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.

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! 

 

 

Failure, A Necessary Evil

Failure. It’s painful but necessary. My kids are being reminded of this again this week. We are at a National Tournament at Milligan for Bible Bowl and after a year of sweeping our Round Robin, we weren’t slaughtered, but we definitely didn’t even get close to winning. Teaching our kids to lose and fail gracefully without losing heart  ( or their mind) is an important life skill. 

Winston Churchill said, ” Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

There are a couple of ways to help teach failure. 

1. Spelling Tests – by second or third grade, kids should be taking spelling tests. Both of my boys really struggled with this.  We talked about the fact that since Jesus was the only perfect person, I don’t expect perfection and neither should they. We discussed the fact that school is about learning and getting everything right the first time, isn’t learning.  Still my boys struggled with failing anything so, being the ever compassionate Mom, I told them we were going to start taking a test ( math, spelling, whatever) every single day until they could handle them appropriately.  

2. Correcting all wrong answers – I continually have my kids correct any and all answers they get wrong and remind my kids that it’s not about the grade, it’s about the learning. It also helps to show them that we are not going to stay in failure but learn from it and accomplish more next time. 

3. Let them fail – I know this is really hard.  It is brutal, however the small failures that our kids may fail in now do not compare to the possible failures in the future. If you set a due date for a paper, keep to that due date.  If they lose a letter grade each day the paper is late and they can’t go to a party they wanted to until that paper is turned in, keep strong and let them fail.  The lesson learned will be a far greater life lesson than  any paper. Instead of going through their bag to make sure they have everything they need for piano, make a checklist and put them in charge of it.  If they forget something, don’t save them, especially if it’s just a lesson ( a recital may be a different ballgame). Let them fail.

4.  Teach them self-control.  Oh, how I wish parents would teach this when their kids were little.  This week alone, I have seen several kids who don’t know how to use self-control and they throw the teen version of a temper tantrum. When they are young, play games, lots of games and model good sportsmanship.  If they win tell them to say, “Good game, thanks for playing” to each and every person playing and then have the winner reset or put the game away.  If they lose,  have them say, ” Good job” and then shake the winner’s hand.  If they start to cry have them go to a quiet corner until they can get self-control and then they need to come back to the winner to tell them good job.  For kids in the corner, have them hold their hands clasped in their laps ( we call these self-control hands) until they gain self-control.  Don’t stop what you are doing while the child is in the corner, they need to  know that life is going on while they are getting self-control. 

5. Read and tell them stories of those who failed and kept going.  Like Thomas Edison who said, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” Abraham Lincoln tried many things that failed pretty spectacularly but he learned from each of those things and then used those skills later. Tell them stories of those that never gave up no matter the odds.  I tell mine that it’s fine to fail and fall but it’s not okay to stay and wallow in that failure.  Take a moment to acknowledge the hurt then shake off the dirt and move on. 

Shining like a Star!

An oldie but goodie….

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Every parent would love to have their children do everything they are told without complaining and arguing …and whining. Not only is this a skill that would change our days into wonderful sunshine filled hours, God commands us to. In Philippians 2:14 Paul writes, “ Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you might become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you will shine like the stars in the universe.” I know that if I did everything without complaining or arguing, the people in my life would be more pleased to be around me (especially my husband) as will the people in your children’s life.

Idea one: Read this verse with your children. Explain that complaining and arguing also means whining. Demonstrate how much nicer it is to be around someone who doesn’t complain or whine, As odd as it may sound, I do this by talking in a whiny voice to my children and then talk to them in a nice tone of voice. Have them try it a time or two so that they can hear the difference.


Idea two: Have your children memorize Phil. 2:14 I write memory verses on a poster board and work on memory verses for several days in a row. I also make up motions to help kids remember. I abbreviate this verse for my younger two so that it says, “ Do everything without whining and complaining so that you shine like a stars in the heavens.” For a quick motto we say, “I don’t whine, I shine!” Say it over several times, louder is always more fun!

Idea three: Spend an evening looking at the stars with your children and talk to them about how the stars light up the sky. Read about stars and tell your children that stars are millions of miles away ( the sun is a star and is approx. 93 million miles away) and yet even being so far away they can brighten the entire sky. When we do everything without complaining, arguing and whining we brighten up everyone around us and shine so that everyone can see the difference that Jesus make in our lives.

 

Advanced Placement Courses at Home

***this page contains affiliate links. I only endorse programs that I actually use in our actual lives and homeschool journey***
APs or Advanced Placement Courses can seem daunting.  They can also seem like something that a homeschooler can’t accomplish but we have found that not only can the class be taught at home, our most successful courses have been designed by me instead of through an outside class.

There are several things that must be understood about APs.  All courses that are called AP must be approved through the College Board.  However, that doesn’t mean you have to go through an AP class to take an AP Exam.  Anyone can take an AP Exam as long as they can find a local high school to allow them access to take the test and that they are willing to pay the fee (usually its around $100). AP or Honors (I call AP classes that I design Honors Classes on my kids transcripts) Classes are worth more for GPA’s.  An A on an Honors or AP course is woth 5 pts instead of the usual 4.  B’s are 4, C’s are 3 and so forth.

Why AP’s?

I get asked fairly often why we do APs rather than Dual Enrollment or Cleps? Dual Enrollment means that I am no longer in charge of picking their curriculum or their teacher as I do with online courses which makes me uncomfortable .  I want a firm Biblical Worldview for my kids and Dual Enrollment classes are generally secular.  I am still working on their Biblical foundation during these ever important formation years.  If I choose something like  Thinkwell, which is secular, I balance it with a resource with a Biblical foundation.  Not to mention, I am still actively involved and can have discussions about Worldview with my kids when it is needed. There can also be a downside to Dual Enrollment when enrolling your kids into College.  If they have more than about 20 credits (this number varies by school), then they are no longer eligible for the ever important freshman scholarships. Let’s say that my son had 20 DE credits going into school and that made him a Sophomore.  Okay, we saved, with room and board, about $26,000. My son received freshman scholarships totaling over $54,000.  That’s enough to pay for the majority of his tuition.  That means that instead of saving money, we would have lost money. He had 12-15 AP Credits but they didn’t count towards his freshmen status.  So why did we choose APs rather than Cleps? For the rather simple reason that the Selective Schools, Programs and Scholarships that my oldest applied to didn’t accept the Cleps that he did have.  Fortunately, we had done both APs and a few Cleps so it wasn’t a total loss.  After talking to a lot of College registrars for Selective Schools and Programs, we came to the realization that Cleps weren’t worth our time and money.  The twins are looking at the same level of Schools and programs so we chose APs as the best option to help prepare them for College.

There are several way you can teach and prepare for an AP Exam-

The Online Class

There are several online schools that offer AP classes.  Their courses are approved by the College Board and they have designed the class to teach and prepare for AP Exams.

PA Homeschoolers – They are by far the largest provider of online AP homeschool exams.  Many of the classes are hard to find elsewhere.

HSLDA Academy – Newer to the AP online courses, I haven’t used them or know of anyone who has.  Still, it’s HSLDA and they probably have a very Biblical Worldview. I think the Social Studies Courses (Government, Economics and History) would be excellent and would have a point of view that many of us agree with.

Thinkwell Homeschool – Thinkwell isn’t a live class, it is a video lecture with online homework.  This makes it much less expensive.  We use Thinkwell for math and will be using them for several APs. However, they are a secular organization so tread carefully, I usually combine Thinkwell with books that are from a distinctly Christian point of view for balance.

The Non- College Board Approved Online Class

We have taken several classes that haven’t been approved as an AP class but are clearly designed to prep kids for those classes or are just so advanced that they work beautifully.  Generally, you will need to add AP review books from Amazon.

Art of Problem Solving – AOPS is an extremely rigorous math curriculum and online school.  Their Calculus course covers most of the topics in Calc AB and Calc BC.  By looking at their scope and sequence and the AP Exam, we realized that this course was more than what we needed.  It also taught math in a way that two of my kids respond to.  Connor did very well on his AP Exam after taking this course.

Well Trained Mind Academy – We have taken courses from WTM and they are excellent.  I use much of their materials to design our AP English Lit and Composition Course.  They do have an AP test prep course for Advanced US History.

Homeschool Spanish Academy – Connor went through all 4 levels of HSA and during his Senior year and we debated long and hard whether to have him take the AP Spanish test.  In the end, he just didn’t want to as he was already taking 3, but after having looked at their scope and sequence and talking to his teacher and customer service, I think he could have taken it successfully.  HSA doesn’t claim to prep for the AP, but their curriculum is thorough and rigorous and if your student is interested in the AP Spanish, I would talk to their teacher and see if your student could be prepared to take it. 
Designing Your Own Class –

We have done this several times and while it is the most work on the homeschool teacher’s part, it also gives you the most control over curriculum. The trick to this is to know what’s needed on the AP Exam.  The College Board will have the course descriptions on its website but I find it easier to just get the AP Exam review books from Amazon. I usually get the Review book and then I find the curriculum to fit our needs.

Here’s a few examples – 

AP Psychology – We used Sonlight’s Psychology Course this year and we thought it was good.  I liked how it had a Christian perspective to read right along side the secular textbook.  I think my twins gained a lot from taking this course besides being able to take the AP.  They learned more about people.  They learned about brain function, personalities, and a basic understanding of mental diseases.  I have found my twins using this information in their daily lives in an effort to better understand the people and situations in their life which I think has been well worth it.

AP English Lit. – For both Connor and the twins, we have used a combination of Sonlight’s British Literature and Well Trained Mind Press’ Writing With Skill 3, to put together an AP English Lit class.  This one requires me to look through the review book carefully to make sure we cover everything but I really like both of these curriculum’s so it is worth the extra work to me.  I am still trying to teach my kids what they need to learn and not just teach to a test which is why  I often choose a curriculum or program that I love and then use an AP Review book to cover all the bases.

AP Biology/Chemistry/Physics – I like to design my kids AP Science courses as I still want my kids to learn from a distinctly Biblical Worldview alongside the AP Science.  For these my kids do both the basic and advanced Apologia books (for example Biology and Advanced Biology) and then have them do a secular AP book/program alongside.  We are using Thinkwell to go alongside Advanced Biology for Caileigh and Advanced Chemistry for Collin. Connor used MIT’s OpenCourseware alongside Advanced Physics in his senior year. 

Regardless of what you choose to use for APs make sure your child has ample time to get through ALL the material and then review, review, review! We like Varsity Tutor’s online practice tests.  They are free and immediately show your kids where they need to study more. 

Finding a School to take the Exam –

The AP tests are given the first two weeks in May but you will need to find a school that will allow your student to take the test.  You should start this process in January. I call all the high schools in our school district starting in January to find a school and get my kids signed up.  I found it easier to just skip calling the College Board and just call the schools directly.  The fee may vary but they are usually around $100. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Read Alouds

 

Lately I have been reading much of C.S. Lewis. I just finished “Surprised by Joy” which is an account of Lewis’ early life and his conversion to Christianity. One paragraph particularly caught my attention:

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading Mac Donald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere- ” Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, ” fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

As parents we must also be unscrupulous in managing what goes into our children . We need to make sure and provide them with books and thoughts that lead them to God. We never know what will grab our children’s attention and may be used later for God’s pleasure. In Psalms it says “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” We must be sure to help our children hide the word of God in their heart but also provide them with other materials that peak their interest towards God.

I personally think we should be reading a great book or a fun book to our kids all the time.  Even in summer, holidays or vacations, having a good book to read aloud or a good audio book to listen to encourages our children to have a love of reading but also to teach them think bigger thoughts, to have a bigger worldview and to teach them important life lessons.  The great thing about read alouds is that you can read chapter books to kids who can’t even read yet.  We started all of ours with shorter chapter books by age 3.

Links to some of my favorite books to read aloud –

Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny – for a younger crowd.  We read and loved this book.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Treasury – Great summer reading.  A chapter is a full story so it keeps littles attention.  We found this a great, funny intro into talking to our kids about behavior and consequences of behavior.  The consequences of bad behavior are a little magical and very far fetched but great fun.

 

Chronicles of Narnia – If you haven’t read these book outloud ( even if kids have read them themselves), then you have missed out on some really meaningful discussion.  We went through them one summer with this family discussion guide,  Roar, and really had some amazing family talks.

The Princess and the Goblin and Princess and Curdie – George MacDonald is one of my favorite authors.  I don’t always understand his books and have to reread but these books are written for children.  They are a little intense, but so full of wisdom that we have read, and reread them.

At the Back of the North Wind Audio Drama – I love the Audio Drama from Focus on the Family.  We have listened to this on several road trips and it has led to wonderful talks with my kids.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkein wrote this as a read aloud for his kids and it is so much better read aloud or listened to on an Audio Book.  For my 5th grade and up kids, we read this and used the Progeny Press Lit Guide for an added level of understanding.

The Lord of the Rings – We read this outloud the first time and it completely had my kids engaged.  These are also great to use a Literature Guide.

Honey for a Child’s Heart – This is a book of book lists.  One of my favorite things ever.  I will caution you not to just hand a child any book without pre-reading.  The great things about read alouds is that you can stop and have a discussion of anything you need to with a read aloud.  You can also change words, soften a sentence or skip anything you feel is inappropriate.  I did this a lot.  This allowed me to read great books to my kids without some of the downsides.

Honey for a Teen’s Heart – While we don’t do read alouds as often now, I try to do several a year just as a connection point with my teenagers.  Again, this often provides a great opportunity for discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories:

Looking Back



We have finished the twins Sophmore year.  I am both glad and sad.  I have two more years of homeschooling and then I am done. This thought makes me very contemplative.  This homeschooling adventure that we started with trepidation and anxiety has been the best thing we could have done for our family.  It’s not always been easy and we certainly haven’t done everything right, but it’s been so worth it. 

Things that we could have done better in our homeschooling journey –

1.  Too much book/workbook academics and not enough learning through play.  I learned this lesson later with Connor so the twins had a much more fun and enjoyable beginning.  I had to learn that more isn’t better, it is just more.  I think we can teach through play in those young years and it teaches  much more effectively than a formal curriculum in those early years.

2.  Don’t compare.  Shakespeare says, ” Comparisons are odious” and I think it is true.  I can’t compare kid against kid or my homeschool against someone else’s.

3.  Slowly ramp up academics in late elementary.  Poor Connor had a REALLY hard transition to middle school because I moved from elementary to middle school in one giant leap.  A more gradual transition into independence and starting to ramp up academics in 5th and 6th grade has been far more successful for the twins.  We did the same for high school for the twins.  It has been a much smoother transition and we have been able to move into more advanced subjects earlier.

4. Grades do not define my children.  Scores on Standardized tests do not and should not define who my children are.  A low test score does not mean that they are not intelligent.  It does not show who they are and what they are worth. I learned this the hard way with Caileigh, and spent several years showing her that I could see her for who she is and not for how she did in school.  Caileigh really began to shine academically in Middle School and I had to learn not let her scores define her worth or my job as her teacher in her earlier years.

5.  It is not about me.  Oh, how I have struggled with this one.  What my children achieve or do not achieve is not about me.  Their personal style is not a reflection of me.  Their bad choices are not about me.  Once I could stop making it about me and taking it as a personal insult, I became a much more effective teacher and a better Mom.  I stay so much calmer and our home is far more peaceful once God broke my pride in this.

What we have done right –

1.  Insist that our children be friends.  In our home, if you are not kind to your siblings then you will lose the privilege of being with friends.  If we could not be loving to our family, then how could we be loving to others?  We practice kindness, service, courtesy in our home, first.  If you cannot practice those traits at home, then you lose the privilege in practicing them elsewhere.  Having a family learning model in school also helped immensely in this.  When you are all studying the same things in Bible and at least History, you create a commonality that allows your children to have things to play and chat about.

2. Insist that we do our school work with excellence and diligence. Not with perfection, but with excellence.  Sloppiness is not okay.  If we did something wrong, that’s fine, but we keep doing it until we get it right.  We do not move on until we have gotten the concept.  If we got a math problem wrong, we correct it and then move on.  We also persevere until we get it right.  We don’t give up, we don’t give in, we don’t fall apart.  We stop and look at it another way.  We research the problem, do whatever we need to do until we have figured it out.

3.  We have fun.  I learned this late but when I understood how powerful this way, I thoroughly embraced it.  Can we learn the same thing with a board game instead of a workbook? Don’t just read about the food they ate, make it.  Make it fun and interesting and they will want to learn more.  Get Dad involved in this.  Scott is far better at this than I am, so I buy the game and he plays it.  Getting Dad involved in doing Science or building the castle or doing the feast makes it so much more fun and memorable.

4.  Give them time to develop their passions and then do whatever you can to support it.  I am the ultimate overachiever but one of the things we did do, was allow our children time.  Unscheduled free time while severely limiting screen time helped them develop interests and passions.  Have a kid interested in gardening?  Get them books, buy a small greenhouse, let them build a working aquaponics.  Don’t let them be afraid of failure and just try.  That’s how Connor got to speak in Barcelona, and again at MIT this summer.  We scheduled time for him to find his passion and then we helped him to relentlessly pursue it.  We have begun to buy fun physics books for Collin and Caileigh spends much of her time working outside with her garden and aquaponics system.

5.  Make God an integrated part of our home and school.  I have loved our curriculum which integrates Bible into all of our studies.  My kids learned to read by reading their own beginner  Bible.  The first coherent sentences they wrote were summaries of Bible stories.  They learned the names of Jesus and did science based on those names.  The more they understood the science the more they understood why Jesus was named that.  They learned that the Bible was history as well as the Word of God. Bible isn’t a subject but woven through out day and life.


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These are a Few of my Favorite Summer Things…

School is about to be done, (woohoo, can’t wait for the pool to open) but to keep the kids learning something and to keep at least a semblance of a schedule, I always have math, reading and some language arts activities to be done 2-3 times a week as well as some fun boredom busters on hand.

For all ages

I like to have good books to read for the summer and there are a couple of resources I like to use. I usually read every book before I give it to my kids so I can know what my kids are reading.  My family likes Fantasy and Science Fiction so, again, I would recommend you read any books before handing it to your kids.  We also do many books as read-alouds so I can monitor and teach my kids about discernment and worldview.

I like Honey for a Child’s Heart. It is a great book of lists.  We have enjoyed the majority of books listed but there have been a few that I am glad I pre-read before I handed them to the kids.

I also like to get Sonlight Summer Readers.

For those who use My Father’s World, in the back of the manual from Adventures through 1850 to Modern Times, is a General Reading List of great, classic books by grade level.  My kids chose one of those books every two weeks or so and then put their initials by them when they finished.  All of them finished the entire list by High School and had a wonderful classic book list to their credit.

Jim Weiss Audio Stories – Nothing is better on a road trip than Jim Weiss stories or to give the kids something worthwhile to listen to during your daily afternoon quiet time.  (In my house, everyone, regardless of age, have quiet time.  It helps me maintain sanity) We also enjoy the Story of the World Audio Books and have used them as review over the summer or on long road trips. Jim Weiss Audio Stories

For preschool and younger elementary students

Summer is a great time to work on basic manners and I used  A Little Book of Manners for Boys and A Little Book of Manners for Girls.  We would read through a small section every day and then practice them while play acting a scenario and then try to work through them throughout the day.

I always like to have more “fun” math for summer and with younger kids, we enjoyed Mathtacular by Sonlight.  Although I have never had my kids use them, we love the older Life of Fred Books so I would recommend the younger Life of Fred books.  They start with Apples.

Lots and lots of arts and crafts that can be done outside.  Play-Doh, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, sidewalk paint etc.  I make a bin of outside crafts and activities that can be easily accessed.

Elementary kids

I have somewhat odd children who get very excited to have a workbook to fill in.  I think it’s because we don’t do workbook style learning in our school year so they enjoy them for summer.  The Critical Thinking Company has a ton of great workbooks.  We like their logic and Editor in Chief series’.  They are an easy way to keep the kids from regressing during summer without a lot if work on my part.  My kids actually liked the books better than the software programs.

Mathtacular, Multiplication.com, Life of Fred, Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy (for mathy kids) and Khan Academy are fantastic math programs that we have used over the summer to keep our kids occupied and their skills sharp.

One summer, I bought a huge cardboard castle to color and it not only kept my kids very busy, it kept my best friends kids busy.  So 7 kids were happy and busy for several hours a day for at least two weeks.  If it was nice, they played on the patio but when it was yucky, they played on the wood floor.  For hours, for days, 7 kids were happy and busy.  Well worth the initial outlay.

I like to have my kids do a Bible Study during the summer and we really like the Kids Inductive Bible Studies.  I usually start with the one about How to Study Your Bible but then let them choose what they are interested in after that.

Older Kids

If you haven’t discovered Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, get it immediately.  Not only did it keep the younger kids busy, it kept the teens, my best friends kids, my cousins graduated kids and the husbands busy for almost the entire summer.  I made a list at the beginning of the summer of the needed supplies for the majority of activities in the book, took a trip to Wal-Mart and placed it all in a plastic container which the kids named, the “Awesome Box”.  They build mini working trebuchets, catapults, bow and arrows out of pencils and pens, awesome rubber band guns, exploding pens, you name it.  I also relegated this work to the patio.

Child Training Part 3 – No Whining and Complaining

No Whining or Complaining



Nothing will make a homeschool day go down more quickly than whining and complaining.  If everytime you pull out a subject your children say, “Mooommm, we don’t want to do math.” or “Mooommmm, we hate history.” then you will probably begin to despise homeschooling.  We don’t want to continually fight or coerce our children into wanting to do school.  We all do things that we don’t want to do.  Think cleaning the toilet or the chore I like the least – folding laundry, it is so pointless.  I know there have been points where we have all needed a refresher in this, including me.  I really do dislike folding laundry and have at times been very whiny, at which point my kids quote this verse to me.


Bible Verse – Phil 2:14 – 15 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky  as you hold firmly to the word of life.”


I modify this verse to “Do everything without whining or complaining so that you may shine like a star in the heavens”.  I have found star stickers and star charts for my younger kids and every time they obeyed or asked for something without whining or complaining then they receive a star.  We have taken our kids out to look at the night sky with blankets and talked about how the stars light  up the night sky and the Bible talks about how we can light up the world around us if we do everything without whining or complaining.


Bible Verse for the second or third day – Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”


The Bible talks a lot about our tones and how we say things.  As an object lesson for my kids, I got some honey out and told them that the Bible says that pleasant words and tones are sweet.  I gave them a demonstration of pleasant words, like “Yes, Mom, I am coming”, or “No, thank you” and then gave them a taste of the honey.  I then pulled out the Apple Cider Vinegar and told them that whining, complaining and arguing are vinegar words and tones and had them take a taste of the vinegar.  I still use this today.  If my kids are using honey words, I will put out the honey and if my kids are using vinegar words or tones I give a warning by pulling both the honey and vinegar and asking which they would rather have.  


To encourage younger children, I used a star chart with stickers for every time they asked for something without whining and when they get to 10, give them a prize.  For extensive whining, that doesn’t break with positive reinforcement,I would pull out the Apple Cider Vinegar and give them a taste.  Remind them that we would rather use pleasant words versus vinegar words.  (If you think I am being mean, check out the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar – it’s really good for the digestion.)

For older kids, especially those who are whining and complaining every time you ask them to do something or you ask them to get our their math, spelling or any subject they dislike, I would use a marble jar for every time they do something without whining or complaining. You could also let them them grab a honey stick or a M&M to give them a treat for obeying right away and saying, “Yes, Mom!”.  For a reminder, I would pull out the Apple Cider Vinegar for every time they whined or complained.



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