We all want our homeschools to produce curious, creative kids, but we shouldn’t forget that our children copy what they see us doing. If we want our kids to love learning, we have to show them that we love it, too.
Get inspired with these tales of kid-created businesses.
Camila’s Lemonade Stand by Lizzie Duncan
When Camila can't afford a ride on the Ferris wheel, a friend suggests that she start a business to finance her fun.
Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur by Luke Sharpe
Kid entrepreneur extraordinaire Billy Sure organizes a contest to find the next great kid inventor.
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
Rivals team up in a mini comic-publishing business that hits a bump when their principal outlaws comic books at school.
Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen
An inherited lawn mower sends an ordinary boy into a whole new tax bracket.
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
A people-smart boy and his math-smart sister compete to see who can build the most successful lemonade stand empire.
Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey start their own business, complete with officers, advertising, and a dedicated phone line.
Henry Reed’s Baby-Sitting Service by Keith Robertson
Henry and Midge team up for a summer of baby-sitting for profit in this sequel to Henry Reed, Inc.
Not for a Billion Gazillion Dollars by Paula Danziger
Matthew’s got a million ideas to make big bucks on his summer vacation—but entrepreneurship may be harder than he thought.
This list is adapted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.
“I love the idea of unschooling, but I’m never going to be an unschooler,” says Jennifer Harris. Jenn homeschools her 9-year-old son Ian in a style that she calls Charlotte Mason-ish—“but lately, it’s feeling like all workbooks and dictation and sitting-at-the-desk time, which is too far in the other direction,” Jenn says. Jenn’s been struggling to find a balance between the structure and academics she needs and the fun, laid- back vibe she wants her homeschool to have.
We asked Jenn to track her time over a couple of weeks so that we could get a clearer idea of what a typical day in her homeschool looked like. Jenn was surprised to discover that she and Ian usually spent about two hours a day on school time—“it feels like so much more,” Jenn says. On most days, they’d start school after breakfast, then sit down together at the table to work. Sometimes Ian would read independently, sometimes Jenn would read aloud, but they’d stay at the table, working their way through one subject at a time, until it was time to start lunch. Jenn’s husband, Frank, comes home for lunch every day, so she and Ian hurry to get the table cleaned up and lunch prepared so that they can all enjoy the meal together.
“It’s gotten to the point where school feels like work to both of us,” says Jenn. “I care about staying on top of things academically, but I hate the way our learning process is starting to feel like a job. Is there a way to bring back fun without sacrificing academics?”
Since it was pretty clear that Jenn wasn’t overdoing it time-wise—two to three hours is a reasonable amount of hands-on school time for a third-grader—we decided to focus on the way she was using her time. By spending all their school time at the table and keeping an eye on the clock ticking toward a lunchtime deadline, Jenn and Ian weren’t able to relax into their routine. Here’s how we changed things up:
Moving classes to the afternoon. When I asked Jenn why they were doing all their school work before lunch, she paused and said, “You know what? I don’t even know.” It turns out that afternoons are quiet at the Harris house. Except for a regular Friday park day, Jenn and Ian are hanging out at home in the afternoons. We suggested moving their second hour of school time to the afternoon to make the morning more relaxed. Instead of jumping into their next lesson after handwriting, Ian starts his independent reading and Jenn gets household stuff out of the way until it’s time to prep lunch.
Starting the day with a meeting at the table. Jenn felt like table time was essential to starting their homeschool day. “I need the structure of sitting down in a consistent spot every day and saying okay, now we’re homeschooling,” Jenn says. We suggested that Jenn keep doing this— but instead of spending an entire morning at the table, she and Ian could get the same down-to-business boost from a morning meeting there right after breakfast. While they’re at the table, Ian does his daily copy work and handwriting practice.
Relocate for different subjects. The kitchen table is the best place for Ian to practice handwriting, but his other subjects might benefit from a change of scene. We suggested that Jenn and Ian switch locations each time they move to a new subject: math on the patio, history on the couch, spelling at the desk in Ian’s room, etc. This kind of musical chairs isn’t just a way to transition between subjects—researchers have discovered that students who work on material in different places retain it better than those who sit in the same spot to study every day.
Integrate more reading aloud. Ian’s a strong reader, and Jenn’s been encouraging him to do more independent reading, but since readalouds are one of the things Jenn and Ian like best about homeschooling, we suggested that they bring back the readaloud. (Kids benefit from being read to long after they’re able to finish chapter books on their own, and reading together means you get to learn together—which is one of the best ways to feel like your homeschool is a fun, relaxed place.) We suggested that Jenn and Ian go back to doing book-based subjects, including history and science, as readalouds and letting Ian keep his reading skills sharp with independent reading.
“I didn’t realize such simple changes could make such a big difference, but they really have,” Jenn says when we follow up with her. She and Ian have been implementing their new routine over the past month, and Jenn says everything is working better than she had hoped.
“I think I bought into the idea that when we hit third grade, school should become more school-like,” Jenn says. “And the result was that Ian was learning about the same amount but we were having a lot less fun. I think I needed someone to say ‘Hey, you can teach your kid what he needs to know and still have fun doing it.’”
This column is excerpted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL. Do you need a homeschool makeover? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of what’s tripping up your homeschool life, and we may feature your makeover in an upcoming issue.
If you love the fantasy, fun, and humor of Roald Dahl, you’ll enjoy these books that capture some of that same playful spirit.
My daughter wants to study Latin—which is great, except that there aren’t any home- school Latin classes in our area, and Latin is—well, Greek to me. Is it possible to succeed in teaching a subject when I know almost nothing about it?
As you move into middle and high school, you may find yourself with a kid who wants to take classes outside your knowledge base. It’s totally, absolutely, 100-percent okay to outsource those classes, either by using a plug-and-play curriculum that gives you step-by-step guidance, signing up for online or in-person classes, or joining a co-op where another parent can take over. The older your student gets, the more important outsourcing will become in your homeschool life. But don’t think outsourcing is your only option: You can teach a class you know nothing about—and teach it well.
The key is to drop the mantle of teacher and put on the mantle of fellow student so that you and your child become learning partners. For this to work, you’ve got to tackle the topic together. How do you do this? It breaks down into three simple steps:
Be upfront with your student: “I don’t know much more about Latin than you do, but I’m excited to learn about it with you.” It’s important to talk about this with your student and to really listen to what she has to say— maybe she’ll be thrilled to continue your learning-together tradition, or maybe she’ll be concerned about whether your Latin adventure will adequately prepare her for the college classics classes she wants to take. Don’t let your ego or your desire to teach everything get in the way of what’s right for your student—if she’s looking for an academically rigorous course and you aren’t confident your plan will deliver it, consider other options. Making the choice that works for your particular kid always counts as successful homeschooling.
Be prepared for a big commitment. Self-directed learning can be invigorating and exciting, but it isn’t easy—expect to spend a lot of time and energy resources in pursuing an unfamiliar subject. For this kind of learning to work, you can’t expect your student to do anything that you’re not doing yourself, from memorizing vocabulary cards to working through translations. You want to keep pace with your student, but you also want to set the pace for the class so that you’re progressing. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours a week working on your own for this class, in addition to the time you spend working with your child.
Choose a simple, straightforward program with a workbook or lots of exercises to give you plenty of practice with concepts. (We use Ecce Romani for Latin, which I really like.) It’s scary to think about taking on an unfamiliar subject in your homeschool, but if it’s something you’re interesting in learning about, too, this kind of learning together can be a homeschooling win-win.
This Q&A is reprinted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.
Now that the summer issue is out (hooray!), I look forward to the email that starts to trickle in from readers, telling us what articles you loved and what ideas inspired you. (Please never stop sending this email.) The truth is, I look forward to reading the finished issue every season, too! If you’re a subscriber, you can skip this and just go read the summer issue yourself, but if you’re interested, these stories were some of my summer issue highlights.
- Working on the summer reading guide is one of those gigantic projects that I look forward to all year. (“Sorry kids, I’m reading for work!”) I loved working on every part of it, but finding readalikes for Anne of Green Gables and The Fault in Our Stars was especially fun.
- Patricia’s column about her nearly two decades of park days with her homeschool group made me cry. In the good way. But also kind of in the envious way because I really wish I had that kind of group in my homeschool life.
- We had so much fun doing our first homeschool makeover—helping Jenn and Ian shift gears to make their homeschool less school-y while still keeping up with their academic goals.
- You know how when your kid gets really excited about something, and you’re trying to figure out how much you should do to encourage that excitement—where do you draw the line between supportive and pushy? Shelli has some great thoughts on how she’s found a balance through her son’s passion for birds.
- I always want to steal Amy’s art project ideas, but now I really want to steal her relaxed attitude about teaching art, too.
- This issue features an article by our youngest contributor ever: the talented 10-year-old Catie Burrell, who has Opinions about what musicals should be in your movie marathon.
- I learned SO MUCH working on our summer boot camp feature for this issue, which is all about things you can do right now to make homeschooling this fall so much more fun. I am probably not going to be taking a sabbatical any time soon, but I am definitely adding more rituals to anchor our days.
- We got to answer that question that plagues so many homeschoolers: How can an always-homeschooled kid get into college?
- It’s made me pretty excited about summer! Now that the summer deadline is behind me, I’m looking forward to planning next year’s science classes, having a Roald Dahl-inspired readathon, using Star Trek to study politics, cleaning out the clutter in my homeschool space, and reading lots and lots of books by the pool. I hope it gets you excited, too!