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How to Homeschool - 10 simple steps

It might be a little presumptuous for one individual to write a guide on how to homeschool, but this simple question was asked of me this morning, and so here is my How to Homeschool guide according to me. 

1. Find out the rules in your state.  It is not that hard to find.  You can google "your state name" and "homeschooling", and you will find guides written by your state and/or homeschooling organizations.  Some states have very lax homeschool laws, with very little reporting or oversight. Other states want you to become a "private school" which isn't as daunting as it sounds. Still, other states will have you write our education plans for them to approve.  This site is a good place to start. You will want more in-depth information on your locality. 

2.  Read some homeschool books.  Relaxed homeschooling, classical homeschooling, unstopping, eclectic homeschooling. There are as many approaches to homeschooling as there are children. You need to decide what fits you and your kids.  Most people settle into a hybrid (of the main styles) within a year or two. 

3. Meet other homeschoolers and get your kids some playmates.  There are homeschool groups online. There are homeschool groups in your community. There are homeschool groups at your local parks and recreation centers. If you see a mom and kids out and about when most kids are in school, ask the question.  Do you homeschool? She probably does, and will give you a list of places to check out.  That is, if you can't find them online. 

4. Read some articles on learning style. You should familiarize yourself with right brain vs. left brain learning.  You should learn about creative learner, auditory learners, visual learning and kinesthetic learning.  Chances are, if you are taking your kid out of school to homeschool, then they have a learning style that does not fit the traditional auditory type of learning that happens in the classroom. 

5. Get started. Withdraw the children from school following the laws of your state. If your child has never been to school, then must make homeschooling a natural extension of what you have been doing. You helped them learn to walk, talk, feed themselves, and maybe even to tie their shoes.  What's next?  Just keep going. 

6. Start off slow.  Let the kids sleep for a week or two if they are transitioning from regular school. Start off reading books during this time. Observe sleeping cycles... yours and theirs.  Plan to do school work when you are all most alert,  energetic, and cooperative at the same time. 

7.  Choose a curriculum, or individual books and work them into your schedule. You can purchase a book in a box curriculum. You can use a free curriculum online provided by your state. You can also choose to keep it simple and use old fashioned textbooks.  You can also purchase similar textbooks to what the public schools are using from  My recommendation is to spend as little money as possible the first year, because chances are, you will change your mind a few times before you settle into a type of curriculum that you like. 

8. Farm out stuff you don't understand.  Music, sports, drama, engineering, etch. Take advantage of homeschool Co-ops or just regular after school extracurricular programs in your community. Give your kids an outlet that also incorporates something they want or need to learn, so you don't find yourselves cooped up at home all the time. 

9.  Have fun and enjoy each other. Seriously. This is the most important part of homeschooling. This should be the focus of your first year. If tension builds, stop what you are doing, pile up on the couch or a bed, and read a book.  Take an impromptu trip to the Zoo.  Do everything in your power to make homeschooling and adventure, and not a punishment. 

10.  Re-evaluate and don't be afraid to try something new.  You will change your mind. You will learn about new things. You will rediscover old things. Don't be afraid to stop what you re doing and trying something new... especially in the lower grades. 

*Note: If all that seems daunting and you want to pull them out of school now, you can start with an accredited online school.  This can be costly if your state does not provide it, and you may even decide that you don't want to do the state's program, and may choose an independent program which can be costly.  But a lot of new homeschoolers start off this way while they educated themselves and prepare to create a more individualized program for their children.  On the other hand, some kids thrive in the online programs and stick with them all the way through. 

How can I recycle my junk mail?

Q: I get a lot of junk mail every day and want to recycle it. What are some ways I can use it? A: There are dozens of ways to use junk mail up. I am sure I am not alone when I say I hate junk mail. I get enough to fill a large Rubbermaid bin each month and for many years tossed it out. I have tried different tactics to stop the mail from coming, but in the end, I still get tons of it. Instead of continuing to complain, I keep a couple of empty bins to toss it into, and when I have free time, sort it to use for different projects. Here are 17 things you can do with your junk mail.

  1. Cat Litter: I cannot believe I purchased cat litter for 16 years before realizing I already had tons of it free in the house. Now I lay a newspaper size publication on the bottom, and on top of it dump shredded junk mail and even shredded bills. The coolest part of this is I feel comfortable that no one will try to steal my personal information after my cat has 'used' it.
  2. Mulch: Shredded "cat litter" can also be used as mulch to keep moisture in your flowerbeds. If you do not like the look of the shredded junk mail, put a thin layer of pine straw on top. You will still save a ton of money.
  3. Packing materials: Use shredded junk mail as packing materials. Just be careful not to use anything with personal information on it.
  4. Paper Mache: Any junk mail printed on newsprint is perfect for paper mache projects. If you do a lot of paper mache projects, sort these types of junk mail into a separate bin and keep them with your art materials.
  5. Grammar and writing: Cut out words and keep them in baskets. You can use them to help your children write letters, learn parts of speech, and to make up sentences with. It is a fun way to teach grammar.
  6. Stickers and Address labels: These come in the mail several times a year. If you did not request them, you do not need to feel obligated to send anyone money. I put these address labels and stickers in baskets to use when I need them. Occasionally I send a donation when I want to, but sending a donation means you will only get more solicitation for more money.
  7. Keep catalogs for art collages: Children are always looking for magazines to cut pictures from. Let them use catalogs instead so you can keep your magazines intact until you have read them.
  8. Re-use envelopes: Using your free return address labels, and a couple of blank labels, you can re-use most return address envelopes that you get in your junk mail.
  9. Make scrap paper: Keep a card-sized box for scrap paper and note pad paper. Take any junk mail that is blank on one size, cut it to size and put it in your scraps box.
  10. Make envelopes: Envelopes are quite easy to fold, and you can find many examples online. You can take any standard piece of paper and fold your own envelope. Bright colored pieces of junk mail with pretty pictures work great. Just add labels for the address and use a return address sticker. They will also be noticed first by the recipient.
  11. Make dish scrapers: If you own any Pampered Chef pieces, you know they give a little plastic scraper to keep it clean. Junk mail 'credit cards' can also be used to scrape a pot or pan clean.
  12. Make balls for the kids to play with in the house. If the weather is bad and the kids are antsy, go to your junk mail bin and make small balls for the kids to play with in the house. When they are done, just throw them away.
  13. Use CD's as coasters or wall art: Junk mail CD's have many good uses. I like to put them under candles to catch the wax. They can protect your table from moist glasses, and can be hung in a pattern to make a creative feature wall.
  14. Use envelopes for shopping lists and to hold coupons: I like to use large junk mail envelopes to write my shopping lists on. I put my coupons inside of the envelope and write the store I plan to shop at on the front.
  15. Magnets: Business card magnets come in the mail from time to time. You can glue your own business card to the front, or cut it in smaller pieces to make a few business card magnets.
  16. Use it as confetti: If you are even in the market for confetti, use a fine shredder and throw in the most colorful pieces of junk mail you can find.
  17. Use junk mail to start fireplace fires. Wrap small stacks of junk mail firmly with twine, and put it in a basket to use as fire kindling.

What are some ways to use up all of my plastic grocery bags?

Q: How can I use up all my plastic grocery bags?

A: There are many ways to use up grocery bags around the house. You should enjoy them now however, because they won't be around much longer.

Plastic grocery bags have most recently been banned in California. They are also banned in China, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and numerous other countries and localities.  as of June 1. They are being banned to eliminate 'white pollution',  as the Chinese call it, as these plastic bags litter the streets. Shoppers will instead have to purchase sturdier plastic bags or bring their own bags (preferably cloth) and baskets to shop with.

As far as pollution is concerned, this is a great idea, but if you are forgetful like me you still use them, as you forget to bring your cloth bags when you go shopping. Some of us who are extremely thrifty also depend on these bags to save money as we recycle them and use them for other uses in the home. Here are all of the things you can do with those grocery store plastic bags, until they are banned for us too.

Car garbage disposal: I like to keep a couple of plastic bags in my car so that when I find myself waiting for my kids, I can do a quick car cleanup. I grab bag, jump out and fill it with as much garbage as possible from the floor of the car and the backseat that the kids tend to trash. When we get home, I just toss the full bag into the garbage bin.

Chest freezer: So that I don't have to dig through my chest freezer to find a particular item, I like to keep like things in grocery bags within the chest freezer. If I have all of the ground beef in the same bag, I won't have to spend 10 minutes digging under the 20 pounds of chicken breasts I just purchased.

Diaper disposal: While I do not worry about diapers anymore, I know many people who do. I have found that wrapping a soiled diaper in two plastic bags and disposing of it immediately is much more effective than a diaper genie. Even if you cannot take the dirty diaper outside, wrap it in two plastic bags and placing it in the regular garbage. (If you are expecting, instead of requesting a diaper genie that will cost you a fortune in specialized bags, you can just let a few people know you will take their excess grocery store bags and it will not cost anyone a cent!

Disposable protective gloves: While you cannot use plastic bags on your hands while you are washing dishes, you can protect your hand while you are picking up things you would rather not touch. For me, those gross things would be fur balls and dog poop.

grocery bag trash can
Hair conditioning: Whenever the hair conditioner bottle says cover and wait, I grab a disposable plastic bag and put it on my head under a towel. It works great and saves the $1.00 that disposable bags usually cost.

Line your trash can: Get a trash bin specifically made to utilize plastic grocery bags.  The one in this photos has hooks on it that hold the bags in place.

Knitting: While this is not something I am into, knitting plastic bags has become quite popular. You can apparently make wallets, bags, floor mats, and other creations.

Litter clean up: If you like to pick up litter on your walks, keep a couple of plastic bags with you so you have some place to put the litter. An extra plastic bag will protect your hand from dirty objects.

Mailing supplies: To cushion fragile items for shipping, I like to ball up plastic grocery bags and place them around the object. To protect clothing and other fabric based items for shipping, I like to wrap them in a few layers of plastic bags just in case the packaging gets wet.

Packing a suitcase: Use plastic bags to protect your clothing items from shoes and toiletries. I also put an a few empty ones to put soiled clothes in for the return trip. (But don't put them in your luggage if you are going to a country that bans the bags. They will confiscate them.

Packing fragile items. Plastic bags come in handy when packing glasses for a move or putting Christmas ornaments away.

Paintbrush cover: Whenever I am doing a large paint project that I need to take a break from or finish the next day, I wrap the paintbrush, roller, and tray in plastic bags so that it does not dry out and I can pick back up where I left off. You can leave a paint project for a day or two when you do it properly. Just be sure there are no holes in the plastic.

Pillow filling: If you make a throw pillow and realize you do not have enough stuffing, you can use the stuffing that you do have, and then make a hole in the center, which you can further fill with plastic bags.

Plant protection: Plastic bags can be used to protect small plants from frost at night. They can also be cut in strips and used to tie plants to a stake.

Playthings: My children find numerous ways to entertain themselves with plastic bags (not recommended for children under 4) Their favorite use is to make parachutes for army men and action figures which they can drop from the upstairs rail.

Quick rope: If I ever find myself in need of a rope, I tie together a string of grocery store plastic bags. Besides holding down the item just fine, plastic bags are easier to tie than rope.

Rock garden: To prevent weeds from growing up through your rock garden, put down a layer of plastic bags or paper before placing your rocks.

School lunches: Sometimes school lunch containers leak and can ruin schoolwork. If you have found this is a problem, you can place the containers in plastic bags for extra insurance. (At least until you can purchase new lunch containers)
Shoe covers: When I need to go in the garden and know my shoes are about to be destroyed, I put the shoes in the plastic bag and tuck it into the shoe opening. Of course, you need to tread lightly as you can slip if you want to walk down a hill.

Shoe storage: When putting shoes away that will not be worn for several months, such as boots or sandals, I like to put them in plastic bags to prevent dust from accumulating on them. This is especially important with suede of fabric shoes.

Snow protection: If you live somewhere where it snows and freezes, you can save time in the morning if you cover you side windows with plastic to prevent snow and ice from sticking to them.

Finally, get used to using canvas bags. the way things are going, those plastic grocery bags won't be around much longer!