5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials: The Homeschool Blogger

1/22/2014
5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Sometimes, I think about my life before blogging and long for more simple homeschooling days. And I often evaluate what I would do differently in my homeschool, if I didn't blog. I would still take pictures and document what I do, I know that.  I just wouldn't be documenting it all for the world to see.

But would my homeschool be the same?

I don't believe so.

Blogging has helped me be more intentional in my homeschooling. I am a better homeschooler because I blog.




Joshua Becker @ Becoming Minimalist waxed eloquent on the subject of why you should blog and I highly recommend reading 15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog

So today, I would like to share my Top Ten Essentials for a Homeschooling Blogger.

Keep in mind, I am a hobby blogger, not a professional. ;-)

(Affiliate links are used in this post.)

1. A Laptop Computer 

Hands down, I love my MacBook Pro. I am on my 2nd one since I started blogging. The old one is now used by my husband and the kids. I have more memory and storage now :D and I'm a believer in an Apple Care Protection Plan.

I enjoy being able to take it outside on the porch in sunny weather, the backyard to watch the kids play, to the library when I need some quiet time, or to bed when I want to work late.  I also take it when we travel.

2. Digital SLR Camera

I get asked a lot so I'll let you know that I have a Canon Rebel T1i. They have a T3 out now, but I'm happy with the version I have. I often use a 55-250mm zoom lens, and I like using it for getting up close and personal - without getting up close and personal.  I keep a wireless remote timer tucked in my camera bag, but I don't use it as often as I should (namely to include myself in the photos). A few things on my wish list include: a Collapsible Photography Disc Reflector,  a Bounce Flash Device, and Camera Sling. {And maybe some time to learn how to use it better.}

While I personally love using my "big" camera, more and more I am seeing bloggers use their iPhone cameras to blog. I have an iPhone 5 and love it, but I don't like using it if I have my big camera around. I mostly use it when I don't, which is usually when I am out and about. But, I take my big camera with me if I can! It's really a habit from college - I was a writer and photographer for the student newspaper and a photography student, so I was taught to carry it with me wherever I went. Years later, I still keep it very close to me!

3. Good Lighting

I personally am drawn to photos with lots of natural light. The best way to do this is to use natural light from a window, and make sure your subject is facing the light. But avoid direct sunlight.

4. Clean and Organized School Space

Not only does it look pretty in a picture, but it helps you move from one activity to another and capture it all. I have to act fast and can't let my photography get in the way of our lessons. Our lessons are the main priority, so I try to have everything laid out and ready to go before we start. Not only does this help with the flow of our school day, but it helps me photograph it!

5. Respect 

My goal is to photograph without being intrusive, so I always I ask permission. If my child is feeling shy or does not want to be photographed, I put the camera down.

6. Conversation

I often am complimented on how happy my children look in photos. This is because they are generally happy children, but also because I am engaging them in conversation while I photograph them. It's amazing the transformation you see through the camera lens when you do.

7. Documentation

I document everything I consider noteworthy, whether it be for the blog or my personal Project Life album. Bonus if I open a blog post and write down what we did at the end of the day. Often, I will plan right in a blog post so that when I go to add photos, the post is already half written for me!

8. A Blog

Whether it be a free blogging platform like Blogger or Wordpress.com, or a self-hosted Wordpress.org blog, you need some type of platform to blog on.

9. Time

Blogging takes time! When I first started blogging, I gave up television.  As my blog grew, I had to give up other things. But, I also had to learn ways to blog more efficiently.  I am most productive when I upload and edit photos daily and not fret over making everything so perfect.

10. Quality Content 

You need something to blog about!

Build your blog on quality content that defines you and your homeschool.


My passion is delightful learning. :D  I want my children to love learning and to love "school."  And I want to love it, too!

And while my blog is about my homeschool, seeing our life and family outside of homeschooling can help with perspective, so I look forward to sharing more behind the scenes with my Let's Click and Project Life posts.

Note: Having a niche helps define you and your blog, but I am having to work myself out of a tight little niche, albeit a popular one - Five in a Row blogging. Our rows are STILL the most visited posts on my blog on any given day.

11. A Support Network

The online homeschooling community is amazing! Blogging friends are the heart of what keeps me coming back. I'm talking about organic friendships that are grown through reading other blogs and commenting on them, replying back when someone leaves you a comment, and/or visiting back. But, also being there for email support and friendship.

Social Media is a way to connect with your readers, but it is also as a tool to promote and grow your blog. I don't feel as connected to my readers through social media sites, but I'm also a little shy about it. When you see me on these sites, I have to MAKE myself do it! It is getting easier, but still not as easy as blogging.

Well, that's 10 (+ a bonus).

I thought about adding things like a blog reader, feed managers, analytics or statistic tools, etc... but I was already over 10. :)

Are you a homeschool blogger? What are your essentials? 

P.S. While blogging is important to me, it was not the near and dear essential I had planned for today. I didn't get my post finished in time, so I bumped this one up. Tomorrow, I will share that essential and wrap up this series!

We have 89 blogs participating in the blog hop this week!  You can read all of the blogs at the TOS Crew blog. I invite you to visit these lovely ladies this week:
Erica @ Be the One, Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story, Jenn @ Treasuring Life’s Blessing, Christine @ Our Homeschool Reviews,  Sharon @ Life with the Tribe, Hillary @ Our Homeschool Studio, Melanie @ FinchNWren, Brittney @ Mom’s Heart & Heather @ Principled Academy

29 comments:

Amber Hockman said...

I TOTALLY agree with everything you said! Yes, blogging has made me a better homeschooling Mama. Not only do I intentionally plan more fun, hands-on experiences into our day now (even though I do not blog about all of them), I also have a very supportive and loving homeschooling blogging community to turn to for all kinds of help- your blog being one of them! :0)

Keep up the great work! You ROCK!!!

Lisa M @ Farm Fresh Adventures said...

Blogging...hmm. I have like a love hate relationship with it! LOL! I love the response I get but hate the time it takes to do it! But it has made me more intentional as a blogger and a homeschooler because I want to have fun things to share so I do more fun things. And now that i"m on the TOS Crew (thanks to blogging) I have a whole new world opened for us!

I'm very happy you blog. I love reading your blogs. I get great ideas.

And as for a camera. Sigh. I have to use this one until it breaks........but maybe I'll be able to get a "fancy" one next time.

Homeschooling6 Mom said...

I agree as well. I started blogging to keep me accountable and it has worked. If I didn't blog I would still take pics but the journal part would never get done (unfortunately). Ha, I've been meaning to ask about your camera. I love your pictures. Mine takes lots of dark pictures even when there is light. I have noticed that my outside pictures are much nicer.

As for the clutter part I do agree there as well. Often times my pictures have our mess in them, in our place it's so hard. I try to keep things organized but, well, I have all kinds of space issue excuses. Ugh! It's most embarrassing when you can see the sink and open dishwasher!

Keep up the good work, you have a beautiful blog.

Veens @ Our Ordinary Life said...

Such an awesome post, Michelle. Totally agree! I just got a DSLR but have no idea how to use it :) I am a bit intimidated by it, I really need to learn how to take good, quality pictures, because I love taking pictures of my family :) I think blogging helps me be more intentional about learning. I am not homeschooling but I do like to add in the fun element into our days that bring about unintentional learning to add on to what he does at school. I think since I started doing that, Aarya is able to better grasp what is happening at school.

Carrie said...

I am not a blogger but reading a few key blogs (yours is at the top of my list!) gets me motivated and encourages me in our homeschooling endeavors. I also love posts like your "Lets Click". Thank you for all the time and love you put into your own family which translates to your blog. You are such a blessing!

Melanie (Wren) said...

I'm rather new to the blogging world myself....we started our blog in April 2013. But it has been the most tremendous blessing! My sister and I co-write it, and it has grown and deepened our relationship immensely....besides just being fun for us to interact together and with our readers. In addition, God opened the door for me to become part of TOS Crew last year, which has brought blessings too many to count to me and my family.

We're in the learning process now....but look forward to everything God has in our blogging future!

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials: The Memory Keeper said...

[…] heart is to “cultivate a good {homeschool} life and record it.” Project Life and blogging here @ Delightful Learning work naturally together to help me do […]

Michelle said...

Melanie, I think it's great that you get to co-write with your sister! How fun. So happy to be on the Crew with you!

Melanie (Wren) said...

I'm thankful to be there with you too, Michelle! :)

Michelle said...

Thanks, Amber! ♥

Michelle said...

Well, I for one, am happy you are blogging more. :) I don't mind the time it takes to blog - it's all the social media extras that I don't like! IMO, that is a necessary evil and would be more inclined to have a love/hate relationship with that!

Michelle said...

Thanks, Linda! I am the same about journaling! Blogging has helped me tons in that area. almost too much, hehe! And I'm cracking up over the dishwasher and sink! I avoid the far end of our dining room if I haven't tidied up the kitchen, because it is a straight shot in there. We lived in 1100 sq ft in our last house and we schooled in the kitchen... this was before blogging, but I know how hard it can be in a small space. That said, I don't mind messes in your pictures ~ I love it because you are so real and not afraid to be so. ♥

Michelle said...

Me too! and I've had mine for a couple years, LOL! Whatever it may be, being more intentional is always a good thing! :)

Michelle said...

Hi Carrie! Thanks for letting me know! It motivates and encourages me! ♥

Joanie @ Simple Living Mama said...

I love this list! I agree with all of it. I definitely see how blogging is helping me be a better homeschooler. It makes me much more intentional!

Christine said...

I would love to start blogging but am not sure where to start. Do you have a preference between WordPress or Blogger? I absolutely love your blog and aspire to have one like you someday. :) Thanks for any tips, Blessings to you and your family!

Michelle said...

I would personally start out with Blogger - I loved Blogger and blogged there for 5 years. It is free with no ads. Very easy to learn as well. The hardest part is deciding on a name and address! What defines you and your homeschool? If you do, make sure to come back and let me know!

Leah Courtney said...

I love this! I didn't think about blogging essentials. I do agree with you that blogging has made me more intentional when I am homeschooling.

Christine said...

Thanks for the encouragement and advice. I've been thinking on the name and that is where I am stuck right now. I'll let you know when I'm up and running.

Emilee said...

I agree! Since I started blogging about our homeschooling it has changed the way our homeschooling looks for sure! I do not have a fancy camera, though, and my iPhone 5S actually takes better pictures than my digital camera! It's sad really! LOL Networking and support is definitely a plus! I've made so many great blogging friends that help me both with blogging AND homeschooling! It's such a blessing! It's a blessing to be able to help others as well!

Andrea Nash said...

Hi Michelle,
I've been following your blog since our family started homeschooling 4 years ago with BFIAR/FIAR. I continue to be inspired by your desire for your children to "experience" learning, not just learn the facts - - which is the heart of Five in a Row.
I very much appreciate your creativity, attention to detail, and "perfectionism." I want to thank you for being so real and transparent by sharing your thoughts and word of the year, "Imperfect." I am still struggling with letting go of "perfect" and embracing the beauty of moments and products that are very "imperfect." I find myself going back to read that post more than any others.
I have also been a fan of your photography all this time. You beautifully capture the excitement, gentleness, and sweetness of your lessons. I have not had any training in photography, but like most mothers, I spend a lot of time documenting the many moments in our lives. After many years of wanting a DSLR, my husband surprised me with one for Christmas this year (Nikon D5300). I am still learning how to use it but wanted to ask you how you get your colors so amazingly bright like in the picture of the markers/colored pencils in your post of "5 Days...Essentials", or the circus pictures outside and bag books in "Mirette on the High Wire", or the knitting basket in "Warm as Wool" where it just pops off the page? Is it how you set up your camera (raw image, vivid setting, white balance, aperture, shutter speed, etc)? or a flash filter (although I know you prefer natural light)? or is it something you do in editing (if so, what do you do)? Do you edit EACH picture before you post it or just a few here and there? I'm sorry to be asking such superficial questions about photography on a blog about homeschooling, but I really love, love your photos and want to learn how to take the best pictures I can of our girls now that I finally have a "fancy" camera.
Thank you again, Michelle, for all that you share in your journey. You and your blog are a blessing to me and our homeschooling journey, and I wish you much continued success with your beautiful family.
Andrea in Georgia

Michelle said...

For a smart phone, the iPhone really done have a great camera in it! I have the 5, but I've read the 5S is a better camera! It is better than a cheap digital, I agree!

Michelle said...

Hi Andrea! I'm happy to any ANY questions you may have! Good natural light is my first "essential." If I were to write a post on my essentials for photography, I would talk about editing photos. I edit each one that needs editing! I don't shoot in raw (takes up too much memory for what I am doing), and I shoot in landscape mode mostly... I am making myself shoot in manual to learn, but I am not good at it. So, I start with good natural light and then adjust in iPhoto (I once tried Photoshop Elements, but it was too hard for me). My most used adjustments in iPhoto include: Exposure to lighten the picture; contrast to "make it pop," if it is overexposed, or after I lighten it; Shadow to lighten shadows (also lightens whole pic, so just a little); Sharpness if my photo is a little blurry (this makes it "pop" too, but a little goes a long way); and finally I adjust the temperature (find my white balance), and tint. This is the order in iPhoto, but I often go for temperature/tint, and exposure first. My goal is to minimize editing by learning my camera more... my white balance is off so I need to adjust it, hence having to edit temperature. Another method I like using is pickling... where if your subject is set against a bright background and the background is setting the exposure, I pickle by pointing the camera to a darker spot to set the meter, and then back to shoot my subject. So, in the case with the markers/colored pencils, either it was overexposed and I adjusted the contrast, or I lightened it and then added contrast. Thankfully, I do very little editing on outdoor pics - maybe edit the contrast if it is a bright day, so the colors don't look washed out - that makes them "pop!" :) I need to challenge myself to read my camera manual... so I have to do less editing!

If you don't have iPhoto, I'm sure any photo editing software would work. PSE is a great inexpensive one. But, I used Picasa (free download) for several years.

In all of my seeking imperfection, photography is one area that I'll stick to my perfectionism... albeit an amateur perfectionism!

Andrea Nash said...

Thank you, Michelle, for the detailed explanation of how you take and edit your photos. I appreciate your generosity with your time and assistance. I will definitely check out iPhoto.
I also got your message that you had visited my blog - - how embarrassing! It is two years behind! We are on FIAR Vol 3 now (I have been doing one volume at a time). Believe it or not, I have almost all of last years' posts of FIAR vol 2 "almost" ready and sitting in "Draft" but still need to add links or more descriptions, etc - - a result of my being a perfectionist, too. But somehow, you are able to keep your blog updated beautifully! What time of day and for how long do you work on your blog posts (including pic download, editing, descriptions/writing, and links)? Do you use a template for your FIAR posts? How do you make your collages (iPhoto?)? Like many others have commented before, I don't know how you do it all!
Thank you for your encouragement. And yes, I would love to add my posts to the Five in a Row link-up. Be on the look-out for some new posts in the near future. (I hope!)
Continued blessings to you!
Andrea

Michelle said...

Wow! I will be watching for your posts! I usually work on it late at night or early in the morning. Sometimes in the afternoon, when school is done for the day, I will edit photos and work on blogging (or comments and emails!). For FIAR, I did my planning right in a post, and if I find a link to an activity I know I will use, I either like it on Pinterest or go add it to my post right away. Then my post is half written for me! So, no template... but I do use the FIAR planning sheet and then enter that into a post.

I used to use Picasa, but I use PicMonkey now to make collages. Both are free!

Homeschooling6 Mom said...

Guess what, I was able to purchase Canon EOS Rebel T3 and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I hope it helps with better pics. I know it won't hide the clutter though ;)

Michelle said...

No way! That's so cool! I really want a T3! You will LOVE it and have so much fun with it (clutter and all!). :) I will be watching for you to get it! :)

Homeschooling6 Mom said...

I saw that Amazon has a T3 for Dummies and I may have to get that. It should be here tomorrow. Now if only I can purchase some natural lighting ;) My house unfortunately doesn't have windows where I need them.

I need to figure out how to make the space we have less busy. I just don't know where to put anything. I have put so much in storage including 45 boxes of books.

Michelle said...

Did I read that you ordered the T3 for Dummies? Let me know how you like it, k? I need more lighting too. Especially now that shade trees block a lot of light. I open my front door to get better lighting at our school table. :D

That's a lot of books! I have mostly bins of clothes in storage, well that and junk. I am always taking boxes and bags of toys to storage because the kids can't keep their room clean with too many toys. I also try to dejunk on a regular basis - it is hard to get rid of stuff, but it feels good when you do! :)

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