and inspiration for homeschooling moms.