And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, July 17, 2017

What Worked for 7th Grade

Last month I shared what worked for Speedy for 4th grade. Now I want to tell you what worked well for Apple for 7th grade. While many families regularly swap curriculum during a school year that goes against my planned and organized nature. When we did reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had to learn to be more flexible as we were constantly trying new items for review. Since we did not rejoin the Crew last January, our curriculum was a little more set...or so I thought.

The first big thing Apple did differently for 7th grade was to take outside classes. Her science and language arts classes were both done outside our home by other teachers. She really enjoyed that experience and is looking forward to doing it again in the future. The program changed a bit so she's sad not to be able to do those classes for 8th grade but is hoping to rejoin in 9th grade. I thought it was great for her to experience other teachers. She learned some valuable lessons about turning in assignments on a particular date and about the importance of remembering to take your backpack to class! She was also involved in a local co-op both semesters so she was able to take brief Government, STEM, and Spanish classes. She enjoyed all 3 of those and learned some new things.

Now at home we had some struggles. The original Bible and History/ Government choices I had for her just really didn't pan out. She worked her way through part of them and then we swapped to something different. Since I didn't have access to as many new curricula items, we pieced things together from what we already had. She did several different Bible courses I had downloaded already, read some extra books for History, and basically worked on unit study and copywork type assignments. That wasn't at all what I had planned for 7th grade, but we made it work. I love the idea of saying she worked on X and completed it all but it just isn't that easy for 7th grade. I can say she worked on lots of different things and learned many new facts along the way. Since she was struggling in Bible and there were some character issues we needed to address with both kids, we started readying about a chapter a day of the Gospels. We made it almost to the end of John and enjoyed talking about the chapters each day.

Math is not Apple's favorite subject, but she is very good at it. It was hard but she worked through Algebra I with Math-U-See and with CTCMath. Algebra I took a good chunk of her time each day, but she completed it and was so happy to be finished.

Apple also read loads of books and did quite a bit of writing.

It's taken me so long to write this post because it's hard to define 7th grade! We realized some interesting things last year. She's read and studied so many things on her own already that taking outside classes meant she did quite a bit of "review". I tried to use that to keep calm about all the plans that went out the window mid-year. She also had some classmates tell her it was "impossible" to be doing Algebra I in the 7th grade. She went through a lot of emotions over that. She first doubted me. Then herself. Eventually though she realized it wasn't impossible and that made it that much sweeter when she finished.

Homeschool never gets easier. At least it hasn't yet for us! Each year brings on new challenges and new goals. Did you learn anything new in your homeschool year? Have you had a child that needed to chunk the plans and find something new?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Busy Summer

Wow! Our summer has been so busy so far! We purposefully took this summer off of school so we could focus on other things. I never imagined we would be so busy with no school to do!

Speedy finished up his baseball season and attended two baseball camps. They were both new camps to him so he enjoyed both of them immensely. Apple participated in a two week drama camp that culminated with two performances. She loves the stage and had a great time getting to know new people and perform twice in a musical.

While we took the whole summer off, Speedy has been reading The Hobbit. He was a little intimidated by the size of the book so I've allowed him to read it through the summer at a leisurely pace rather than working on it this fall. Since Speedy "got" to read one of his books, Apple asked to read a literature book. She reads ALL the time so I gave her a short Shakespeare introduction course to complete instead. Of course she finished several weeks' worth in a short time.

In addition to camps and a little learning, the kids have been happy to make weekly trips to the library. They've also spent extra time with extended family, and they've been working on their kitchen skills. They've each stuck to making a meal per week, and they have 3 meals each left before school begins again.

Although these next few weeks should be slower, with VBS and soccer practices, I have a feeling life will feel just as crazy!

I hope to make up for a month with no posts! I will be sharing what worked for us for 7th grade as well as what we will be using for the upcoming school year. I also hope to have a new homeschool review for you soon!

How has your summer been? Has it been slow and leisurely or packed and busy?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Colorful Hardback Bible for Kids

It's been awhile since I've done a review but this colorful hardback Bible was a great way to get back to it! Handlebar Publishing sent me a free copy of the new Zonderkidz Kids' NIV Visual Study Bible. This Bible boasts 700 images inside! It includes the Old Testament and New Testament along with many study elements.

There are 1936 pages inside the Bible with a wide yellow sidebar on most pages. Each book begins with some information about the author and the book. There are also key verses and stories pointed out on these chapter pages. The yellow sidebars hold key verses and some four color pictures. There are images scattered all throughout this Bible. Some are simple drawings to illustrate the stories from the Bible. Others are informational charts and maps.

Every page doesn't have a chart or picture but many do! The added illustrations and study helps will keep readers interested as they work through the Bible. 12 full page maps are included in the back of the Bible.

Overall I think this is a solid study Bible for kids who are just beginning to read the Bible. I can see this as a good Bible to keep on a nightstand for nightly reading or in a desk for Bible study time. Our copy will be going to my classroom at church so we have an extra Bible on hand when needed.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What Worked for 4th Grade

Our school year is all wrapped up. Speedy finished 4th grade and is thrilled to be on a "real" summer break for a few weeks. We started 4th grade still reviewing a lot of curriculum but settled into a more regular routine for the spring semester. I thought I'd let you know what really worked for 4th grade for Speedy.

His all time favorite subject this year was history. He studied Government in the fall at co-op (and home) and World Geography in the spring at co-op. He enjoyed those but what he really loved was The Fight for Freedom. He can't wait to start America's Struggle to Become a Nation in the fall. 

In math, Speedy completed Math-U-See Epsilon and the CTCMath grade 4 lessons. He struggled a little with fractions but overall did very well. He enjoys CTCMath and so I purchased another 18 months of it. He and Apple will be able to utilize various levels with our Family subscription. Speedy will also move on to the next level of MUS.

For Language Arts, he completed the Logic of English lessons. He began Fix It! Grammar but we received a Critical Thinking Language Smarts Level E workbook to review and so he ended up sticking with that instead for the rest of the school year. We will pick Fix It! Grammar back up for 5th grade. He enjoyed moving around in the Language Smarts workbook. He completed the first level of IEW's poetry memorization program and began the second level. He also completed the Here to Help Learning Paragraph Level III. A mix of Perfect Reading & Beautiful Handwriting along with LOTS of copywork really made a difference in his handwriting this year. There is still room for improvement so we will continue to work in that area. 

Speedy also enjoyed doing his Bible class online with Veritas Press. He completed the Self Paced course for Genesis through Joshua and will be doing the next level for 5th grade. 

He wanted to do another level of German but Middlebury did not have another elementary option for it. He did Elementary Spanish I instead and liked it almost as much as German.

He complained about some of the Literature choices I made for him this year, but he ended up enjoying every book on the list! You can see the list and everything else we used this school year on our Curriculum Tab

Have you finished your school year? Are you taking a summer break?

Monday, May 29, 2017


When I was 16 years old, a beautiful friend died in a car accident on the way to our workplace. We were suppose to have that shift together. She was a tiny little thing with a HUGE smile. She always had such a joy about her. She had given her life to the Lord and been baptized only a few weeks before her death. I was just devastated over the loss. It seemed like a Missy sized hole was left for those of us that knew her.

Her death prompted me to be baptized. I'd been in church for some time and was positive that I wanted to know where my eternity would be spent. I will never forget Missy or the impact she had on my life.

While I've lost many loved ones over the years, it is so easy to take life for granted. We forget. We get so caught up in the little mundane petty things throughout the day. We lose sight of our purpose. We get wrapped up in our own lives and forget to cherish those we love. We forget to spread the love of the Lord to everyone we meet.

Recently I've been pretty torn up over a situation where an individual has treated my family poorly. I've given way to much energy to my anger over the past week. I've let one bad situation take precedence over all the really important things in my life.

Then yesterday...last night...I learned that a sweet friend passed away. A friend with a megawatt smile. A friend I'd known since Kindergarten. Another friend with a sweet soul and an indescribable joy about her. She's gone. Her children are left without their mother. Her husband has lost his bride. Her family and friends have lost a great treasure.

An unexpected accident has once again reminded me that our days are numbered. It has reminded me that our greatest treasures are those around us. It has reminded me that we shouldn't take our time on Earth for granted. It has reminded me that I shouldn't dwell on the things that don't have any lasting effect on our lives.

My friend left a legacy. A legacy of loving her family. A legacy of loving her friends. Everyone will remember her by her humor and the sweet spirit she had. She was wise beyond her years and every encounter with her felt like an important moment. I'm so thankful I was able to spend a little time with her a few weeks ago. There was no way to know that sitting by that pool at a birthday party watching all our kiddos would be our last time together.

Please pray for her dear family. Please pray for her friends.

I posted about Philippians 4 a few weeks ago, and it seems appropriate here as well.

Phil 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Finding Peace

We went tent camping for a few days. If I talk about tent camping again, remind me it's crazy! Back in the day, we went camping with a group every year. Then when the kids were really young, we went on a really epic trip with a different group. One other time we took a short trip. We decided this year we would go for a few days with my parents.

I forgot how much work camping is. It rained the first 2 days. It was really cold the other 2 nights. It was a LOT of work. I remembered all the planning and shopping. I remembered setting up the tent. I did not remember some of the other aspects. Like all the stuff we had to take for 4 people. Like all the work to dig everything out of the cooler. Like someone complaining we forgot something every few minutes. Like never getting a minute to sit down because I had to trek to the bathrooms or fix food or get more ice or clean up the tent or dry everything from the rain. Dude.

So not the most fun we've ever had. We did have really great weather 1 day. That day the campground was FULL of campers and pop ups. There were only about 4 tents in the whole place. The campers were impressive too. Decks, full kitchens, bathrooms, big TVs....they had it all. And most of the families seemed just as cranky as we were! They were all constantly working too. Working to drain their plumbing (I thought of Robin Williams and RV several times). Working on decks and grills and fire pits. Parenting. It's work whether you are in a 15 year old tent or a recreational "home" that costs more than most yearly salaries.

Why do we do these things? Why work all week or all year to go on a vacation that's even more work?

I think we are usually seeking a break. As a mom of two, few things are actually ever a break. By the time I make plans, feed everyone, pack, do laundry, etc, there is never much rest involved. I do get to perform my daily duties in a different environment though.

We want to have fun. It's hard to make fun happen sometimes though. We always get in a few laughs but sometimes the stress of weathering a thunderstorm in a tent takes away one's sense of humor. While this trip didn't involve a lot of laughter, I'm sure we will laugh at the memories in the future. In many, many, many years.

Aren't we really just seeking peace? A little slice of calm away from all the daily responsibilities? As I looked around at the high end campers and shiny trucks to tow them, I realized once again that we'd pay almost anything for some peace. I wondered how many people in that campground knew where to find the real peace. We are in the Bible belt so most have probably heard of the Prince of Peace, but I don't know how many are actively seeking Him.

We had a little devotional time there at the lake yesterday morning since we were missing church. It was a bit strained (everything was during that trip!), but we ended up dwelling on Philippians 4:6-8 for awhile. It seemed appropriate.

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The World

The world is so big yet so small. I've only seen a limited portion of God's great creation, but we now have connections in so many unique places. Years ago we met a lovely young lady who grabbed a little piece of our hearts.

She's been off on adventures for the last few years so we've only stayed connected via social media. She's decided to share some of her adventures with the world on a fun website called Run with the Unicorn. I hope you'll check it out.

She's being brave and doing something most people only dream about! I can't imagine traveling around Europe alone even at my age!

Are you a world traveler or do you stay close to home?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Write it Down

As the days tick away, I find that my memory isn't as stellar as it once was. I remember the days that I could remember phone numbers, addresses, and grocery lists without keeping them written down. Not so much anymore!

Now this post isn't about anything innovative or extraordinary. It's just something I had to start doing to help myself. I went to a local store and bought a little, inexpensive lined notebook. I brought it home and wrote "Prayer Journal" on it. I started writing down prayer requests in it. I know millions of people have done this, but it's new for me.

I've found that even if I don't have my little journal in front of me, I can remember the prayer requests better just because I wrote them down! I'm a firm believer in praying immediately when someone asks for prayer, but I also like to continually pray for those requests. This cheap little notebook is helping me do a better job of that.

I know some people use full size notebooks or larger journals. After buying this I purchased an actual prayer journal through a fundraiser. I think this little portable book may work best for me in the long run though. We had a friend/ Sunday School teacher who treasured his mother's prayer journals after her passing. What a legacy!

Do you write in a prayer journal or notebook?

Matthew 21:21-22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Home Ec: Meal Planning & Prep

Back a few years ago, I did a summer of cooking with Apple. We worked on at least one meal a week together. Since it was summer, the time it took to teach her and clean up afterwards wasn't as stressful. I'm so glad we did that! Since then she has been able to jump in and help with meals as needed. The older she gets, the more she can cook! She enjoys being in the kitchen, and I enjoy the extra help.

I recently realized that Speedy has never spent much time in the kitchen. He jumps in and lends a hand occasionally, but I haven't done any meal preparation lessons with him. When we decided to take a full summer off from homeschool, I realized it would be a great time to hide some home ec lessons into our days! I know from experience that hot Tennessee summers can equal crabby, bored kids so I like to have some planned activities ready.

So we'd make sure to get in our cooking times this summer, I estimated the number of weeks we were taking off and told the kids they would each be cooking one supper per week. We went ahead and made a list for each one of meals they'd like to try. Apple's list includes meals that take a little more experience, and she will be planning sides to go with the main dishes as well. Speedy's list is a little easier but includes a variety so he can try different cooking methods.

While one can't wait and the other is hesitant, I am excited that we have a lot of meals already planned for the summer months! I'm also looking forward to working with them on budgeting money and time for the meals. After loudly declaring I would meal plan for all of 2017, I'm sad to report those plans fell to the wayside around February! I hope this summer of cooking will reinvigorate my efforts to get us through the year!

Do the kids help out in the kitchen at your house? Do you have any big plans for the summer?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit

When I start teaching a new group of kids, I always tend to default to the Fruits of the Spirit for the initial lesson or lessons. Galatians 5:22-23 is one of my favorite passages, and I love to share it with little people. My Elementary Wednesday night students have been working on one fruit per week.

Each week I peruse Pinterest for ideas to plan my lesson. I like to include several verses about the characteristic and a story from the Bible. We discuss the fruit and usually I read some scenarios to get them thinking about how the fruit translates to real life. I've used a variety of coloring pages, visuals, and fun to keep the lessons memorable.

For love, I found a cool way to "spread" red marker ink from one heart to other hearts. For joy,we made smiley face emojis, and I showed a piece of paper with 1 dot on it to show how we look for the fault instead of the good qualities. For peace, we colored thank you pages for our local police department. For patience, I took 3 sizes of rubber bands to demonstrate our patience stretching. For kindness, we squeezed out tubes of toothpaste to remind us we can't take back our words. For goodness, I used 2 pitchers of lemonade and added mud and rocks to one to demonstrate what happens when we let things that aren't good into our lives. For faithfulness, I took a bowl of water, a rock, and a sponge to demonstrate a faithful heart vs a hardened heart. We only have gentlesness and self-control left to learn. I plan to use some sand paper and cotton balls to talk about gentleness this week. I haven't quite decided about next week's visual, but I think it will involve candy!

You can see all the links I've saved for my Wednesday night class on this Pinterest board.

Our class is an hour to an hour and a half long so we've been working on learning 2 songs. The first is a Fruits of the Spirit song, and the second song is helping us memorize the Books of the OT. We've discussed the divisions of the OT books. We've also been playing lots of games to help us memorize them. The kids love playing a hot potato style game with a rubber ball. As they pass the ball around, they say the next book of the Bible. We've done some relay races with cards to put in order as well. I took an old Jenga set and wrote the names of the books on it. They like to build structures by putting the books in order. Last week, I made a big memory game with some cardstock. Once we've finished the Fruits of the Spirit lessons and learned our books of the Old Testament, we'll be singing our 2 songs on a Sunday morning.

Next we will work on the books of the New Testament and start another series of lessons. I'm leaning towards the Days of Creation.

Do you teach a children's class in your church? If so, what lessons are you working on right now?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


That word has been all over my heart this week. Leadership. What does it mean? How do we lead in a Godly manner? Why are we called to lead? As my husband and I dive into a local ministry, I find us already in positions of leadership. My husband is a natural leader. He amazes me with his ability to take charge in a firm but reasonable way. We shied away from this particular church because we knew we would be called to lead in some form or fashion very quickly.

I wanted to take a break (and we did for a few months). I was hesitant to jump in and take on responsibilities. Couldn't we just chill out in a church for awhile? As I felt my heart being drawn to our friend's church, I thought back over our church experiences over the years. Each place we've been trained us in some way. We never got much training by sitting back and absorbing what was being given in the church.

In our first church we joined together, Hubby was an integral part of a missions team. I ended up on a prayer team. I was so nervous! I had not spend much time praying aloud in front of other people. As that season stretched on, I learned so much about prayer and praying from the heart without worrying about who was listening. We also both had opportunities within that church to work with kids and youth. It felt so awkward and unnatural at the time. I wasn't ever sure I was doing it "right". We still have relationships with some of our "kids" from that church. They are all grown up now and married with children. It is a joy to see their lives unfold even if we only get a peek on social media now and then.

Our next church experience involved a "home church", and there we learned what it really took to have a church. We learned more about God's Word. We learned more about the Holy Spirit. We learned about church organization and leadership. Our time there was short but I look back on it with fondness. It was an experience that gave us lots of worship time with family and friends.

When we moved on, it was to find a place for our kids. They were getting out of the baby stage, and we understood they needed a basis for their own relationship with the Lord. We went to a wonderful church. It was one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I get emotional just recalling all the amazing things that happened in that church setting. Godly men and women poured into our children's lives and our lives there. Hubby took his first missions trip with a team there. We made the decision to homeschool during that time. It was also a time of great sadness as we suffered the loss of several loved ones during that season. In that time of sadness, God had provided a spiritual support team like none other we've ever had. We learned so much there. Again we were involved with youth and children's ministry. I took on a leadership role in that church that provided me with experience in working with children. That experience helped me teach my own kids as well as making a foundation for the future ministry work we would do. Those friendships we made in that setting linger. Those memories give me strength on some of the lonely days (and when you are homeschooling there can be many lonely days!).

At our last place of worship, we again found a group of friends that we would grow to cherish. We found ourselves teaching adult Sunday School. I learned all about VBS and how to execute one each year. Hubby preached a few times there and at other congregations. He learned about committees and leading committees. Again we learned more about church leadership, organization, and people.

Now we find ourselves at this new congregation. It is a small ministry that has built up slowly over the last few years. They are in a time of growth, and our friend had been praying for us to join them. He put us right to work. It isn't easy. It won't be easy. There are challenges that I haven't faced before. I feel confident though that the Lord has walked with me and planned my steps to prepare me for this time and place.

I listened to a great 5 minute video on RightNow Media of Cheryl Bachelder titled "Leader First vs. Servant First". It's one of those videos I just happened to come across while searching for something totally different. She's speaking on leadership in a business, but she did a great job of explaining how the most effective leaders are those coming from the standpoint of serving. If you search "servant leadership", you can find many speakers and posts on the idea. I've never thought of it in those specific terms but the truth is as Christians in any sort of leadership, we should follow the example of Christ in serving those around us.

Then I began to think about serving as a leader in our homes and homeschool settings. Am I leading to get my goals met or am I leading to serve my family? Am I leading to meet my quota for the day or am I leading to serve my children by teaching them more about Christ and His Words?

I've been grappling with a few issues recently. It's almost summer, and our plans are slim. As other parents plan big vacations and kids prepare for long summer camps, I'm looking for a frugal camping option for my family. As other families host lavish birthday parties, I'm working to treat my children to a special day with a low budget. When I really start to examine my motivations though, I wasn't worried about my kids and serving them. They are happy with whatever we provide them because they are secure. They don't dwell on earthly things nearly as much as I did at their ages (and still do!). They won't fuss or complain because they don't get the big lavish parties and trips. I'm the one with envy. I'm the one worrying about what other people are doing. I've been trying to lead with me in mind. Just like I was doing when I shied away from our new church.

I've rambled around a bit here (and I'm posting a day later than I intended!). Maybe one of you needs to consider servant leadership. Perhaps one of you needs to consider the ministry journey that you've taken. Perhaps you just need motivation to jump in where God is leading you. Most likely I just needed to get my own journey in writing to see where I've been so I have a clear path for where I'm headed. Whichever it is, thanks for taking the time to read.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How We Homeschool

So I shared with you what I'd go back and change about our homeschool journey. Now I'd like to share the things that have worked really well for us. They may not work well for anyone else but these are the things that have been a consistent plus for our family.

*Routine- I've shared with you recently about our scheduling and our schoolroom so I won't repeat those things here. However, a routine makes all the difference for us. Knowing that we will focus on school early in the day on certain days makes our lives calmer. Some families we know thrive on spontaneity and change. We aren't one of those families. Our lives have plenty of chaos so a school routine keeps us balanced. The kids wake up, have breakfast, and get ready for the day before our homeschool time begins. Then we work steadily until the work is completed each day. We know which days we will be doing school ahead of time. We only adjust if it's really necessary. Working hard on scheduled days means we have more freedom on our "off" days.

*Christian Education- We have included the Bible and devotionals and studies each year. We've focused on science and history from a Christian perspective. We use Christian resources for many of our educational choices. I LOVE that we have the freedom to teach from our hearts and beliefs. As a family our faith is a huge part of our lives and homeschool time is not an exception.

*Goals- While I don't always sit and make a list of specific goals for each child each school year, I do have some ideas floating around in my head. Typically, their academic goals go along with their curriculum for the year (Algebra I curriculum= learn Algebra). I also set goals based on their weaker areas (ie handwriting or spelling or whatever). I like to set life goals lessons for them as well. For example, I have some specific ideas for each of them about cooking lessons this summer. Kids live up to our expectations so we should set them high not low. These goals give us direction and aim our focus.

*Friends- It is SO important to have a homeschool support group. Whether it's a formal group that meets monthly or just 1 friend you can call or text in a crisis, you NEED friends that specifically homeschool. It's great to have older friends that can mentor you along the way because they've already done that season of life. It's imperative that you have friends who are in the trenches with you because they will get it. They will get you. They will understand when you are LOSING YOUR MIND BECAUSE THAT ONE KID WON'T EVER FINISH XYZ or when you are crying because you ran out of coffee. God has blessed me with a couple of those friends, and they are worth more than gold y'all. I need them. I am so thankful for them. Once you've been a homeschool mom for awhile, make it a point to reach out to a newbie so you can share your experience with them. Your kids also need other friends that homeschool. It helps them too. Otherwise they don't have anyone to text until after 3:00! HA!

*Laughter- I'd love to put "fun" here but fun isn't my specialty. Now laughter....I LOVE to laugh. My kids love to laugh. Even on the worst days one of us can usually get a giggle out of the others. Laugh y'all. Even if you aren't the fun mom (I totally get ya!). Crack a joke. Have an impromptu dance party. Play with Snapchat filters for a few minutes. Help make homeschool memories that prompt a smile in the future. Every day isn't awesome. Every day can include some laughter.

I could add other things to this list of things that have worked for us. These are just the first 5 things that stick out to me right now. They're the 5 things I'd probably recommend first to someone considering or starting to homeschool their children. What would be your #1 thing that has worked for your family?

Monday, March 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

Today, I thought I'd share what I would change if I could go back in homeschool time. Maybe I should have named this post "How I Wish We Had Homeschooled". HA! While we know we can't change the past, maybe sharing the things I wish I had done differently will help some of you in your homeschool  journeys.

*Behavior Rewards- I tried several different behavior reward tactics when the kids were small. It seemed like we were never had success with any of them. I would abandon one and try something different. When that didn't seem to work, I'd talk with friends and find a new system to try. Eventually I gave up. They didn't seem to motivate my kids at all. Occasionally I'd have a child ask about the treasure box or sticker rewards, but it was rare. Now that they are both older, sometimes I feel like I run out of punishments when they won't work diligently on their schoolwork or try hard to do their best. I really wish I had done a simple behavior reward sytem through the years. For consistency purposes, I should have implemented a simple sticker chart with a reward after so many stickers. Sometimes a visual reward can go much further than regular punishment. These days my kids earn their daily screentime by finishing school on time so we have a routine, but things would be a little different if I had started something earlier on.

*Handwriting- Both children have worked on handwriting every year. I do wish I had made them write more and more often. Apple's handwriting is readable but isn't always neat. I dismissed Speedy's early handwriting difficulty because everyone says boys have a harder time. I do think that's generally true, but I wish I had worked more with him early on. This year he has been doing LOTS of extra writing practice because it felt imperative to see improvement this year. I also would have pushed coloring more with him. He's never enjoyed coloring very much, but I know more of it would have improved his fine motor skills earlier on. My handwriting isn't gorgeous so I guess I didn't focus as much on neat, tidy, regular handwriting as much as I wish I had.

*Drilled Math Facts- I hesitate to put this one. I KNOW we should have done it more. We did do it some. I am not a fan of drilling facts. My kids are not a fan of drilling facts. I shudder to think of going back and doing it more often. However I do think there are benefits to knowing those addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts backwards and forwards. I think it would have saved us some time in the long run to have spent more time on those facts as we were learning them. Like handwriting, I assumed the kids would get better and better as time went on. They have but the progress has been slower than it would have been if we would have spent more time on it in the beginning. Drill. Yuck. You should do it anyway.

Now don't worry. I'm not focusing only on the negative. I just wanted to share some things I wish I had considered more early on. Soon I will do a post about the things I'm glad we did/ are doing in our homeschool time.

Do you have anything you wish you'd done differently in your homeschool?

Monday, February 27, 2017

How We Homeschool

This is curriculum buying time of year for me. Starting right after the beginning of this semester (last month), I began making my lists for each of the kids for fall. I have a little planning page for each one of them where I list the curriculum they will use for each subject as well as make notes on what I need to purchase. I began in January because I knew I'd need to purchase several items this year.

When I was on the Crew, I was able to make those lists with almost no purchases. Since I'm not on the 2017 Crew, I knew I'd need to use some of our tax refund money to make purchases for the 2017-2018 school year. I started by taking a look at what we already had on our shelf and in downloads. I've found several things over the years that I forgot we owned and had been planning to purchase. Our budget is tight so that's never a good thing! I filled in their lists with what we could use from our stash.

Once that was finished, I made a list of any workbooks I would need to go with items we already had. Then I started looking at choices for the subjects I needed to fill. Honestly we have so much curricula that I still didn't need as much as I thought! I needed most of the books I selected for Apple to read for literature next year. I also needed a writing curriculum for Speedy.

The kids also had some requests like CTCMath. For those items on my shopping list, I started pricing them and checking to see if they typically have sales. I purchased several of our must haves this week using current discounts or specials. I only have 2 things left to purchase, and I know those will be on sale sometime in the coming months so I will wait for a special.

Some folks buy a boxed curriculum set and skip all those steps I mentioned above. We love variety and enjoy picking and choosing our own books for each subject. We also like to incorporate a mixture of worksheets, literature, textbooks, online, and DVDs. As much fun as all that is, there is extra work involved. I do however keep our total purchases well below those boxed set prices. I also buy used when possible. My favorite place to shop used is

How do you select your homeschool choices each year? Do you do all free, online curriculum? Borrow it all from friends or a library? Purchase the boxed set?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Along the Path

This week I'm going to step away from the homeschool theme. Last week I got to enjoy a lovely night of women's ministry. This was my second month to attend. I got my mom to join me, and we sat with some friends (Thanks for making that reservation for us J!). No kids. No husbands. Food. A wonderful message from a well known Christian speaker. It was a wonderful evening.

While we were there a discussion began about people from our past. It was all in a humorous manner discussing how we probably wouldn't see many people from our "old" days in a place like that. You know how it is. Later as I reflected on the night, I had to laugh. I saw lots of ladies from my past! I spoke with a mom friend who I hadn't see in several years. We got to catch up on our kids, homeschool, and life in the few minutes we were able to speak. I also saw one of my "youth" who is now married and has a sweet little baby of her own. Her mom was there too. I saw an acquaintance from an old Zumba class. I even saw a new friend who ended up at the table next to me.

I began to think about the people God puts in our path. Each of those people came from a different time or circumstance in my life. As I pondered further, I realized even at our table there were ladies that God had on my path. One of my best friends. Her mother-in-law who hired me for a job almost 20 years ago. A younger family member who was a toddler when I met her and is now a lovely young woman.

I have an old friend who sometimes refers to her "dark days". I think most of us had a season like that along our path. Most of mine happened very early on and about 3 hours from where I live now. I don't have to confront those particular days or memories very often. In times of trouble though, I can beat myself up remembering the silly mistakes I made, the sin that I partook in, and my poor behavior. I shudder to think of what some of my current friends would think of that person I was. However, I know God has forgiven me and thus there is no reason I should not forgive myself.

God didn't just place some of my past in my path that night. Once I began to really think about it, the last few weeks have been full of chance encounters. All of them have been people who have been a part of my "Christian" path. People from various churches and ministries who've played a part along the way. At first I thought God was just reminding me of all the wonderful help I've received along the way. Maybe He was just helping me remember all those who have encouraged me, prayed for me, or studied the Bible with me. What if He was also reminding me of the people I've encouraged along the way? What if He was showing me how well those were doing that I've prayed for in the past? What if He's reminding me that I studied His Word with them too?

The message at that women's ministry meeting was about believing in the miracles God can still perform. It was about being bold with our prayers. It was also about remembering all the truths God has shared with us in the Bible. A big part of all those areas is faith. Along my path, I've needed the faith of all those people I've come across in the last few weeks. Their faith helped me in my journey. Maybe my faith helped them too.

One of my brightest, happiest, funniest, faithfulest (I declare that a word...) friends has started her own blog. She is amazing, and I know her words will bless you. Her newest post is on waiting which requires an ENORMOUS amount of faith. I hope you'll pop over and check out The Butterfly Chair!

2 Samuel 22 contains the familiar words of David,

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
\3 God of my strength, in whom I will trust"

Further down in verse 37 David says,

"You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip."

Who or what is God placing along your path for you to notice? Sometimes He has us look back in order to prepare for going forward.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How We Homeschool

This week I'd like to chat about grading. Grading is another one of those highly personal topics. Some homeschoolers grade and some don't. Just like school teachers and college professors, everyone has their own grading system. This is a topic that I seem to see very little information about online. I have researched grading several times as I've sought to find the best system for us.

In the beginning, I didn't grade anything. Early elementary grading when I was in school was an S or U (satisfactory or unsatisfactory). I submitted grades to our umbrella school each semester, but as long as the kids were progressing well in an area, grades didn't even really come to mind.

As the kids got older, I began to consider using real grades as a motivator. The first year I gave them grades on most papers so they could get an idea of what grading was really about. The next year I got a little tougher and graded all their papers. I talked with them at the end of each semester about what kind of averages they had based on their "paperwork" only. Again last year they were graded on everything and at the end of each semester we discussed their grades. This year I've been a little tougher with grading so that Apple can get a feel for real grading. She's taking outside classes and is also assigned grades by those teachers.

I know lots of homeschoolers like to stay away from traditional grading because they know the students abilities. I agree with this to an extent. We also practice mastery by having the kids correct their own mistakes until they are right. I also consider participation and any self-directed study they are doing. However, I think students that are preparing to go to college at some point need to understand grading methods. I also think it is important to keep grades as a scale of effort.

This is just another one of those areas that is super personal for each homeschool mom (or dad!) and their students. There is no right way or wrong way to grade. I will say after several years of grading, an online program is the way to go! The first few years I was keeping up with grades on a spreadsheet. It was messy, confusing, and difficult to calculate. Now I use (from a review I did earlier) and it makes grading so much easier. While the kids aren't always happy about their grades, they do enjoy the report cards that I print for them now.

Do you give grades in your homeschool?

Monday, February 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

For the second post in this series, I want to talk about our scheduling. I've written many posts about homeschool planning over the years (including this one last year) that fill you in on how I divide up our subjects and daily work. Today, I want to give you a little more insight into how our typical week looks.

Our state requires 180 days with 4 hours of instruction per day. Homeschooling parents divide this out many different ways. One of the best pieces of advice I received when we began our homeschool journey was to remember school time doesn't have to mean desk time. Honestly, I still struggle with that a little, but I think we have a good balance.

Our basic weekly outline looks like 4 hours of desk time or schoolroom time Monday- Thursday. We get started between 7:30 and 8 (7:30 is the goal) and the plan is to finish around or before 12. Typically we squeeze about "5 days of work" (based on lesson plans) into those 4 days. This year Apple has had a different set schedule on Wednesdays because she is taking outside classes. Those occur on Wednesdays and stand alone so she gets her other work finished on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (except math which she does before classes on Wednesdays). Speedy typically has a car school day on Wednesdays since we stay in town while she's in class. Some days they finish early. More often they finish sometime well past lunch.

Anyhow that covers 4 days per week of schooltime. Fridays are used for work that wasn't completed (rare), additional work assigned due to issues during the week (occasional), and extra outside time or "free" time. Now typically my kids use Fridays to play outside and read. They also use extra afternoon time to do those same things. They also get a fair share of home ec each day by doing chores and helping in the kitchen. They are at the grocery store with me each week learning about meal planning, pricing, and waiting patiently in line. They receive $5 each to budget every week for snacks or special foods or drinks they'd like from the grocery store. I feel like Fridays represent our "unschooling" or interest based learning days. That's as close as I can get.

The kids earn their screen time by completing their school work on time so screen time doesn't happen every day. When it does they typically use it to watch shows or communicate with friends. Many times they choose educational shows to watch. I've mentioned before that we typically have an audiobook going in the car. Basically, I don't stress over our 180 hours too much because we get much more than that every school year.

Afternoon co-ops, volunteer opportunities, field trips, free reading time, and many other activities keep homeschoolers living a learning lifestyle. So while I'm strict about our 4 days of seatwork, I try not to be too legalistic about our school scheduling. Some years we take off typical holidays and summer, some years we work through the summer, and some years we do a 5-6 weeks on and 1 week off type schedule. One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is that we can be flexible and adjust to what works for our family.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How We Homeschool

I haven't blogged as much about our homeschooling journey lately so I thought I'd give you a little insight into our methods. I'm not a huge fan of labels but if forced to label our homeschool style I'd say traditional/ eclectic. We are traditional because our school time looks similar to a classroom school time. We are eclectic because I don't buy our curriculum as a boxed set each year (although it's always tempting because it looks so easy!). I started this as an all in one post but I'm wordy so this will be a theme for the next few weeks. Today I'll start with where we homeschool.

My kids both have a desk in our "schoolroom" that doubles as my office. I have a desk because it's my office too. When we bought our home one of the big draws was this rather large room with a huge built in shelving system. I knew this would be a great schoolroom for us, and it has been. We've tried doing school without a dedicated schoolroom, and it just doesn't work for us. It's distracting to be in other rooms. It's messy to have our materials spread out through the house and things get lost and misplaced too easily. Even with our organized schoolroom, we have days when books or important papers can't be located. Personally, I'd go crazy if we had to search the whole house in those instances. I've found for my kids that having a place set aside for school keeps them on track. They know when we are down here for school that there's no electronics or toys. It's a place to focus and study and learn. It works the same way for me as my office. When I come down to work, I can focus and I have everything I need at my fingertips. I think have a dedicated school space will help prepare my kids for the future. In college, they will be expected to be in a classroom for classes. In most jobs they will have a dedicated office or workspace they use each day. They are getting in some extra practice now.

Right after Christmas, we gifted the kids new desks. Every time we've bought them desks (or a special table) I expect them to last forever. Ha. So a couple of years ago my parents gave them very nice school type desks. Small adjustable desks with a storage area in them. I thought they'd last for the rest of our homeschooling days. Recently the kids had began to complain they weren't large enough to hold their laptops and a paper or book on the surface. We have the above small table in the room and they'd began to fight over sitting at the table. I had enough of the bickering so I started looking for new desks for them. I found the ones I wanted just after Christmas. They were easy to put together and fairly inexpensive. They have a little desk in the front for pens, pencils, and other small supplies. I am HOPING these last us for a long time. We kept the smaller desks too. I had the kids put those in their rooms. Some days they do need a forced break from the schoolroom so now they have a place in their room where they can take their work when needed.

Our schoolroom is a bit dark so they each have a floor type lamp near their desks. They were also given brand new desk lamps from an aunt and uncle at Christmas so they have those as well. They are very happy with their new desks and areas.

While I love our schoolroom, I am still decluttering it. It seems like a permanent process. We have drawers and bins and shelves everywhere, and they are all full! With all the school books and games and craft supplies, our room is always to the point of overflowing. Every time I get it in order, it seems to overflow again. I am hoping to finish cleaning it up (again) soon.

Where do you homeschool? Do you have a dedicated space or are your kids all over the house? Since Hubby sometimes needs to sleep during the day due to shift changes, having a schoolroom away from his sleeping area is an extra blessing for our family.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Top Posts of 2016

I'm still playing a bit of catch up after a short vacation from the blog. Here are my top 8 posts of 2016! I always think it is funny to see what garnered the most attention from our Chaos.

1. Obviously giveaways are always a hit. In April, I had a Purex Insiders giveaway that had the more traffic than any other post in 2016.

2. I love planners and planning so it is fitting that my #2 post was my review of the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse 2016-2017.

3. One of my favorite new curriculum items I reviewed last year was Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting. Speedy is still working on his Italic writing.

4. Every homeschooler needs a GREAT pencil sharpener. Apparently many of you were interested in the Hey Yellow sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

5. I wrote a post on my personal FB page that got a lot of attention so I turned it into a blog post. The post got a good amount of attention as well. I'm still working to be sure I don't look at life in snippets.

6. I was so excited to review a new NKJV Bible. I've carried it every Sunday since then and do most of my Bible reading at home in it. I love the cover that I got to carry it in. I enjoyed reading through the Bible using my NIV, but reading the NKJV has a whole different feel.

7. We don't do many unit studies, but my kids both love them. I always vow to do more and then...well I don't. Most, like this Thanksgiving one, are easy to plan but somehow a curriculum for a whole year feels easier. However, my kids REALLY enjoyed this Micro Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy that we reviewed.

8. I guess some of  you like to plan and prep too because my second post on planning for the holidays was #8 for 2016.

2016 was a great year with a LOT of reviews and blog posts! Stick around for 2017 because it will be a lot of fun and chaos.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Is That True?

I took a couple of weeks off from posting. With the New Year, it felt like a good time to catch up on other things and reflect quietly. We've settled into our routines a bit more now. We've been visiting the same church the last few weeks. They are doing a wonderful series on Identity. There has been a different speaker each week pointing to God's Word and giving us new things to think about in our Christian walk.

As often happens, I seem to be seeing a lot of the opposite on social media from friends. Many people call themselves Christians but seem to be lost about what God's Word really has to say. To borrow from the sermon we heard two weeks ago, we love to cling to and repeat "Christian" sayings even if they aren't Biblical! How many incorrect things do we believe just because we've heard other people say them over and over?

From yesterday to today, I've seen several people say "all sins are equal". This has always made me cringe a little. I really like what Billy Graham has to say about it:

How about "if God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it"? Every time I see that printed on something or hear someone say it I think, "but maybe God didn't bring you to it". We want to take out the human element in all consequences. We don't want to acknowledge that our actions or sins or bad decisions put us in some positions. God is always there for us, even when we put ourselves in bad places but let's not blame Him for getting us there.

As divorce continues to rampage through our culture, I often hear that "God wouldn't want me to be unhappy". That one just isn't true. It may sound harsh but God doesn't seek our happiness just like a good parent doesn't seek their child's happiness alone. Many times we need to be unhappy to grow, to help someone else, or to see the truth in a situation. Most marriages don't fail because of one person. These days so many marriages begin in a sinful place then never quite come completely out of the mire. Want a Biblical example of God's lack of concern for our "happiness"? Moses. Moses did NOT want to go to Pharaoh. He told God repeatedly that he didn't want to go. He was concerned about his speaking issues. He didn't want to die for his past sins. Following God's direction caused him unhappiness. Again and again. He had to listen to the Israelites complain and blame him in the wilderness. Yet he did it. He followed God's direction and stuck with it even through great unhappiness. If our child is disobeying and it makes them happy, won't we still discipline them? We should! Being unhappy does not Biblically justify divorce. It just doesn't.

So what should we do? We should know God's Word. I just keep stressing it over and over because nothing is more true. We should teach it to our children. The kids and I have started in the New Testament reading one chapter of the Bible together each morning. As we read, they have 2 posters they are writing on. One says "Wanted" and the other says "Negative". When we come across a behavior that God wants from us, they write it on the "Wanted" board. When we come across a sinful behavior, they write it on the "Negative" board. This is in addition to their regular Bible studies. I wanted a way for them to see and remember what God is really asking of us in the Bible.

How do you test Christian catch phrases?