I love homeschool. When you homeschool, you have “school” any time you want. AND you can turn absolutely everything into an assignment or study. AND your homeschool studies and blogging deadlines can converge for some really relevant, authentic posts.

When I saw that the next “Top Ten Tuesday” topic was “The Top 10 Reasons I’m Excited About This New School Year,” I knew that I had to include the student in on the conversation. So yesterday, as we were waiting in the parking lot for my husband to finish his doctor’s appointment, we did a shared writing assignment. (We’re actually posting this on Wednesday — one of several unexpected outcomes of the doctor’s appointment).

First, we brainstormed all the reasons we were looking forward to the new school year: first he shared, then I shared, until we filled our page. Then, each of us was assigned 10 votes to spread over the selections however we wanted. If I really wanted to put all 10 of my votes on one thing, I could. (NOTE: You can do a version of this where you use + votes and – votes, which is fun to do with kids when you are working on negative numbers.). The result was our Top Ten list, in rank order.

10. Getting Organized With Workboxes. I have been excited about workboxes since first reading about them a year ago, and dabbled with an informal way of using them. Now that my little man is entering 4th grade, he’s much more able to self-direct his schoolwork, and I think having one task per drawer will be such a help for him.  Erica, at Confessions of a Homeschooler, shows how she applied workboxes to her homeschool, and I will be purchasing the rolling carts this week. I will actually be purchasing three of them, because my husband wants to join us for Spanish lessons, and have some algebra coaching, and I am thinking they will be a great way to organize my consulting and blog work by day of the week. I’ll let you know how it works out, applying the workboxes sytem to adult work!

Our first, informal “work basket” system…

9. Learning Together…

This is MY favorite part of homeschooling. All the new things that you learn about when you teach something are the most fun parts of the whole process — we all get smarter, together!

And how much fun is it to use your dad as a recliner while you are completing your independent reading assignment?

Dad becomes a loving recliner during independent reading

 8. Creating Science Lessons Together… When I was a classroom teacher, my own children became guinea pigs for everything new that I wanted to try. My little guy has agreed to help me pick out THE best science activities for the topics we include in the first set of lessons on my new blog, Simple Science Strategies. How much fun will THAT be? 

7. Using the Exploring Creation Textbooks, by Apologia Science… It was an exciting day when the box with our new “Land Creatures” and “Swimming Creatures” books and workbooks arrived via FedEx. They sit on a shelf with the “Flying Creatures” books which we’ve been using the last year. Instead of reading through each one, we will be pulling lessons and activities as the topics arise during nature study, checking them off to remind ourselves which ones still need to be completed. See “Experiments in Flight: Lift, Thrust and Drag”  for an example of one experiment from the “Flying Creatures” book, that we will be including on the Simple Science Strategies posts. 

6.  The Gazebo as Classroom… I am so happy in my gazebo. I blog there. Drink my coffee and do bible study there. Watch the hummingbirds there. My son curls up with a book there, uses it as a home base for his backyard expeditions, and does research on the Nook there. It is steps away from the grill, the greenhouse, the bird feeders, the neighbor’s meadow, a nature trail, and a stone wall that is 300 years old. Every school needs an outdoor classroom. 

5. Gardening… I know how much I love to putter around with terracotta pots, compost, random seed packets and little plants that I’ve gathered from far and wide. But I was surprised that my little guy mentioned gardening as one of his reasons for being excited about next year. But I DO notice how HE notices the things that gardens bring to homeschool: skippers, spring azures, monarchs and swallowtails… toads that burrow under the woodchips… nasturtiums that you can snip off into your salad… catmint that is very popular with the neigbhorhood cats… fireflies galore… a hummingbird that buzzes your head on the way to the fuchsia. Our gardens are meeting places, therapy centers, pantries for last minute salad fixings. We learn more about the world by 15 minutes of watering than by hours of classroom time. Read some of the studies that have been inspired by our outdoor garden time in “A Child’s Garden.” 

Herbs, cucumbers and a hiding space for toads…

4. Thinking About Armies, Battles and History…

I am a science gal who loves a good math mystery and hasn’t met a rotten log that hasn’t been just sitting there, waiting to be turned over and investigated. Two of my boys take equal delight in the natural world, and have actually chosen careers that PAY them to be outside working with plants and wildlife.

Just to show you that genes are funny things, my youngest son coasts through all my in-depth nature studies, so he can really linger on his true love: anything to do with battles. He loves reading about the Norman Conquest of Europe, the Battle of Little Big Horn and the skirmishes between all those “-ites” in the Old Testament (you know, the Hittites and such). He thinks it so cool that I actually got to visit the Alamo, and have photographs. He currently spends a  lot of time watching about a million You Tube videos that have clever stop-action videos of battles between plastic army men — they are really fun to watch (did you ever believe such a thing was so popular?).

We will be collecting all our resources on my Pinterest board on The American and French Revolution, and will be using Ambleside’s Year 4 curriculum for our work.

3. Getting Crafty…

After we made our grand list of reasons we were looking forward to a new school year, I was pleasantly surprised at how high my little student ranked anything that had to do with creating something. What fun! Who doesn’t like a good creative project?

This summer, we have been quite “crafty,” as we have been experimenting with “Five in a Row” style studies around our Swiss Family Robinson read-aloud  and other books. We have made watermelon sorbet and tie-dyed t-shirts. We have been learning how to create animated videos using a series of photographs. And we have repurposed a humongous roll of packing paper that I’m thinking might just become a collage-style mural of “New Switzerland.”

When I was a classroom teacher, we often used a classroom museum as a culmating activity, after a social studies unit (the link points to a great series of lesson plans from the Smithsonian). This activity capitalizes on the interest that kids have in building, creating and researching. For our unit on the American and French Revolutions, it could include models of buildings, maps, photographs and illustrations, as well as artifacts. The writing pieces could include information pieces, captions (which are summaries), and biographies, as well as fictional narratives and poetry — really anything that came up with the unit.

See my Pinterest boards for other creative ways to engage your kids in their studies (I add to these boards constantly, so follow the ones that are interesting to you):

Little Man shows off his “bullseye” tie-dye shirt, which is the envy of the whole neighborhood.

 2. Make-Your-Own Notebook Pages… One of the first purchases I made, as a new homeschooler, was a year-long subscription to the Notebooking Treasury, a very useful resource for pages that you can use to help your child organize his learning from any homeschool study. There are beautiful pages created for every subject area, as well as organizing pages for your own homeschool planning. The creator, Debra Reed, turned her own homeschool work into a home-based business, with thousands of bundled products available for unlimited download, for a modest annual subscription fee. One of Debra’s new bonuses, for her annual subscribers, is the ability to create your own notebooking pages, using The Notebooking Publisher. This is very exciting to me, and it surprised me that my little students was interested in this, too!  What better way to engage your homeschooler in notebooking (something that doesn’t thrill my own child) than to have him create the page he will notebook on! Students can either print out their page and write in their information, or actually enter the text right into the form (anything that has to do with typing online — now THAT interests my son!).

Visit to learn more about their memberships
and their new web-app, The Notebooking Publisher™. We’ll be sure to post our new pages as we create them. My son and I have an “editorial meeting” today (!) to discuss our next publishing venture…

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for… the #1 reason we are excited about the next homeschooling year (and the main reason we all love homeschooling in the Bennett house):

1. Spending more time together as a family.

We are a close family. Both of us come from large families where social gatherings (informal, mostly) are important events, full of music, storytelling and lots of food (everyone cooks and shares). Additionally,  we just like being together as a nuclear family. My husband and I wouldn’t think of an anniversary get-away without including the littest one, and are currently hatching a couple of plots for family vacation fun (one involves a long-awaited trip to Florida, another involves saving money for a beach cottage; camping trips also have a page in the plan book). We always cook enough dinner for whichever adult child passes through on the way home from work. In fact, it is not uncommon for one of the “big boys” to stop through, not to eat, but just to tell us about his day, before heading home to his own house.

One of the things that strengthened our resolve to build school around our family time was a health crisis that our family experienced several years ago (see my “Think Pink” blog entries for more about this). We decided that our time together as a family was precious, and not to be taken for granted.

I am convinced that families are supposed to be the building blocks of societies, not schools, not workplaces, not towns —  like little solar systems of people orbiting around a God-centered home. Members circle out, then return to “home base,” with the children orbiting very close to home as youngsters, then slowly moving their orbit farther and farther from the center, as they grow more independent, until they are fully-equipped adults, and establish their own homes. To me, Christian homeschool is the life-training that happens in the center of that little family solar system, and includes all of the things you do to prepare your child to spin-off into his own adult life.

Next year, I have resolved to shift more of my business to home-based work, and am looking forward to the greater flexibility it gives me with family time.

More family time: a benefit of homeschooling.

 Your Summer Homeschool “To Do” List: Here’s what’ s on my summer homeschool calendar — some ideas, for you, too! 

  • Go places. For ideas on fun ideas for summer homeschool, check out Finding Fun, Free Family Trips Close to Home.
  • Buy fall curriculum materials: Christian Books has a great post to help you plan ahead for next year, including how to pick curriculum materials for your children.  They are having a give-away of hard-bound children’s classics, and check out their Mid-Week Markdowns — up to 93% off on selected titles!
  • Follow some other homeschool bloggers: One of my new blogging friends is Mary Prathers at “Homegrown Learners”. This week, she has blogged about Preparing for a Classical Education  (guest blog by Amy at “Living and Learning at Home”), music and homeschool (“The Gift of Music in Your Homeschool” — Mary’s specialty), getting ready to resume studies (“Can We Start School, Please?”), and homeschool planning without tears (“Overwhelmed With Planning?“)   Also, check out her feature,  “Collage Friday” – a simple photo summary of a week homeschooling her kids.
  • Write about your journey: One thing I have learned from blogging about homeschool is that people are craving information about homeschool, especially from those who are just starting out! If you love writing, but are not sure if you have the time to dedicate to a regular blog, consider writing articles for Squidoo, a free web publishing platform for your original web content. If you just want a place to privately chronicle your homeschooling adventure, Shutterfly is a free photo-hosting service that also offers low-cost ways to organize your photographs into beautiful hard- or softcover photo albums, using online scrapbooking tools. And my personal, all-time new favorite tool, Pinterest, is a fun, fast way to organize ideas, collect links to interesting websites, and share resources with other folks via the web. Also free. Who doesn’t like free? [You can keep up to date on my newest posts via the sidebar links, to the right…]

I hope you have enjoyed this post about our reasons for being excited about next year — I want to encourage you!