What I’ve Been Writing Lately…

My blog may have been quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing! Take a peek at some of the things I’ve been working on:

“We’ve all admired them. Those gorgeous photos of homeschool spaces. Whether it’s an entire room, or just a perfectly organized cabinet, who hasn’t looked longingly at the coordinated bins, color-coded labels, and row after row of artfully arranged books? Then we look guiltily at the avalanche of books and papers on our own table… Well, feel guilty no moreI’ve got the top ten reasons not to organize your homeschool!”

Read those reasons by clicking here.

How about a couple of reviews?

“The White House is perhaps one of the most recognizable buildings in the United States. How aware are you of the history behind it? Who was the first president to live there? How did it come to be called the White House? What changes and renovations have taken place over the years? The answers to those questions can be found in The History of the White House coloring book. It’s a perfect resource to go along with any study of the presidents!”

Read the rest of the review here.

And if you’re looking for missionary biographies, check this one out…

“Finding good role models for our girls is tricky, to say the least. Irene Howat’s book, Ten Girls Who Changed the World, introduces us to ten girls whose faith compelled them to do some incredible things. God used each of these women to accomplish something wonderful and lasting. Their stories will inspire girls of all ages!”

The rest of the review is over at Home Educating Family’s website.

Since Pi Day (March 14th) is coming right up, take a look at an older review of a picture book that would be the perfect addition to your celebration!

“Sure, you can find plenty of counting books for toddlers out there, but what about math storybooks for kids a little older? That’s where Sir Cumference and the First Round Table comes in! A picture book for early elementary students, it combines a delightful story with geometry concepts.”

Make sure to click here and read the whole review!

So brew a nice cup of tea, and then let me know what you think of my latest writing projects. And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter while you’re at the Home Educating Family site!

A Day in Our Homeschool

Ever wonder what a homeschool day looks like? Here’s a peek at one of ours!

IMG_0805[1]7:30 – Hey! An early start for us! The three older kiddos get dressed while I change Little Guy. He stays in his fleece footie PJs because it’s winter and I still haven’t figured out how to keep socks on a toddler… I let the dog out while Munchkin dishes out the dog food. The hopper of our coal stove needs to be filled up, and I notice that we burned quite a bit of coal last night. The kids have cereal for breakfast while I check my e-mail.

8:12 – Time for me to grab a quick bath while the kids are playing. I get a load of laundry started while I’m upstairs. I put the kettle on for my first cup of tea today. The kids start picking up their toys while I go outside and get a bag of coal.

IMG_0806[1]9:06 – Lesson time! We start out with Rapid Recall for Munchkin and Mr. Q. (I’ll let you know when the review of this math facts system is up!) Then we move on to Singapore Math. Camo is playing happily with Little Guy. I only have to heat up my tea twice…

9:51 – Mr. Q has finished math and penmanship, and we do his language arts lesson while I’ve got a slightly fussy toddler on my lap. Once that’s finished, I start the next load of laundry and tackle the dishes. I take a break to snuggle Little Guy, who bumped his head.

10:49 – Munchkin is done with math and gets started on her penmanship. All three boys are playing in the living room at this point. I run outside and grab the mail before starting lunch. Then Munchkin and I start work on her language arts.

IMG_0808[1]11:22 – Lunch is in the oven, the dishwasher is running, and the kids take a break from lessons until after lunch. I get a bit of writing done while the three older kids play Mariokart. (Yes, I’m the mom who lets her kids play video games.) A package arrives, and the lure of the new book inside the box is too much for the kids to resist. They abandon the Wii in favor of looking through The Story of the Orchestra, which I put on my to-read list after checking out the review by one of my friends!

IMG_0809[1]12:22 – The kids and I sit down to lunch. Homemade mac and cheese is one of their favorites.

IMG_0810[1]12:42 – Little Guy goes upstairs for a nap, and I tend the laundry again while I’m up there. The older kids clear the table for me and wash it off. Then we settle in on the couch and in bean bag chairs to read our geography, science, music, and Bible lessons. The kids peek at our science project, but none of the seeds we planted yesterday have sprouted yet.

14:00 – I challenge the three older kids to a game of Mariokart. I lose quite impressively. Then it’s snacktime for the kids, and time for another cup of tea for me! I respond to some e-mail while the kids play, read, or work on projects. (From here on out I forgot to take photos!)

15:07 – Little Guy is awake! He comes downstairs and has a snack of his own before playing with his siblings. I hang out with the kids in the living room, and work on a crochet project for one of my cousin’s children. The older three kids decide to play upstairs for a while, so it’s just Little Guy and me.

16:46 – I get dinner ready to go in the oven, and then the kids and I watch the Muppets while we wait.

18:36 – Dinner took longer to finish baking than I’d expected. The kids and I sit down at the dining room table to eat. Since Aaron’s working late, I make sure that we leave enough for him to heat up in case he’s hungry when he gets home.

19:00ish – Little Guy is definitely tired, so it’s into fresh PJs and off to bed for him. He snuggles in quickly and smiles, a sure sign that he’s ready for bed! The older three clear the table and get ready for bed. We curl up in the living room for a few chapters of The Burgess Animal Book for Children. I’ve been meaning to get to this book for some time. I have far more books I’d like for us to read together than time it seems.

20:30ish—Bedtime for the big kids. Everyone gets tucked in and gets kisses. I head back downstairs. I work on a bit of writing, some reading, and my crochet project while I wait for Aaron to get home from work.

Of course, no two days are quite the same for us. Some days we are up early, some days not. Some days the bulk of our lessons are in the morning, some days the afternoon. And of course, things like appointments tend to alter what our days look like! That’s the beauty of home education. Our days are more flexible, and we can tailor things to our family and our schedule.

If you home educate, are your days mostly the same, or do they vary quite a bit?



Why I Love Home Educating

There are reasons why I home educate, and there are reasons why I love to home educate. They are not always the same. Truthfully, no matter how much you love what you do in life, there are always parts of it that are not quite as much fun! Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me of why I love home education.

My middle son, Camo, will be five years old in just a couple of days. (On a side note: I really have no idea how it’s possible that these kids are growing up so fast.) This year I’m doing a mix of preschool/kindergarten work with him because he’s sort of in the middle age-wise, but he very much wants to “do school” with his older brother and sister. We’ve been reviewing the alphabet and what sounds the different letters make. Yesterday, we wrote out a few words on the white board and sounded them out. Then he sat on my lap and read me the first book in the BOB series. Sure the only words in there are, Mat, sat, Sam, and on. But he read every one of those words by himself! I cannot describe the look on his face when he asked if he could read it to me again! And I’m pretty sure that I was about ready to burst from excitement!

I absolutely love the fact that I can be there when my kids read their first book. I don’t have to hear about it second-hand, I get to experience the moment with them! Yes, I also have to help them work through the struggles too, but it just makes the “aha!” moment that much sweeter. The best part is, when Camo remembers reading that book for the first time, he’ll remember that he was sitting with Mommy and Daddy when he did. Home educating sure is hard some days, but it’s the priceless moments that make it something I love doing anyway.

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

Math has never been my strong suit. Words are my language, not numbers! Would you be surprised to know that there are storybooks out there that can help your word-loving child understand math concepts? Take a look at a little excerpt from my review of one of those books:

“Sure, you can find plenty of counting books for toddlers out there, but what about math storybooks for kids a little older? That’s where Sir Cumference and the First Round Table comes in!”

Read the rest of my review over at the Home Educating Family website!

Brother-Offended Checklist Review

“Mom! He has the astronaut LEGO man and I was going to play with it!”

Disagreements like this were becoming all too common at our house when the Brother-Offended Checklist arrived for me to review…

Read the rest of my review over at Home Educating Family’s website, and while you’re there, you can enter to win one!

And if you’re looking for some government themed books for younger kids check out my recently published reviews of Vote! and George Washington’s Teeth.

Fabulous Field Trips

This week’s topic for the Not-Back-to-School blog hop hosted by Home Educating Family is Fabulous Field Trips! Before we get to that, let’s announce last week’s giveaway winner… congratulations Shelly! This week one of my readers will win a copy of the Well Planned Day from Home Educating Family. Look for the details at the end of this post!

Field trips are more than just fun outings, they are a wonderful way to introduce our kids to new places, history, science, and so much more! The beauty of home educating, is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to just trips that can fit within a few hours of the day. Have you ever considered a camping field trip?

Now, I had never gone camping before in my life by the time I got married. My IT staff just couldn’t believe that, and regaled me with all of the wonderful places his parents had taken him and his brother when they went camping. After our first camping trip, I was hooked. OK, I still insist on campgrounds with bathrooms and showers. As long as there’s a bathroom in walking distance I don’t mind sleeping in a tent!

Camping with kids, particularly ones as young as ours, can certainly present challenges. Even so, it’s such a wonderful opportunity! We took our kids camping this summer at a lovely state park campground on the Maine coast. My in-laws were camping in the same campground, so it was even more fun for the kids, and I had a few extra hands to help me out! We went to a transportation museum with the kids, took them to the local children’s museum, and visited some really beautiful spots along the coast. Not to mention the chance the kids had to observe the local wildlife around the campground. We came home with acorn, rock, and seashell collections in Ziploc bags. What a wealth of nature study!

Traveling is expensive, there’s no question about that. Camping is a great way to really cut down on the cost. State park campgrounds are often reasonably priced, especially for residents! Taking your own food to cook will save a bundle over eating at restaurants, not to mention being healthier than a week of fast food every day. Most kids absolutely love the fun of sleeping in a tent, and like I mentioned before, campgrounds are wonderful places to sneak in some nature study. The money saved by camping can allow families to visit some really wonderful museums and other events that are interesting and educational.

So the next time you are planning out field trips, consider adding in a camping trip! After all, there’s no reason home educators can’t take field trips in the summer!

Now, for the details of the giveaway! Just leave a comment on this post. On Thursday, a winner will be randomly drawn, and announced on Friday. Trust me, I’ve been using the Well Planned Day planner for three years now, and I can’t imagine going back to any other planner. It’s really that good!

Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within six weeks.


Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box

This week’s topic for the Not-Back-to-School blog hop hosted by Home Educating Family is Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box! This week one of my readers will win the On the Go Planner from Home Educating Family. Look for the details at the end of this post!

Back when Mom started homeschooling my sister and me, there weren’t a lot of options for home educators. A handful of companies sold their curriculum to both private schools and homeschoolers. Most people picked one and ordered all of their subjects from that publisher. Mom used curriculum from ACE, also known as Accelerated Christian Education. Interestingly enough, it’s the same curriculum that was used by the Christian school that my husband attended. ACE wasn’t perfect, but I still got a solid education.

When it came time to choose curriculum for our own children, my husband and I both wanted to try something different. The traditional “school-in-a-box” curriculums were pretty pricy, and I felt comfortable enough to pull together an eclectic mix of books and curriculum. I’d read a bit about Charlotte Mason’s methods by then, and while intrigued by them, I was not confident enough to totally forgo all structured lesson plans and workbooks. Science and history were materials that fit the “living books” type of approach, while language arts and particularly math were closer to traditional, structured workbooks.

I quickly discovered though, that plenty of education went on outside of those carefully chosen materials! All of the “Why?” questions posed by my kids turned out to be great opportunities for discussion, experimentation, and creative projects. A question about colors turned into a Sunday afternoon spent mixing primary color finger paints to see what colors resulted. Driving by a wind farm on the way to the dentist inspired a discussion about power generation.

At first I was frustrated whenever things like this came up during our “lesson time”. After all, I had a checklist for us to complete! I learned not to underestimate the value of unscheduled learning this spring when the kids and I had a picnic. We finished our sandwiches and the three oldest kids started exploring the pond in our backyard. They were making note of the various wildlife they found and happily reporting their observations to me. I’d brought our science book with us, and was just about to call them away from the water so that we could read our lesson, when it hit me… They were already learning science! I started laughing at myself and tucked the science book back into my bag; it really would be OK if we read our lesson later.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have “the checklist” and I’d be lost without my Well Planned Day, but now I know that the list can wait when opportunities arise. The books and worksheets will still be there later, and encouraging the curiosity of the moment is what will bring my kids back to the books to learn more!

Now for the giveaway details! Just leave a comment on this blog post and on Thursday a winner will be randomly drawn from all of the comments. I’ll announce the winner next Friday! Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within six weeks.


And the winner of the gorgeous wall calendar from Home Educating Family is… Tammy! Congratulations!

This week’s Not Back to School blog hop has been postponed until next Friday. But I’ll talk about home education today anyway.

“Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater.” – Albert Einstein

Thursday was one of those days when I was reminded that math and I don’t always play well together. One particular workbook problem just was not clicking for Munchkin. We tried talking through it. I wrote it out every way I could think of on the white board. We were both getting frustrated. I told her to think about it some more and I took a break to load the dishwasher. Daddy helped get it sorted out and reminded me that you’re not a bad teacher just because someone doesn’t understand something.

I wound up pondering a lot of things. I got to thinking that maybe the reason we home educators are so hesitant to talk about the days that are hard and frustrating is because we are afraid. We’re afraid it does mean that we are bad teachers. We’re afraid of someone leaping in and pointing out that this is why parents shouldn’t educate their children. You know what? Teachers in schools get frustrated too. I dare you to show me a teacher who never has a hard day; one who never has a student struggling with something.

The reality is, no matter what you do for work, parts of it are difficult and frustrating. To put it into perspective, that “difficult part” was only one tiny part of our week. The rest of it was just fine. That’s why keeping a gratitude journal is so helpful for me. It reminds me of the many ways that God has blessed me. Definitely something I need to focus on more!

What about you? What do you do when you get to the difficult parts? How do you keep things in perspective?

Making My School Unique

This week’s topic for the Not-Back-to-School blog hop hosted by Home Educating Family is Making My School Unique! But first, let’s announce the winner of last week’s giveaway… Andrea P, congratulations!

This week you can win one of Home Educating Family’s gorgeous wall calendars. Look for details at the end of the post!

We do education year round in our house, and it works really well for us at this point in our lives. Still, we do celebrate what we call New Book Day. (Doesn’t that sound so much more fun than back-to-school?) That’s when everyone gets some new pencils, crayons, etc. and we start our new books. Even Mom gets some new pencils, pens, and notebooks! It’s nice to have a fresh starting point once a year. Honestly I’m amazed by how much the kids look forward to New Book Day! It’s definitely become a tradition in our home.

We also consider birthdays holidays. Everyone get the day off from studying, and of course there is always cake! It makes birthdays special, and that way we can party at leisure without worrying about completing the day’s lessons. Besides, decorating the cake and correcting long division at the same time could get messy… in more ways than one!

We usually take a few weeks off in December. I look for winter/Christmas themed worksheets online and print them off for the kids. They have fun and still keep skills sharp. We do a lot of crafts and baking too. Christmas ornaments are a favorite project, and the kids always help me make homemade dog biscuits for our German Shepherd’s stocking! Last year we did the Jessie tree ornaments and readings. That’s another tradition that we’ll be continuing. Most of these activities might not be strictly considered “school”, but there’s still plenty of educational value in them.

We’re still in the beginning stages of our home education journey, and I’m sure that we will add plenty of more traditions as we go along. How about you? Do you have any special traditions in your family?

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply leave me a comment telling me about a special tradition your family has. A winner will be randomly drawn on Thursday, and announced on Friday. Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site.

My Homeschool Story

The lovely folks over at Home Educating Family are hosting a Not-Back-to-School blog hop every Friday this month! And there will be prizes! This week, we’ll be sharing our homeschool stories and you could win a one-year subscription to Home Educating Family Magazine! Be sure to look for details about the giveaway at the bottom of this post!

I’m a homeschool graduate, but I spent my elementary years at the local public school before my parents made the decision to homeschool my sister and me. My husband attended the same private Christian school from Kindergarten straight through High School graduation. We actually discussed how we would educate any children we might have back when we were dating. Home education was very important to both of us, and we agreed that we would teach our children at home.

Fast forward about ten years, and our oldest was four years old, and just itching to jump into “doing school”. I’d been reading and researching homeschooling methods and curriculum choices for a while. I was amazed at how many more choices there were compared to back when Mom was teaching me. I figured I had a pretty good grip on what to do and how things would work. After all, I’d been home educated, I’d been reading up on the topic, and I considered myself a reasonably intelligent person. On top of that, my very bright daughter was more than anxious to start learning how to read! This was going to be a piece of cake…

You know what the Bible says about pride going before a fall? Completely true.

Nothing, and I mean nothing went the way I planned. Munchkin loved books and doing as many activity worksheets as I’d give her, but reading would take tears and another two years to master. We may be the only family in the world who hated Hooked on Phonics. I had ideas for elaborate educational projects, but didn’t really take into account the attention span of my still-young child. Not to mention trying to figure out what to do with two and three year old boys when I was trying to work with their sister! Wasn’t this supposed to be easy?

Of course, home educating moms and teachers everywhere knew what I didn’t yet understand: Teaching is hard work! I took a step back, a deep breath, and looked for what God was teaching me about teaching.

We eased up. We still read books, and Munchkin still asked to do worksheets, particularly ones that had to do with numbers, shapes, and patterns. We shelved Hooked on Phonics and tried a different phonics program several months later.

I learned that our homeschool will not look exactly like anyone else’s. And that’s OK. God gave me wonderfully unique children, and educating them would require an approach that would probably be a little different from how other families did it. I learned to keep the ideas that worked, and not worry about letting go of the ones that didn’t. I learned that planning is important, but flexibility is absolutely necessary. Most of all, I learned to enjoy the ride.

Oh sure, there are still days where I think arithmetic might be out to get me. Some days are more stressful than others, and it’s still a lot of work. But overall, I enjoy my job as a home educator. I’m the one who gets to be there when they read their first book, learn to write their name, and all of the countless other firsts.

Now, more than ever, I am beyond grateful for the time and sacrifice that Mom and my tutors put into my own education. They gave me a priceless gift, and I pray that I can pass it on to my own children.

To enter this week’s giveaway, just leave a comment on this blog post. The winner will be randomly chosen on Thursday and announced on Friday. Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site.