Teaching that ideas have consequences.


While the twins were at Space Camp, Scott, Connor and I had a mini vacation.  Apparently, being a homeschooled student never ends,  so we drug our poor college student to historical sites in the south.  

One of the things that I say a lot while teaching is that ideas have consequences.  Consequence is defined as, “a result or effect of an action”. Consequences can be either good or bad, they are the result of an action.  We can see in history that an idea, even a little, seemingly innocent idea when brought to its fullness can have dire consequences or can make the world a better place. 

As we have been touring battlefields in the Civil War, we have noticed that there were several ideas that were in conflict.  The idea of a state’s right to dictate their future versus the idea that a strong, united union was a better path for the future.  The idea that all men are created equal versus that only some men are equal.  The idea that home should be sacred and regardless of other ideas, an army marching on my home  should be protected against. Ideas that come to fruition have consequences. 

I use this in two ways in our homeschool. 

1.  When we study history, science or even the Bible, I have my kids try to pinpoint the idea that caused the conflict or that propelled a major breakthrough.  Why did the Romans decide to conquer the known world?  What was the idea that spurred that on? What were the consequences?  One of the positive consequences was that the gospel spread much faster because there were safe travel ways. The little idea that perhaps animals evolved and changed over long periods of time had giant, world shaking consequences. These are questions I asked even when mine were little and doing history narrations. “Why did Columbus want to explore?  What was the idea that made him so insistent?  What happened (consequences) because of his idea?  Okay, now write that down.” 
2. As my kids got older, I started challenging them to not only notice the ideas and consequences of others but to start taking stock of their ideas and start thinking through those consequences, for good or evil.  

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬ says,

5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I memorized this verse as a teenager and it has been one of my life verses.  I say it so often that not only do my kids know it, but their friends do too.  We need to take our thoughts and ideas and think through the consequences and determine whether those ideas and consequences are God honoring.  This is how we take our thoughts and ideas and make them obedient to Christ. Teaching Logic as a subject has really helped with this level of critical thinking. I start teaching Logic and Philosophy in 6th grade and teach several levels through early high school.  They help to continue this thought process.  We also read, “How Then Should We Live” by Francis Schaffer to further illustrate that ideas have consequences. 

Resources I recommend- 

Thinking Toolbox
Fallacy Detective
Art of Argument

Philosophy for Kids
The Examined Life
How Then Should We Live
The Story of Western Science
I need to note that I never just handed these to my kids.  We either did them in a co-op or I used them in our morning meeting and discussion time.  We have a morning meeting and prayer time each day and I usually have a book or two we are going through for discussion and critical thinking.  I think this is a vital part of the homeschooling day in middle and high school, training our kids to think.

Family Purpose and Goals

An older post but always pertinent….
Recently, we were challenged to make sure we have a working family purpose. I thought I would share what we’ve learned and how to make a family purpose. Oh, and goals for each of the kids too! The examples are our family purpose, the objectives are our goals for this stage of life and the goals are the kids goals. My poor kids don’t know how often I’ve used them as the example of good and bad behavior! I’ll have to raise their allowance.

Family Purpose

I.Purpose

Write an overall purpose statement for your family, making sure it reflects the morals and values of your family. Start with “Our purpose as a family is….” Make your statement as precise and simple as possible.

Example : “Our purpose as a family is to bring glory to God through the love and choices we make as individuals and corporately as a family.”
II.Objective

State in a phrase or sentence an objective in fulfilling your purpose statement. Begin your statement with “to…” and complete your statement in such a way that you would see your purpose statement fulfilled.

Example : “To raise our children to be Godly young men and women filled with integrity and joy, who will be leaders for Christ in their homes, churches and country.”
III.Goals
Education Goals – Years ago, when Scott and I were deciding on our kids education whether to homeschool, private school or public school we sat down to decide what we wanted out of our kids education. We each wrote down a list and then they all seemed to fall into these three categories. 

  • A Biblically integrated education. God’s Word wasn’t merely a subject in the day but was integrated into discussion of literature, history and science.
  • Learning should be enjoyable and engaging. We want our kids to love to learn. Not everything can be “fun” but an attitude that learning new things is something to be excited about.
  • Academically Rigorous. We want our kids to be as prepared as possible for whatever God might have for them. We want to challenge them to be the very best that they can be. We want them to meet their potential, and we understand that this may be different depending on the child. 

Sitting down and talking through what you want your child’s education to be and what you want for them when when the graduate is vitally important. It will help you to decide and stay the course on all educational choices. I have these posted and on those hard days, I refer back to these as the “why I am doing the crazy thing I am doing”. They also help me decide on curriculum. We never buy a curriculum if they do not meet atleast two of these goals. 

Individual Yearly Goals – Carefully consider individual goals for each family member. We make goals in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic (for our children) each year and have three goals per area..

Example : For our oldest son, here are the goals he is currently working on

Spiritual – self control over his emotions and tongue Gal 5:22-23

Personal – maintain responsibility over belongings (coats, piano bags, sports equipment) Eph 6:1-2

Academic – have multiplication and division tables memorized through 12

Carefully consider these goals and make sure they meet these criteria:

1. Are they biblical?

2. Do I have a verse or moral reason why to support these?

3. Do they fit out purpose as a family?

4. Do they bring glory to God or glory to us?

5. Are they achievable? We don’t want to exasperate our children. (Col. 3:21)
Post these in a spot where you can see them regularly and pick a goal to work on weekly or monthly, include your children and them pick the goal they want to work on.

.…A note on how this has worked years later- after having done this for over 15+ years, this has become part of how my kids make decisions. They know how to make goals and achieve them. We have talked and worked on how to make small steps to achieve a big goal. They also debate decisions about things like extra curriculars, college majors, colleges and even colleges based on their goals. It’s a vital skill and has already helped them to become high achievers at a young age.
As parents and homeschoolers, this has allowed us to keep a steady course. The education goals we set 15 years ago have come to fruition. We kept them in mind for every curriculum purchase, every decision for co-ops and extra curriculars and has really helped us to make good solid decisions and not just jump on the newest, coolest thing. 


If I had to give one piece of advice for parents it would be to have a plan and set and teach your kids how to make goals and then achieve them.  

But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands. Isaiah 32:8

Engineering Toys for Girls

 

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The twins at Space Camp with Daddy.  Caileigh was always just as interested as her brothers and still is.

When Caileigh was little, she would have loved toys that taught Engineering ideas but were geared for girls.  She was (and is) a very curious girl so she just joined the boys in their toys but she also loves colors and is artistic so prettier toys would have appealed to her. This summer she wrote, designed and planned a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Camp for Girls.  She and her best friend taught about Serpinski triangles and then they and the girls made a colorful, giant 12ft by 11ft Serpinski triangle.  She taught them about Fibonacci Numbers and them she had them trace with glitter glue Fibonacci spirals in pinecones, flowers, pineapples and fruit.  They built vibrating art robots and showed how flowers use water by using food colors and carnations.  They helped the girls be curious about the world around them all while showing how beautiful it is as well.  The girls were intrigued and engaged.

Later, Caileigh and I were talking about getting younger girls interested in STEM.  She specifically wanted to figure out how to encourage her two young cousins who are 5. We both feel that it is vitally important to encourage girls to think and play in STEM realms.  We often just encourage our boys in STEM fields but our girls need more purposeful encouragement because the world doesn’t naturally encourage them to pursue these fields.  We talked about getting them toys like she had when she was little but she really wanted to get toys that were girl oriented and we went into a toy store and there they were, the perfect toys.

They all feature girl action dolls who are engineers and they teach different skills and ideas.  There’s Goldie Blox and the Zip Line which teaches about suspension. Or Goldie Blox Craft-Struction Box which has ideas for a ton of projects and introduces the idea of prototyping. There are many more sets, each designed to introduce and teach girls engineering concepts during play.  I think I have several nieces who will be really happy come birthday and Christmas time.  I think they will be extra happy because I know that their favorite people, their cousins Connor, Caileigh and Collin will be more than happy to get on the floor and play with these toys with them.  I also think these might be great gifts or toys for Dads to play with girls.  I know my husband (okay let’s be honest, I would be more willing too) to play with these then to sit and play dolls.

 

What Boys Need From their Mom

knight_connor_1
Connor being knighted by his Dad 

 

I was asked to speak on this topic this week at our church’s Little Warrior Dinner to the Moms of younger elementary boys.  One of the things I love about our church is our Faith Path.  It is a well thought out path that includes parenting classes, child blessings, purity classes, and launching events for our our high schoolers.  It strives to put the church and parents into a partnership to raise Godly children.  Neither parents nor the church can or should do it on their own and it works best when they are working together in partnership.  Whenever I am asked to take part in on of these events, I generally happily accept as I have found it to be one of the most meaningful and purposeful programs our family have been apart of.  Since I was already writing something up for that event, I decided to share it here as well.

When I think about what boys need from their Mom the first thing I think is that boys need Moms who think long term.  So often as Moms, we are in the moment.  There are pressing things to do right now.  We need to do the laundry to make sure the kids are clothed, we need to go the grocery store to feed them, we need to get their homework done so that they can be educated.  It’s all pressing and very much in the right now.  However, if we really want to do the right things for our little men we need to think a little bigger and a with a little more forethought.  I think the question needs to be, “What kind of man, husband, father do I want my son to be?”  When I start thinking in those terms, I see what I need to be training my sons in now.

1. My boys need a Mom who show their Dads and themselves respect.  Boys need their Moms to respect their boyness.  I want my boys to grow up to be men and to do that I need to respect that they are different than my girl and myself.  They are more aggressive, they need to conquer things, they need to best themselves.  They need to be boys who are encouraged to be men. Respect that they are different.

2. Boys need Moms who train them to be Gentlemen. The definition of a gentleman is , ” A chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man” isn’t that what we want our sons to be as men? We need to teach them to open doors, say please and thank you, and take care of the people in their life. I want my sons to be men who are gentlemen. We need to be Moms that train that behavior in our little men. We need to teach it, to play act it, to expect it.

4. Boys need Moms who train and respect the Protective Warriors in the men in their lives.  One of my favorite pictures of all time is of Caileigh and Collin when they were three.  Caileigh is all dressed up in her princess attire and Collin has a shield and sword and is standing in front of her ready to protect her.  To this day, he is her protector, her shield and often the voice of caution to her crazy plans.  Now, I will be honest and say that Caileigh hasn’t always been a big fan of Collin’s protectiveness and we have had to train her to allow the men in her life ( her Dad, her Grandfathers and her brothers) to protect her.  To this end, all of our kids have taken karate for years so that they not only can protect themselves but to protect others.  We talked about that a lot when my kids were little.

5. Boys need Moms who ask them and expect them to do big things in their lives.  Even when they are young. We want our boys to become men who change the world for Christ. Boys also need Moms who know that failure is only a stepping stone to success.  Boys need Moms who allow them to fail and then encourage them to get back up, clean up the blood and try again. True failure is only when you stay down and don’t get up again. That’s how we eventually train boys to do hard, big things.  I like reading and telling stories of great men who did big things but also faced a lot of failure along the way.  Think Edison or Abraham Lincoln.

6. Boys need Moms who teach them how to do chores and expect them to do it.  My boys can clean, do laundry and cook a meal.  They can also mow, use a hammer and put in a light fixture.  They need to be able to take care of themselves and be competent at it.  My oldest actually thanked me that he knew how to do all of that before he went to college because many of his friends didn’t and it put them at a disadvantage.  There have also been times when I have been sick or out of town and my kids, all of them, had to step up and handle the housework and even if they didn’t like it, they knew how to.

Ultimately, boys need Moms who love God, who maintain a relationship with Christ and teach that relationship to their sons.

Here’s a resource that might also help 52 Things Sons Need From Their Moms

 

Keeping My Cool During Discipline

Sometimes we all need to just take a time out
I often speak about requiring your kids to respond with first time obedience (first time means you say it, they do it the very first time  Posts on first time Obedience ) I did and still do expect my kids to respond not only to their Dad and I with first time obedience,  but also to the authorities in their life.  When they don’t, we have a problem and we try to take care of that right away.

However, requiring first time obedience doesn’t mean that we raise our voice, stop using polite words, like please, with our requests or respond with short tempers.  Our out of control behavior, harsh tones or shouting should not be excused just because our kids are not being obedient.  We need to be modeling how to handle conflict even when we are completely exasperated, tired or have dealt with our children on this very issue for the 453rd time.  Our response is just as important of a training tool as the discipline itself.  Our kids are watching and learning from us all the time. 

Here are some tools I have used to help me keep my cool during times of conflict.

1.  This is not about me. Knowing and sometimes repeating this mantra, “This is not about me.”  When my kids were young, I had a tendency to think every misbehavior was a direct reflection of my abilities.  A wise older friend reminded me that we all are fallen and fall short of the glory of God and we need to understand that our children are sinners and have a sin nature and that our job, as parents, is to give them the same grace and gentle correction that God gives us.  It is not about me but about training my children in the same manner that God trains me. The Bible is clear that a good parent disciplines a child He loves and since I know how gently, but consistently, God disciplines me then I need to afford my kids the same grace.

2. Don’t discipline if you are angry.  I have a time out chair, not only for the kids, but for me.  If I was angry, I had my kids sit on the couch in self control hands while I went to my chair with self-control hands.  My hands were generally clasped in prayer as I knew I needed to seriously calm down before I said or did something I would regret later.  My parents disciplined in anger and as I was a very strong willed child, that parenting crossed lines it should have never crossed and it was damaging to me.  Taking the time to gain self control and pray allowed me to show and train my kids in anger management and appropriate conflict resolution.  A parent yelling at a child, using hurtful words or tones is never good parenting.  Taking the time to calm down and pray is wise and is setting a great example for your children.

3. Set rules, expectations and consequences ahead of time. I found it infinitely helpful in my kid’s younger years to have talked through our rules and consequences of those rules ahead of time with my husband.  We used the Doorpost poster and filled all of it out with the rules, the appropriate Bible verses (the Biblical reason why) and the consequences for each and posted them in several areas in our home.  This allowed my husband and I to be on the same page and the rules and consequences be consistent no matter who was at home.  We shared these with grandparents and babysitters so that the rules never changed.

4. Give Grace. We all have bad days.  We all have days that we just can’t seem to get it together.  We might be tired or in pain or just having a hard day and as I appreciate it when I get grace on days like that, I want to give my kids that as well.  If your children are characterized by first obedience (they are first time obedient 80% of the time), and within the first hour of the day are in trouble for the third time, pull them aside and get eye to eye and just ask them what is going on.  Remind them of the rules and then maybe just snuggle and watch a cartoon together for a bit.  

5. Be willing to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, I lose it. Sometimes, I yell. Sometimes, I say things I don’t mean. I am a sinner and fallible.  Sometimes, I need to say, “I am so sorry that I handled that so badly. Please forgive me for yelling. I was wrong.”  Whenever I have blown it and have needed to apologize and ask my children’s forgiveness, they have responded with such grace and love.  They humble me and have taught me how to accept other’s apologies. 

Parenting is hard. Training children is hard. However, we are doing more than just disciplining our children, we are training them to appropriately handle conflict with their spouses and children. One way I use to check myself is to ask whether I would be okay with my someday grandchildren be spoken to, disciplined and trained in the same manner I am speaking, disciplining or training my kids.  There have been times that the answer to this was a resounding no and then I had some work to do.  Funny, I have become a much better wife, friend and daughter because of the heart training I have had to do since becoming a Mom.  It’s hard, but worth it. 

The Biblical, Moral and Ethical Reason Why

By the end of this game, Caileigh and her friends had invited 3 other younger kids to play because they have internalized the reasons we are kind.

When my kids were little we were encouraged to give our children the reason why we made the decisions we did.  I will be honest and say that it was awkward, time consuming and meant that we needed to use a lot of words.  Instead of just saying, “Stop running”, we had to say, “Stop running in the hallways at church so you don’t knock into anyone.”  Or, “No, we cant’t go to the party because you were sick yesterday and we need to be well for 24 hours so we don’t get anyone else sick.”  

One of the best ways we found to do this was to have the entire family memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

We then memorized these verses from Mathew 22:37-40

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These two sections of scripture helped us have the tools we needed to teach our children why we do what we do and sometimes, why we don’t.

On sharing – 

“We share our toys with our friends because Jesus wants us to love others.  To love others we must be kind and it is kind to share our toys”.

On talking back –

” Using those words is disrespectful and rude.  Love is not rude nor does it dishonor others.” 

On taking flowers from other’s yard ( we said this to Caileigh A LOT!) –

” We don’t take things that are not ours and we want to leave the pretty flowers for others to enjoy.  Love is not self-seeking which means we put others first.”

Why is this important? 

We want to train our children to think Biblically. We also want them to be able to reason.  Unfortunately, they don’t know how to do this on their own. When we do this when our kids are young it creates children and teenagers who apply this thinking to other areas in their life. They also know how to express their reasoning.  I have overheard my son telling a group of boys, ” No, I don’t think we should tp a house because that is disrespectful and dishonoring of others property. Maybe we can think of something else funny to do.” I didn’t need to step in because he did exactly what he needed to do. 

When kids are little and sick, they don’t naturally want to skip the party or the fun event but we need to help them think with an attitude of putting others first. To do that we continually need to tell them how and why we make the decisions we do.  It’s a part of training thoughtful, kind and Godly young people. 

Curriculum I recommend – Elementary Math

 

**this page contains affiliate links – I am trying to get the page to pay for itself.**

We have used several great math programs. I have two main math curriculums going at one time per child which means we have gone through a lot of math.  Each child has a main or spine curriculum and then either a “Fun” math or a review math curriculum going on the side. In elementary, I never scheduled for math with both curriculum to be over 45-60 minutes. We also do math all year long with very little break so we do might do a different math for the summer. As I have twins who had a tendency to compare each other, there were also years that they did different math just to stop the comparisons. In other words, we have done a myriad of different maths but here are my favorites.

K and 1st – I actually loved the math in My Father’s World K and 1st as it is practical and hands on.  With Connor, I did traditional math far too early.  The twins ended up in the same place as Connor with a much better attitude and view of math than Connor did.  With the twins, we did MFW k and 1st math which is designed to go directly into Singapore 2a, and they memorized skip counting facts through 18, conquered basic addition and subtraction and learned basic time telling, patterns, calendar’s and had a wonderful time doing it.  The games and playing both grocery store and the “Sunshine Cafe” were great practice and great fun.  All three of mine would play these for hours using the directions in the TM and made wonderful progress in math.  I did put numbers amounts on all of Caileigh’s food in both her play grocery store and play kitchen and got them play money to pay.  I would advise everyone to skip formal curriculum and just play games and make math practical in those younger years.  I have done it both ways, and informal worked so much better.

Singapore Math US Edition – I absolutely love Singapore Math and have had success with all three of mine who were very different learners. For elementary, this was our spine, our main math.  Singapore really teaches kids to think mathematically and teaches several different ways to accomplish a problem.  It was really funny how the twins always chose a different way to do the same math problem. Connor really loved how it gave him the freedom to think of why the math worked the way it did verses just telling him the step by step how to.  I recommend starting with 1b in 2nd grade even if they test in higher as it gives them confidence and 1b introduces multiplication. Connor tested into Singapore later in Elementary and I started him half a book earlier than he tested into which worked well. Connor went up by 10 point in critical thinking the year we changed to Singapore.

A couple things about Singapore-

1. Get the US Edition –  it is NOT common core, it is the version Singapore itself uses with only the money changed. ( Seriously, Common Core wishes it were Singapore. Singapore Math has been around far longer than Common Core, so unless you specifically buy the CC version, and why would you, let’s strop this confusion here. )

2. You might need the Home Instructor’s Guide just to help you teach it.  I found the HIG necessary for 4a and above.

3. Remember the numbers are levels, not grades.  You do at least two levels a year but it maybe 1b/2a in a year or 2a/2b in a year depending on where the child is at.  This allows you to further fit the curriculum to your child’s needs.

Life of Fred – My kids love LOF math.  I used it as our “fun” math until middle school where it became a main math for the boys. I personally don’t find that the elementary curriculum has enough review and practice for elementary but for extra math, it was perfect.  It engaged all three of mine. Connor for the way it presented math, Caileigh for the story and Collin for the silliness.

Beast Academy– I think this could be either a main spine or fun math.  This is a rigorous curriculum designed for high level math thinkers but the fact that all the characters are monsters and the books are really colorful made it fun.  Caileigh did some as review as loved it.  My kids were older before they finished the series but it would have been something I used on a regular basis.

Abeka Speed Drills – Surprised to see this here, aren’t you? Sometimes, you just need your kids to drill in math.  For some kids, you also need a lot of review.  We used these throughout Elementary as a a daily speed drill and review.  Each day, they put on a timer and did the 6 or so problems of approximately whatever math grade year they were in.  It was easy for me to just give them and it was something they could do independently.  There were a few times that I got an Abeka math workbook to help cement some topics.  Caileigh needed this around 5th grade.  Abeka was colorful enough for her and very straightforward and had review.  It wasn’t her spine but it did help cement some of the ideas in Singapore for her during the summer.

Mathtacular by Sonlight – My kids loved these somewhat silly math videos/curriculum.  These were a life saver when I was sick or when they were sick and we couldn’t get to math.  My kids were entertained and learned or reviewed math.  They were also great for when the Grandparents were watching them during the school year.  These would also be a fun summer math to keep the kids learning and moving forward without a lot of hands on by Mom.  I do not think they are enough for a full curriculum but they are a great stand in.  They do have workbooks and the kids work through the math with the video.

More Curriculum Reviews Here –

Curriculum I Recommend – All in One Packages Elementary

Curriculum I Recommend – Foreign Language

Curriculum I Recommend – All in One Packages Elementary

It’s no secret that I have used an all in one curriculum for the majority of my homeschool years.  I have been often asked why I have as I am a curriculum junkie and love planning.  I was once asked by the author and designer of a curriculum why I would ever use one as I could just as easily put one together myself.  The answer is pretty simple, time and priorities.  I did write and put together a year of elementary for Connor and it took me 10-15 hours a week of curriculum design.  Chores didn’t get done, dinner was often cereal or pb&j’s and I didn’t get to do what I actually loved, teaching.  My priority was to teach my three kids and if I found a curriculum that matched about 80% of my goals, then I was happy.  Once I had a base, I could tweak it but it didn’t take me near the amount of time that writing from scratch would have.

My husband and I had three main goals in the education of our kids.

1. It had to have the Bible integrated.

2. It had to be engaging and needed to help our kids to love to learn.

3.  It needed to be academically rigorous.

After that, I wanted it to follow a Classical philosophy of education.  I wasn’t a strict Classical Educator, nor am I now, but I most closely identify with that philosophy of education.

At the time, there weren’t as many options that fit these goals as there are now, but I think I probably would choose the same now as I did then.

My Father’s World – We have loved My Father’s World and it has more than met all of our goals for our kid’s education, particularly in Elementary and Middle School.  I still think the Biblical foundation and the missions outreach focus is second to none.  It helped my kids to love God and to not merely be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word.  We also loved all the hands on projects, family meals and games that it brought into our lives.  It was thorough without being over kill and had a short enough day that I could add other things in if I wanted to, while still allowing my kids to explore, play and have a fun childhood.  My kids were reading by the time we hit MFW K and 1st but we did them all the same while adding in other reading because of the amazing Biblical foundation that they provided.  They were also a gentle, fun and engaging way to step into education.  We often ( me included) try to push our oldest kids too far, too fast and this ends in burned out 2nd and 3rd graders who hate school.  MFW taught me how to allow my kids to enjoy school and not to push them beyond what they can emotionally handle even if they can academically.  We loved the family learning cycle, and all the hands on projects/meals/festivals allowed us to learn as a family and made connections for my kids that just academics wouldn’t have. They remember Roman culture because we made the togas, ate the food and learned about the weapons. It is still my number one recommendation for Elementary.

However, there are others that have come out or been revamped since my kids were in Elementary that I would be remiss in not mentioning.

Sonlight – Had I just been educating Connor and not the twins, who were movers and shakers, I think we might have ended up with Sonlight.  Both Connor and I love to read and loved nothing better than a pile of books to read together.  Sonlight is a solid choice but it is not for kids who need to move, do a project or can’t sit still.  I do and have used Sonlight readers and Sonlight’s Summer Reading Packages through out the years.  They have also revamped some of their Cores to better combine kids and would be on my top list if I was choosing Elementary curriculum today.

Heart of Dakota – This curriculum wasn’t available when my kids were younger but had it been, I think it would have been a very strong contender.  The Bible is excellent, it has more of a personal relationship bent than MFW which isn’t bad, just different.  Much like a church that is more relationship oriented than missions oriented.  Both Biblical but with slightly different priorities.  You can combine children, although they follow the youngest child rather than the oldest as MFW does.  It is also far more Charlotte Mason than Classical.  This might have been a deal breaker for me, although the really pretty notebooking pages and TM might have swayed me.

I think any of these choices are good, solid, Biblical choices.  It may be more about the personality of both the teacher and the students as to what would be the best choice but I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them.

Curriculum I Recommend – Foreign Language

I get asked these questions so often that I decided it would be better just to write a series of posts about curriculum that I have actually used and recommend.  Just to be above board, there are affiliate links on these pages.  As many of you are, we are a one income family and it costs money to pay for this page and I need to at least try to recoup the costs.  Thus far, I haven’t even made enough to pay for the start up costs over a year ago, much to my husband’s chagrin.  So, if you are interested in the things I share, please use the links provided as it will help me to keep this blog going.

Spanish – 

Foreign Languages are the one subject that I have spent the most money on and have had the biggest fails.  I have bought more than one curriculum and found it did nothing for my kids.  We started our kids on Spanish while they were in pre-school and bought several programs designed to help them get an ear for the language.  Then in Elementary we bought several more for multiple years and faithfully did them daily.  While they taught my kids the vocabulary, none of them taught my kids to actually converse in Spanish until Homeschool Spanish Academy.

Homeschool Spanish Academy – I was introduced to HSA by a review on The Well Trained Mind Forum and since they offer a free introductory class and after 5 years of another program in which Connor still couldn’t carry on a conversation in Spanish, we tried it.  What’s to lose?  A free introductory class with a native Spanish speaker over the internet?  We didn’t even have to leave home or get out of our pj’s – perfect!  After one class, we were sold.  Connor had the same teacher for the majority of his classes over the next four years of high school whom he loved.  (No, I won’t tell you her name, because she is hard enough to book and the twins love her too.)  Connor went through all four levels of their rigorous high school curriculum and it allowed him to travel to Spain and be able to navigate the language and the city. It also allowed him to skip having to take a foreign language in College.  As a bonus, I love that the teachers get to know our kids.  They are engaged in our kid’s lives and get to know who are kids are, what they are interested in, and become a real part of their high school career.  This also allowed us to have an outside teacher who was able to give Connor an academic recommendation to both Colleges and Scholarships, which was huge.  I have only ever used their High School Program but had it been around when my kids were younger, I would have used it starting in Elementary.  I threw a lot of money at programs that didn’t work and Homeschool Spanish Academy would have been less money in the long run than buying the three other programs that I did try. One tip, if you have a teacher you love, book early.  I booked the twins classes at the end of May for the next school year.  All the teachers are equally good but if you find one that your child connects with, it’s worth trying to get that teacher.  We have had substitutes and they are all great teachers but my kids definitely connect with one over the others.

Click Here for Free HSA Intro Class

Latin – 

We have our kids start taking Latin in later Elementary and Middle School.  My husband took and spoke both Spanish and Latin and felt it was very helpful to him and studies show how much learning Latin can help Vocabulary, Critical Thinking and as a base for other Languages.  Here too, I have spent and gone through several curriculums to get it right.  Remember that Latin a dead language and a curriculum that doesn’t teach your child to conjugate and read the language isn’t going to work, which I learned after two different disastrous attempts.  What did work? Here’s my favorites.

Lively Latin – All three of mine really liked the Big Book of Latin 1 and 2.  We did the both of them over about 4 years, 3rd though 6th.  They were engaging, had fun history lessons, were anything but boring and gave my kids a firm basis in Latin and in Roman History.  They also liked the online games and classes available to them on the website. We did the books together as much as possible and the twins did fine hanging with Connor.  They do have CD’s of pronunciations, both Classical and Ecclesiastical depending on your preference. I bought the hard copies of the books because I really didn’t want to have to copy and prepare the books for all the kids.

First Form Latin – After we finished Lively Latin, we moved into First Form Latin from Memoria Press.  We watched the videos together, and did the workbooks during the week.  Latin isn’t always the most fun and I would say that this wasn’t necessarily fun but it still kept their attention and gave them a firm foundation in Latin.  I would say that the Instructional Videos are pretty important to have and go through.  This is a solid, efficient curriculum that will give them a full credit of Latin in high school.  If you had kids who were still interested in going further in Latin, then the series goes on to Second through Fourth Form Latin.  Our kids had a pretty firm foundation in it and we needed to focus more on Spanish as not all Colleges will accept Latin as a Foreign Language and we wanted the practicality of being able to speak another language.

A Reason for Obedience


I love to read! Reading takes me away from everyday trials and tribulations as well as frequently giving me new things to think about. This weekend I read, “At the Back of the North Wind” by George MacDonald. George MacDonald was a preacher and writer who lived in the 1800’s. He was mentor to such writers as Lewis Carroll and ultimately C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis said about MacDonald,”I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” MacDonald was a master storyteller of fantasy (as in Phantastes, Lillith and The Princess and Curdie) as well as many moral stories set in England and Scotland where he lived. My favorites are by far  the fantasies, as I know that somewhere in the fantasy are greater truths to be found. I found one such tidbit this weekend on obedience. The main character in “At the Back of the North Wind” is a boy by the name of Diamond who was learning to drive his father’s cab. MacDonald says this about Diamond.

“Diamond learned to drive all the sooner that he had been accustomed to do what he was told, and could obey the smallest hint in a moment. Nothing helps one to get on like that. Some people don’t know how to do what they are told; they have not been used to it and they neither understand quickly nor are able to turn what they do understand into action quickly. With an obedient mind one learns the rights of things fast enough; for it is the law of the universe, and to obey is to understand.”

What a thought! Obedience leads to understanding and then to action! It’s our job as parents to not only train our children to obey but to expect obedience from them.

We love this Radio Drama version from Focus on the Family,  At the Back of the North Wind.

Other blogs on training obedience in our kids –

“10 Practical Things” Extended – Child and Parent Training Pt 1

“10 Practical Things” Extended Pt 2 – Child Training

I obey right away!