New Resource: Your Guide to Homeschooling 1st Grade

New Resource: Your Guide to Homeschooling 1st Grade by Shelli Bond Pabis

When I began homeschooling, I felt overwhelmed. There were too many books, blogs, and other resources. I wanted a short, sweet guide to help me get started teaching my son. I never found that, so I decided to write one myself.

I’m happy to announce that The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching 1st Grade is now finished and available for you! It’s short, but it’s also packed with information. This book will be helpful to any parent who has a child between the ages of 4-8 or thereabouts. “First Grade” is merely a guide. Not an absolute.

When we officially began homeschooling (that is, according to the state law), I asked, “What are 1st grade students supposed to learn?” Yes, there are books and websites out there that will tell you, and when I looked at them, I started to panic! Are you kidding me? A first grader is supposed to know all that?! 

I calmed down, and ultimately, I used those lists as a guide for some simple lessons, but truthfully, I didn’t teach even a quarter of it to my son that year. Instead, I realized that by creating an environment that would honor his questions and foster his creativity, he was learning more than enough. I knew it was important that I let him use his imagination, play, and start a good routine. When he was five-years-old, I decided to create priorities for our homeschool that are still helping me plan our goals six years later. And the daily habits I set in place that year have helped me tremendously as we dig into more academic work now.

I wrote The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching 1st Grade for those of you who want to teach your children, but you also don’t want them to lose their love of learning. There is a list (not an overwhelming one) about what 1st graders typically learn in school, but then I also show you how to start thinking like a homeschooler. The first grade is the perfect time for setting up good habits that will last throughout your child’s whole education, and I will encourage you to set up the habits that are most important to you. 

Also in this e-book you will find: 

  • a list of the most popular educational philosophies used by homeschoolers today
  • clickable resource links
  • how to create a physical environment that will foster creativity and learning
  • a tip on how to get your child to try something without forcing him/her
  • tips on lesson planning and scheduling
  • tips on how to meet other homeschoolers
  • a secular resource guide
  • suggested reading list
  • and more…

I hope you’ll check out the Table of Contents and Introduction here and also get back to me about this and other resources you’d like to see here on home/school/life. Amy and I are dedicated to making the home/school/life website a complete resource for families at every stage of homeschooling, so we want your input. Thanks!

13 Tips for Attending Homeschool Conferences

13 Tips for Attending Homeschool Conferences

Homeschool conferences can be overwhelming, but also incredibly informative. I recently attended a homeschool conference and here’s what I learned.

1. Bring a friend and a notebook.
Many of the workshops you would like to attend may be scheduled at the same time. Split up the workshops with a friend, and divide and conquer. Take notes during the workshops. It will be impossible to remember everything you heard and learned. A notebook will help jog your memory when you’ve had time to decompress from all you learned. At the end of the day, compare notes with your friend and share information. You will gain twice as much confidence and information with a friend.

2. Take as much information as you can in the vendor hall. 
Vendors have material available because they want you to become informed, and want your business. Even if you think you are not interested in what a vendor has to offer, check out their product, and take their promotional material. Once home, it’s easier to digest all the information over a cup of coffee and some quiet time. You may just be inspired by something you didn’t know you needed or wanted!

3. Make a game plan.
Vendor halls and workshops can be overwhelming, especially at larger conventions or conferences. Be sure to check out the schedule and make a game plan on what you need. Ask the staff at the registration table for any updates to the schedule. Speakers and workshops schedules sometimes get moved because of attendance numbers, or other factors. You don’t want to miss your favorite workshop, so be sure to inquire. If the registration desk has a map of the vendor hall, review it before entering. Also make note of where the restrooms are located and local restaurants or the food court. Staying nourished and hydrated is important. 

4. Ask to lock in sales prices. 
If you can’t purchase now, ask the vendor if they can lock in the sales price that is offered at the conference. Most vendors will offer an extended sales price during the conference and for a week or so after the conference.

5. Check with speakers or workshop hosts to see if there is a webinar or audio version of the workshop that you can get free or purchase. 
There is so much information to take in, that being able to listen to keynote speakers again, may be a benefit in your homeschooling.

6. Rest.
Grab lunch with a friend and decompress from the convention noise and overwhelm. Sitting outside for a while can help you regain some clarity, and give you energy to tackle the next workshop or vendor hall. Wear comfortable shoes.

7. Bring bags. 
Most conference will offer a reusable bag as part of the vendor hall experience, but purchases, flyers, and PR material can quickly fill up your bags. Better yet, check to see if a rolling cart is allowed into the conference. It will save your back and arms from all the weight of that newly acquired material. 

8. Meet and greet. 
Introduce yourself to others. Tell your homeschooling story. Ask about theirs. Conferences and conventions are prime real estate for making connections in the homeschool world. Find your common ground, stay connected through social media or other methods, and build your homeschooling network. 

9. Thank the coordinators of the event. 
So much behind the scenes planning takes place to make homeschool conferences a success. Give helpful suggestions, rather than complaints. Volunteer to help if you can. Even a few hours attending the registration desk is a help to all. 

10. Ask questions.
Contact the speakers and vendors if you still have questions about their workshop or product. They will welcome your inquiry for more information.

11. Decide if you will bring children. 
Some conferences are child friendly with lots of scheduled kid activities, and others are more geared toward an adult day. Conferences may or may not offer child care or kid activities, so be sure to inquire. Vendor halls can be a long day for children who have no interest in looking at curriculum. Plan accordingly.

12. Plan time for sightseeing.
If you are traveling to a conference be sure to check out the local sites. Homeschoolers never stop learning, and this is a great opportunity to explore the world.

13. Set your budget.
Vendor halls and that shiny new curriculum or online curriculum, can be very tempting to purchase. Be sure you research thoroughly and stick to your budget. 

Homeschool conventions are a perfect opportunity to make connections and have all your homeschooling questions answered. Do your research before the convention both on workshops you want to attend, and speakers that you want to hear. When you are in need of a homeschool reboot, a convention can be just the thing to inspire and refresh your world. 

Homeschool Rewind: Fall

Homeschool Rewind: Fall

How’s your new homeschool year going? Here’s a little of what’s happening with us.

  • We’ve played a lot of 1775: Rebellion while we were studying the American Revolution, and it was surprisingly fun—kind of like a U.S. history-based version of Risk. I’m a read-and-take-notes kind of student, but my kids really do better when they can fidget a little, so games like this are a great compromise, especially when we’re doing a readaloud or watching a documentary.


  • With my high schooler, we’re trying to set clear goals so that we have criteria for evaluating her work for her transcript. This requires a lot of conversation and the ability to shift gears when her goals change, as some of them already have. It’s such a different kind of partnership from what we’re used to, and we’re both figuring it out as we go—it’s not easy to find the balance of knowing when to push a little (because my daughter has always been a kid who sometimes needs a little push) and when to take the passenger seat so that she can find her own way. I think this is a tough balancing act for every parent, but it feels especially challenging now that I am navigating these new high school waters as a homeschool mom.


  • We’ve been doing daily(ish) nature journals for a while now, so we’re at the sharpening-our-skills stage of nature journaling. I picked up a copy of The Curious Nature Guide (by Clare Walker Leslie, author of our much-beloved The Nature Connection Workbook), which we’ve been enjoying. I don’t think there’s anything revelatory in it (though I did learn a few things, and it would probably be a good starter guide to nature journaling if you’re new to the habit), but it’s given us lots of new ways to think about and look more closely at the nature in our neighborhood.


  • Homeschooling through any move is tricky, and ours, alas, has come with a lot of extra drama. Though we’ve taken plenty of breaks (one of my favorite advantages of year-round homeschooling), but I’ve also been happy to discover that homeschooling gives our days a lovely rhythm that continues even when things are hectic. We’ve shared more than one afternoon tea over a stack of cardboard boxes, and the ritual helps me keep all the craziness a little better in perspective. It’s reminded me of how becoming homeschoolers has changed our family life for the better—even when all my favorite sweaters are in a box that no one can find!

7 Great Resources for: Young Chefs

7 Great Resources for: Young Chefs

Want to make cooking a regular part of your homeschool routine? These resources will help your kids get hands-on in the kitchen.

31 Great Books to Inspire Young Writers

31 Great Books to Inspire Young Writers

Whether you’re putting together a curriculum or just stocking your reading shelves, these books are a great addition to your homeschool writing library.

7 Great Resources for: Critical Thinking

From board games to books and curriculum, these are some of our favorite critical thinking resources for homeschooling.

Looking to add a little more critical thinking to your homeschool life this summer? We’ve got the scoop on some useful resources, from online games to full-blown curriculum, that will help you out.

nature study: What's At Stake? #18
Turn your next geocaching adventure into a test of logic. (You don’t have to be in Pennsylvania to play, but if you like the idea of playing closer to home, why not create and submit your own geocaching logic puzzle?)


board game: WFF’n’PROOF
Lots of games teach critical thinking skills, but this board game was developed specifically to introduce students to the fundamentals of symbolic logic. 


computer game: FTL: Faster Than Light
Your goal in FTL is always the same: deliver an important message to the Federation without getting captured or stalled by ship malfunctions along the way. But thanks to a pretty darn sophisticated game matrix, this 2-D game never plays the same way twice. Every decision you make, from quests you agree to take on to what upgrades you give your spaceship, affects your gameplay. This is a game that rewards thoughtful, intelligent playing over shoot-and-run-as-fast-as-you-can strategies.


book: What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles
Add mathematician and logician Raymond M. Smullyan’s puzzle labyrinth to your summer reading list, and your brain will get a serious workout. (The book includes solutions—with detailed explanations.)


workbook: Mind Benders
I know! We never recommend workbooks. But this series (with books for ages from preschool through high school) encourages to students to deduce increasingly sophisticated connections between people, places, and things to solve puzzles. It’s pretty awesome.


curriculum: Building Thinking Skills
It’s easy to find critical thinking resources for younger kids, and by high school, students are ready to tackle inductive and deductive logic—but what about middle school? The Critical Thinking Co.’s Building Thinking Skills curriculum is the perfect critical thinking resource for this in-between age.


class: How to Think Like a Philosopher
The University of Hawai’s’s Philosophy for Children program developed a toolkit to help kids break down big ideas by looking at some of the assumptions, implications, examples, and reasons behind them. Shelly Denkinger uses the toolkit as a basis for exploring everything from pop culture to Plato in this five-week class for high school students. It’s a great first step to more in-depth philosophy studies.

Heads Up: Free U.S. and World History Courses

Awesome resource for high school history: free online lectures covering lots of eras and events. #homeschool

Have you had a hard time finding a good, up-to-date, well-researched resource for your homeschool history studies?

I wanted to let you know that my husband, Dr. George Pabis, Ph.D., has created History for Homeschoolers, a FREE website with audio lectures that he uses as a part of his U.S. and World History college courses.

What qualifies my husband to teach history to homeschoolers? He is a trained historian with a Master’s degree in Russian history and a Ph.D. in American History. He has written many book chapters, book reviews, and scholarly articles in environmental and engineering history, and he wrote the book Daily Life Along the Mississippi. He has been teaching history at the college level for over 18 years.

In other words, he’s not just a history enthusiast or journalist writing about history, he’s a real scholar.

For the last three years, he has been teaching online, so he’s been creating audio lectures, and his students have given him positive feedback on them. We think middle school children and up could probably follow the audio lectures on their own, and parents who are teaching younger children might find it an easy way to brush up on their history. 

After all the audio lectures are uploaded (U.S. History is complete, and he’s adding a new lecture to World History each week), Dr. Pabis is going to add other resources to the site that will help you continue with your exploration of the past, such as key terms; suggested videos, books and reputable websites; photographs and more. You can follow the site’s blog, What’s New, to receive notices when something is added to the site.

This is a long-term, ongoing project, and over time, we hope to make the site very robust, but even now, just the audio lectures are enough to give you a complete course in both U.S. and World History. We hope you will enjoy it and let us know, if it works for you.

I am the site’s Webmaster, so if you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below.