Mom and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Homeschool Day

It’s one of “those” days. You know the one. The one where it’s only 10am and everyone has been in tears at least once, the science experiment blew-up, math is taking four times as long as it should, when you asked your child write a brief summary of what you just read they look at you like you asked them to pluck out their eyebrows one hair at a time and you, of course, are out of chocolate. Yeah, that day. 

Any Mom that has home schooled for more than a week knows that day. The day when you look longingly at the school bus as it passes your house and you think, “I could put them all on that happy yellow bus and go get a latte, all by myself.” On one of those days several years ago, I met my hard-working husband at the door as he got home and said, “That’s it. I’m out. I started looking at schools today and maybe I can find one that will work…” Wisely, my dear husband gave me a hug, sighed and replied, “ Okay, I’ll take the homeschooling over. What are you going to do to support us?” Wait, what did he just say? He then went on to remind me, “We have goals for our kids and we decided that homeschooling was the best way to meet those goals. If you really can’t handle it, then I guess I’ll have to.” His reaction hit me like a ton of bricks. We had spent time and energy planning goals for our family and our kids. We felt strongly that homeschooling was our best option. Since there was no way I could compete with his software industry salary, nor did I want to, I had to figure out how to make those horrible days have minimal and short-term impact.
1. Have written goals and display them.
The first thing I figured out was to write down our goals and the reasons that we home school and prominently display them in our home. For years, our goals were on the side of the fridge where I would see them daily. One of my friends placed their goals on the inside of the pantry door. I needed to remember that homeschooling was not a spur of the moment decision and that there was a purpose and reason to all of this. When I focus on why we home school, I am able to see the big picture and stay calm and think through the emotions on those bad days.
2. “Can I fry you an egg?”
When I was growing up, my Dad would offer to “fry us an egg” when life seemed too hard or our emotions were getting ahead of us. He was a short order cook in his teens and apparently never got past that “feed people” gene. My mother-in-law asks if she can make a cup of tea when those around her are stressed. Either way, egg or tea, the intent is the same. Sometimes, we all may be cranky because of a physical need and we just need to take a break. When I find myself getting stressed or my kids are starting to fall apart, one of the first things the kids and I do is to take a break; have a snack, take a walk or sometimes if it’s absolutely necessary, take a nap. When my oldest son is struggling with a concept he’ll ask if he can take a jog to clear his head. My daughter usually needs a snack and her twin brother finds relief in kicking a ball around the yard. These can be day savers, costing only a few minutes with long-term benefits.  
3. Come at the Problem Another Way
There are times when I am teaching a new concept and no matter what I say, the kids just don’t seem to get it. Clearly, I seem to be speaking a different language. When that happens, I usually run to that old favorite: hands-on activities. I look around my house quickly to see if there is something I can use to make this concept more tangible. I recently explained a geometry concept to my high school son using pre-school toys. He was horrified when I pulled out the pre-school box but he got the concept! If I absolutely cannot figure out how to explain a concept, I send them for a snack and jump on the internet. A quick search can almost always help me find another way to explain a concept.
4. Know What You Absolutely Have to Have Done that Day
When everything fails, when you and the kids have had a snack, taken a walk, marched to the Nutcracker Suite, and nothing seems to be working, know what your absolutes are for that day. I make a mental note of our absolute, must get done items. When one of “those” days hits, and I know that it will, I minimize our workload and try to hit the “musts”. We do math and language arts almost year round so I know that we are generally fine on those subjects. I’ll have the kids watch a math video or play a math game instead of hammering out the entire lesson. Instead of having my kids write a full summary of our history, I’ll just have them tell me the most important point. To compensate, I’ll read an extra chapter of our read aloud to make time for the harder things we missed today and need to do tomorrow. We address the absolutes and call it a day. I do try and keep a note of how often we do this so that we don’t get behind. This option should be only used in extreme cases when nothing else works!
Every homeschooler has rough days. They are normal; not fun, but normal. Homeschooling can take a lot of personal energy and patience but the rewards are great and well worth the occasional bad day. We need to be realistic and pro-active in knowing how to handle these days. When we set up a plan of action, we can rescue our home school from the terrible, horrible, no good day.

Going to a Homeschool Convention?

I am going to tell you that if you don’t regularly go to a convention, you should.  Think of it as in-service training.  Actually, at a convention I spoke at last weekend, I had to sign papers for people who came to my sessions so that they got credit for on going training. I thought that was a brilliant idea and I think we need to consider the convention in that same light – on going training! Convention is your time to ask questions, pick people’s brains, get your hands on that cool, new curriculum and get inspired.   You also never know what conversations with a  perfect stranger in some  booth will change your life or your children’s life.  It is important.  In the words of Shakespeare, ” Get thee to a convention!” Okay, lecture over.

For all of you home schooling Moms, you know what’s coming? Convention season. 

For some of us, it’s an exciting thought, for others it’s a dreaded thought. I think we, as home school parents, should go to the convention every year, whether we like it or not. Why? Because it helps us to be better educated and if we don’t need the education surely some newbie does and they could use a veteran’s advice.

I happen to love convention season. I love going to conventions whether I am working the convention or attending the convention. I love all the books, all the new curriculums and the science kits, oh and the history add-ons and did I mention the books. (Seriously, where else can you buy owl pellets, a how-to knit book, a Bible and Historical comparison timeline, an Adventures in Odyssey CD, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet? That’s awesome – I’m just sayin’) I love that I could learn about how to teach reading and how to teach Calculus within a two hour time span. I love all the possibilities. It just makes me happy.

I am aware that the convention can also be an overwhelming, scary place full of too many options. So I have decided to give to you my list of convention prep. I have been going to conventions since I was 15. For those of you counting, that’s a long, long, LONG time. First as a student and now as a Mom, so I have some well used practical hints.

1. Make time with your husband to pray and write out your goals for your home school and your kids. Bring these goals with you to the convention to help you narrow down the choices.  This is a vital step in deciding to homeschool, picking curriculum and being deliberate in parenting and educating your children.

2. Read Debra Bell’s “The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling” before you go. It will help you get an understanding of the types of curriculum out there. Veterens and speakers will toss arounds words like, “classical, Charlotte Mason, literature based, unit studies and lap books” and it will give you some understanding of what in the world they are talking about.

3. Go with a friend who has been homeschooling longer than you. Bring your husband. Pay a babysitter, bribe your mother or do whatever you need to do to have your husband come with you. My husband is a life saver at the convention. He sees the bigger picture and helps me to pick curriculum that meets our goals and he carries all the heavy stuff. I love that.

4. Make a list before you go of what you need. Don’t go in blind, do the research, visit web-sites, message boards, e-mail me, talk to the lady at church that home schools to figure out what you need.

5. Make a budget – be realistic. I spend at least $1000 a year total on all three kids curriculum although with high school looming that number is about to jump, I fear. That $1000 looks a lot but check out what a private school costs. Some people do it with less, some more. I buy what we think is best for our kids. Sometimes that’s the most expensive curriculum, sometimes it’s not. Keep your husband out of your budget money. We have more books on the Roman Empire than I know what to do with.  As an update, with kids in online classes for high school and the cost of high school subjects, I spend closer to $1750 per child in high school.

6. Plan to go for more than one day. I find I need the first day for looking around and the second or third day for buying.

7. Our cardinal rule – NEVER BUY MAJOR CURRICULUM ON THE FIRST DAY. No matter what that amazing speaker says, go home( or the hotel room) think about it, talk to your husband, look at your goals and sleep on it. This has saved me a world of trouble. I can’t count the number of times I have changed my mind after some thought and prayer and sleep. Trust me.

8. Wear really comfortable shoes and bring a sweater, notebook , pens, caffeine and chocolate. You can thank me later.

9. Plan time to shop. It’s tempting to go to all the speakers but you need time to get hands-on with the curriculum. Ask questions of the vendors. Ask the vendors if their curriculum fits your goals. ( I love doing this – it saves me so much time) Don’t be afraid to spend major time at a booth, especially if it’s going to be your main curriculum ( think MFW, Sonlight, TOG etc). Ask me how much time I spent at the MFW booth before we decided it was the “one”. David Hazell knew me by name and sight while choosing Kindergarten. It’s also okay to just say that you need time with the Teacher’s Manual looking at the curriculum. Do what you need to do. I always sit at the back toward the end of a row because if a speaker is not talking about things I need to hear, I leave.  As a speaker myself, I don’t find this rude, you are there to learn about how to homeschool your children and your time is valuable. (Okay, I was thrown off when my name was announced and half the room left.  Usually, I don’t offend people quite that fast.  Later I found out that they moved the Susan Wise Bauer talk from that room.  I would leave my own talk to hear SWB speak so that seemed fair.) 

10. Buy fun things to bring home to your kids. Buy a bonnet, a rubber Bowie knife, a game, a new Adventure in Odyssey and a new book to read. They will think conventions are great.

If you are not a home schooler and you just want great, God honoring books, CD’s, games, devotionals, parenting books, how-to’s on grinding your own wheat, whatever, the home school convention is a great place to go as well.
Hope this helps and hope to see you there!

In February of 2017, I am going to the Fort Worth Great Homeschool Convention and am planning a get together on Friday, the 24th from 2:00-4:00. If you want more info, leave a comment on the Shining Examples FB page and I will keep you updated. 

Musings on Homeschooling in High School

This is a great blog on what college professors really think of homeschool students.  It’s overwhelmingly positive.  Homeschooled graduates are highly sought out and are valued students.  Read this, it’s pretty great.

In our experience, these are pretty right on.  Connor has had a ton of success in college and has had several positive comments about him as a student and positive comments about homeschoolers in general. This surprised me a bit as he is in a large Secular University. 

I have several random try thoughts about homeschooling in high school and I thought I would share while I am waiting in the Ortho office for the twins.

1. Everyone worries about whether their kids are going to be prepared for college, even parents whose kids are more traditionally schooled. After church each Sunday we generally join 3-5 other families for lunch. The majority are traditionally schooled and are in elite and rigorous IB/AP/Honors programs  in highly rated private and public schools in our area. None of these kids or parents are slouches.  The majority of the parents have multiple degrees and are highly educated. However, a vast majority of our lunch conversations are centered around whether their kids are being prepared for college.  We also have a lot of conversations about how to help our kids when they are struggling or stuck on a problem.  To my surprise, I have the most resources.  I have three or four online resources like Khan Academy, MIT’s Open Courseware, Code Academy, and Crash Course to send my kids to when they are stuck.  Our curriculum is also designed to have more helps.  As a matter fact, I have shared many  of our homeschooling books to help the traditional students understand some of their AP/IB classes. Homeschooling allows me to help my kids learn how to learn. The rest of the parents are concerned and worried about the same things we are but they have no real control over their children’s learning. 

2.  Set a Schedule and have firm deadlines. Seriously, this is vitally important.  If your high school kids don’t get their work done, they don’t get to do anything else. No screen time, no extracurriculars, no sports – nothing.  If their paper has a due date on Friday, and it is turned in on Saturday then the paper should be graded an entire letter grade lower and again, there should be no extracurriculars until all their work is done. This is life training, a college or a job will not put up with pushing deadlines back. In my opinion, this is an absolute. No ifs, ands, or buts.  It might be ugly and your kids might not like it but it’s so important. Stick to your guns and be consistent. 

3. It’s good if your children are stretched academically. High School should be hard, it should be rigorous.  If your child is absolutely drowning then by all means change it, but if it just stretching them and they have to put more effort than normal into it, that’s a good thing. Don’t save them unless they really need it.

4. Teach them how to take notes. I love the Writing With Skill series for use in Middle and High School for this very reason. It teaches how to outline and how to take notes and summarize in Literature, Science and History.  Having kids do narrations and summaries in the younger years have given mine the ability to take notes from a lecture.  They have been doing it since they were little. If your child is in middle school or high school and haven’t done narrations or dictation, then find a language arts curriculum that teaches this.

5. Letting them follow their passions. I talk about this a lot, high school is where they should start following these. However, I want to mention that a student’s schoolwork should always be put first.  School should always be the priority.

Community vs Solicization 

Bringing meals to families at Christmas
Volunteering at FLL State
Robotics season is about to begin so my nights waiting in tea/coffee shops begin. The twins have their permits but have another 8 months until they can get their drivers license so I am still their chauffeur. Due to the time spent drinking tea and waiting in coffee/tea shops, blogs may get written.  I have had notes on several different posts for a couple of months now but haven’t had the time to slow down and write them.  Now I might.

I have been ruminating and pondering about this topic for awhile.  As a mom and particularly as a Homeschool Mom we often wonder if we are doing “enough” to socialize our kids.  Lately, I have been thinking that socializing our kids isn’t what we should be focusing our outside activities on.  I think, instead, we should be building communities for our kids and our family.

Just look at the definitions of the two-

Community – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.


Socialization- a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to ones social position.

A child should be socialized at home.  They should be taught social norms, appropriate behavior and especially acquiring a personal identity with a family who loves them not with a peer group who are also struggling to learn what is appropriate.  Socialization is best taught by those who already know appropriate and acceptable social behavior.  Generally, when kids get together the last thing they do is teach each other appropriate social behavior.  My kids learned how to scream, “mine!”, at the swimming pool, how to bite at the park and how to tell Mom, “No! I don’t want to!” at soccer.  None of which is socially appropriate behavior and they had to be retrained in acceptable social skills.

We should, however, be building a community for our kids.  Communities are important, they are vital, they are who we do life with. We should always start by building a faith community for our kids.  It should include kids their age but also kids of all ages as well as as older and wiser adults.  When Connor was 10 we realized that while we had a church we loved, with people we loved, it had no community for Connor.    We left that church because we knew it was  time to build a community for our kids.  After making sure the churches we were looking at were Biblically sound, our number one priority was to find a church that made families and kids a priority.  We looked and evaluated children’s programs, Bible Bowl vs Awana’s,  researched the children’s curriculum, and asked if there were any other homeschool families.  After a ton of prayer, and a lot of research we visited one church and fell in love.  We were purposeful in looking and searching for a community of faith for our kids.  We are still purposeful in building that community.  It didn’t fall in our lap, we didn’t stumble into it, and it took several years but God was faithful and we have a community of faith for our kids. We are purposeful in going out to lunch with ‘our people’ every Sunday after church along with inviting new families fairly regularly. We have homeschool families, public school families and private school families, but all of us love Jesus, have similar parenting philosophies (partly because we have all taken the same parenting and faith path classes our church offers) and believe that building community is important. We do game nights, parties, trips and lots of meals together.  I also host a weekly co-op at our home which has had several families involved through out the years.  Our kids serve, play  and even teach younger children together and they have a community that they support and are supported by.

Kids also need communities that are based on their passions and interests.  In a perfect world, these communities would overlap with their community of faith.  My oldest had an online community of friends based on his interest in Scratch.  We were purposeful in meeting the mentors of that group (as a matter of fact, we had his main mentor, a Professor from Berkeley spend a week at our home), taking Connor to meet them in person and watching and monitoring that group daily.  I didn’t understand the majority of what was said as it was mostly computer jargon, but I knew it was a safe and healthy place for him.  All of the adults involved also knew either myself or my husband.  The twins main community outside of their faith community, is their Robotics community.  They are part of a great team that meets through out the year, mandates that they do at least 30 hours of community service, has team building activities (oh and builds really amazing Robots that are very competitive) and they learn amazing skills that will help them in the future.  I think the key to having a healthy, safe community of interest for your kids is for parents to be involved.  I know that can be hard and time consuming, but it’s vital to protect our kids and to make a healthy, encouraging community.  I go to all the competitions, I make sure to volunteer often, meet the adults involved, and generally make myself known. If I can’t make it, my husband does.  We helped coach three First Lego League teams from Up a Creek alongside the twins to help further that community for our kids.

I think we need to stop looking for opportunities to socialize our kids.  We should be doing that everyday in our homes. “No, son, it’s rude to interrupt.  Let’s try using the interrupt rule.” “No, sweetheart, we don’t take a toy away from others.  You need to say sorry and give it back.”  We need to teach social graces, how to introduce ourselves, how to introduce others, how to answer the phone, the door, how to speak politely, how to eat with proper manners.  These are all best taught by parents not by peers who are also still being trained. We need to be finding and building communities for our children to practice those social skills  with love and grace.  We need to build communities where our kids feel that they belong, that they are challenged and where they will grow.

The next time anyone asks if I am worried about my kids socialization, I think I will tell them, “Social graces and social skills are best taught by adults, not by peers.  We are, however, continually looking for communities for our kids.  Would you like to come for lunch?”




Character AND Academics Matter

*****edited to add that Christmas break is a great time to refocus for the second half of the school year.  I know I am planning and thinking about finishing strong!*****

Homeschooling is difficult.  It is a constant balance of doing the have to and the want to, it is balancing being the Mom and the teacher.  It means we balance several full-time jobs that all require our constant attention and still strive to have a well-ordered, happy home that our hard-working husbands can come home to each night.  It is a constant balancing act of plates that could all drop on our heads at any moment.  I live this constant high wire act every day and I understand the strain but I want to add two more plates to the act.  The balance of character training and that of academic excellence.

Often we hear that we must choose our priority in homeschooling, whether we are going to strive for character developement in our children or that of academic excellence.  I think this is a faulty premise.  Character training and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive.  They are not an either/or propsition, they can be different sides of the same coin – a great homeschool enviornment.

One of the goals in our homeschool has been to train and prepare our children for whatever God has for them.  In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  He has plans for our children and whether they are to be a wife and a mom or a Pastor or a Professor of Mathematics, I want them as prepared as possible to walk the path that God has set them on.  To do that, I believe that we need to focus on character developement, spiritual disciplines and academic excellence.

Perhaps we are simply not asking the right question.  Perhaps the question isn’t whether we should focus on character or academics.  Perhaps we need to simplify the choice by focusing on excellence.  The philosopher Aristotle said this, ” We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.”  Perhaps this is what we need to focus on, striving for  excellence in whatever we do and making it a habit. If we are training our children in character, with patience and diligence, we refuse to accept unkindness or dishonesty.  If we are teaching our children, we refuse to accept a paper that is less than their best.  We need to calmly, lovingly and consistently ask for our child’s best whether we are dealing with sibling rivalry, their bed not made or a math paper that is not done correctly.

Excellence should not be confused perfection.  I love what the actor Micheal J Fox says, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”  We are not asking our children or indeed ourselves to be perfect, we are asking for diligence and the perseverence to strive to do better.  We are not asking a child to get the answer the right the very first time but to promise them that we will keep going until they have it mastered.  We need to promise our children that they are not alone in this process but that we will be there to stand beside them encouraging and mentoring them.

At the beginning of each year, my husband and I set goals for our children in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic.  We recognize that our children need all three areas to be properly prepared to do what God has for them.  They need to know and love God, they need to be able to get to a class on time with all of their books and be able to to have the education they need to succeed.  We want to stand beside them and say, “You have some wonderful gifts that God has given you.  Let’s work on your strengths to make them stronger and strengthen these areas of weakness”.  Let us not limit our children by failing to recognize that we need to ask for excellence in whatever they do, whatever they say and how they act.


The ABCs of Christmas

The ABCs of Christmas
Collin R. Hudson © 2013

A Merry Christmas
Because unto us a
Child is born
Down from Heaven
Even to the Cross
For God so loved the world that He
Gave his only begotten Son
Heaven and Earth rejoice
In one baby
Jesus Christ
Kind and just
Loving and forgiving
Mature and cool-headed
Never doubting God
Over our heads He hung
Promising us a Place in Heaven
Quiet like a lamb to the slaughter
Rising again three days later
Savior and Redeemer
Truly King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Unfathomable love for us
Vile as our sins are
With Him we are cleaned as white as snow
eXpect Him this Christmas season
Ye sinners repent and be
Zealous to share the Good News of Christ!

Sometimes, your children surprise with what they are capable of. Collin wrote this today in his free time and all on his own. It humbles me to watch my kids relationship with God strengthen grow.

*****When our kids were younger, we gave them almost the entire month of Christmas off and we did Unit Studies for Christmas, made cookies and presents and spent a lot of time serving. We really wanted Christmas to bring heart change to our kids and we purposefully made time for that. In high school that amount of time off becomes harder but they still book much of their December schedule with service projects. This poem was written by a 12 year old, Collin, over his Christmas break. It might be a good Christmas writing challenge for elementary and middle school kids or as a family devotion during advent.


The Last Straw 

Several years ago, I bought a book called “A Candle in the Forest” which is a compilation of Christmas stories by Joe Wheeler. One of the stories is called, “The Last Straw” by Paula MacDonald and is about a family whose children can’t stop bickering and fighting. The Mom remembers a tradition her Grandmother told her as a child. Each person in the family writes their name on a piece of paper and then they each draw a name and play “Secret Angel” for a week. Each time someone performs a kindness, like making a bed or does another’s chore secretly, they can place a straw in the nativity to prepare a place for Jesus when he comes on Christmas Eve. Thus, their home is transformed from a place of bickering and anger to a joyous home where each member places each others needs first.

Each year, I read this story out loud and then we draw names each week for several weeks during the Advent season. We have a basket and strips of fleece that can be placed (secretly) in the basket every time we do a kindness for another family member. Then on Christmas Eve, after everyone has gone to bed, Scott and I place a “baby Jesus” in the basket and put the basket under the tree.  Signifying that we are preparing for Jesus’ coming in our hearts and our home.

We have found this to be a great way to prepare our hearts and home for the coming Christmas celebration. It’s one more way to have “J.O.Y”. (Jesus, Others then Yourself)

***Edited later to add: If you have older children “who are getting too smart for their britches” as my Grams says, you might want to state that they are not to purposely try and figure out everyone’s Angel. It does not bring love and harmony to a home – trust me.


Making Christmas Memorable

yum... a log...
Yule Log from our Dickens Christmas Study

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it: the decorations, the baking, the eating, the Christmas choirs, the family meals, the parties, the crafts, wrapping the presents – everything.  It is my favorite time of the year.  I love to spend time doing all of those things but what I treasure most is delving into the spirit and meaning of Christmas with my family.  We love to do service projects, reach out to neighbors and study advent. I really want my kids to carry all of our traditions and memories of our Christmas celebrations into adulthood.

The Christmas season, however, is one of the busiest of all seasons; add homeschooling and you have a recipe for becoming certifiably crazy! Several years ago, after talking it through with my husband, we decided we would take the entire month of December off.  We start school early enough in August to allow us the time to do that while still finishing in mid to late May. I wanted to make sure our days were still somewhat scheduled but I wanted the freedom to really enjoy the season of giving so we decided to do a yearly Christmas Unit Study.  

We use an open and go curriculum that includes Bible, history, science, art and music for the school year.  Using this style of curriculum for the rest of the year allows me the time and energy to plan a great Christmas unit study.  I usually have three main elements to our Christmas Unit Study: Bible, read-alouds and crafts and goodies.

What should our Christmas Unit Study Teach?

I like to plan our unit study to tie into the history timeline we are studying.  For instance, while studying ancient times we do a unit study of Hanukkah to go with our study of Jewish Feasts and Festivals.  When studying Rome, we focus deeply into the events and times surrounding the birth of Christ.  In studying the Renaissance, we like to study the 12 days of Christmas and their meanings.  We once did a great study of Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol” while learning about the 1800 and 1900’s.  For years that we study Geography we learn how other cultures celebrate Christmas.  I find it to be a great addition to our regular studies and the kids look forward to and enjoy our Christmas studies each year.  

There are many topics of Christmas Unit studies that you could do, just look at your current school subjects to find inspiration!  You could find inspiration from a read-aloud such as a “Little House on the Prairie” Christmas study or from your families heritage.  

Bible and Read-Alouds

After I have an idea for the subject matter I start to look for the meat of our study.  What are we going to learn?  I love to look at daily advent studies for kids for our Bible studies. There are many on the market.  Everything from Bible-based ornaments that you hang on the tree to a daily advent story book.   I also have several Christmas story compilations that I choose to read from based on our topic.  You can add a musical element to your unit study by studying and learning traditional Christmas Carols.

Living What You Learn

While I am researching our Bible study, I also try to plan an outreach of some kind.  Going to serve at a feeding center, working at a distribution center for Operation Christmas Child, singing or playing at retirement homes, or looking for someone who has been forgotten and needs to know that Jesus loves them.  I find that our outreach project is what my kids have remembered most and truly expresses the reason for the season.

Crafts and Goodies

This is clearly the easiest to plan.  A quick search on the internet reveals many books on Christmas crafts and goodies.  I narrow the books down based on the topic that we are studying and try to plan two crafts and/or baking activities a week.  While studying Christmas around the world, we made several nativities in the style of different countries.  My favorite had to be the origami nativity, which was very colorful and very different from the nativities that we are accustomed to.

Invite Others

I like to involve and invite others to join us in our craziness.  We invite family, friends and even the neighbors!  Last year, we celebrated a traditional Las Posada and my neighbors agreed to be the “unkind” innkeepers.  Having others involved is, of course, more fun and also has a side benefit of sharing the workload! If you are studying Dickens’ time, have everyone bring a traditional food for the time period and have a potluck.  We have had quite the variety of meals from cookies from around the world, to foods that Jesus might have eaten to traditional Christmas meals from the Renaissance times.  This is also a great way to witness to neighbors and friends in a very nonthreatening manner. We want to teach our kids to reach out to the whole world to and share their faith.

Often times in our busy homeschooling days we forget to take time to enjoy our children and focus on the true significance of the season. If your house is anything like mine, by Christmas we need the break from our normal curricula. A Christmas unit study is a perfect way to learn something in a fun and engaging way. Your kids might not even know they are still home schooling!

Here are a few of my favorite resources depending on topic.  These are affiliate links which help to fund this blog.


Hanukkah – for those using MFW these are great for Creation to the Greeks

Jewish Holidays All Year Round

Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays

The Story of Hanukkah

The Everything Kids Hanukkah

The First Christmas – Great for those who are studying Rome or who want to get back to basics.

Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook Advent

Nativity Coloring Book ( my daughter really liked to have something to color while we read)

Make Your Own Nativity

Hands On Nativity Craft Book

Adventures in Odyssey Follow the Star

Christmas Around the World – for those studying Geography.  This is also the easiest of the Unit Studies to use to involve other families.

Celebrate Christmas Around the World

Christmas Crafts Around the World

Christmas Cookies Around the World

A Dickens Christmas – I have done this several times, when studying this time frame and with older kids.

A Christmas Carol – Great Christmas read aloud with older elementary and up kids.

Progeny Press Study Guide – To make it even better!  A study Guide!

Victorian Christmas Crafts

Victorian Christmas Coloring Book

Here are a few of my very favorite Christmas Books

Family Celebration of Christmas – we have used this since my kids were little.  Make an advent wreath, make the felt tree and you will use them for years.

Best of Christmas in My Heart V 1 – I have read these stories every year since I was single.  They help get me in a Christmas mood.

Christmas in My Heart V2 – Oh and you should have your favorite hot drink and a cookie and have a Mom Time Out with these stories.





Eye Bounce

I wrote this particular blog item several years ago but I wanted to re-visit it as my kids have become older. The eye bounce has been a great tool as my boys, especially, have gotten older. Connor often tells Collin to eye bounce even before I can now. I love that they are watching over each other’s purity, although I wish it wasn’t quite as necessary as it is. We can’t hardly watch a commercial without needing the eye bounce. Anyway, here’s the original blog.

Little eyes sometimes seem to notice everything that you don’t want them to notice. At the mall, they notice the store with scary items in the front window or the store with the beautiful woman posing in underwear. There are so many things these days that are inappropriate for little eyes to see that it gets exhausting having to tell them,” Don’t look at that!”. Isaiah 33 :14 & 15 says,

“He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.”

We need to teach our little ones to shut their eyes from contemplating evil. At this year’s homeschool convention I heard a speaker talk about how she taught her children an “eye bounce”. An eye bounce is simply bouncing your eye from the inappropriate sight to something else, quickly. This is an easy way to teach your kids ( especially useful for boys as they get older) to eye bounce away from things that God doesn’t want in our mind’s eye and our heart. I also taught my children the little song ” Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see, For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.” This helps them to remembe that God does care what they see and what they put into their little innocent hearts.

Use the eye bounce this week as you go to the mall or anywhere in public that you can quietly remind them to “eye bounce” away from things that are not appropriate. Make it a game and have fun with it, just beware of funny looks as your children (if they’re anything like mine) yell “Eye bounce” in chorus.


A Word About Down Time

I am a busy girl.  I like being busy, I like being needed.  I like to be in charge of things.  I like my world to be ordered and I like my house to be clean. I like my kids to be well educated and I like them to be busy with quality programs and purposeful activities.

I like all of those things.  However, I need down time.  I don’t just like it, I need it.  My hardworking husband needs it, my College boy who is maintaining an A average and working for MIT needs it.  My 10th grade twins, who are busy with AP and Honor classes, Bible Bowl and Robotics, need it.  If I am honest, I will also admit that if I don’t plan down time for all of us, it just won’t happen.

I am currently teaching my 4.5 year old niece once a week using My Father’s World Kindergarten.  She wants to learn to read and apparently, Auntie Dawn, is the only who can according to her little self.  We do a modified version of two or three days of K depending on her attention span each week.  We have also been doing all the days of creation and we just got to Day 7, the day of rest. We read, “ By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  Whenever I have have taught this lesson ( and not only have I taught it to my kids but I have used several times for Sunday School),  the kids always seem to wonder if God was so tired after all that work?  Caileigh asked if God needed a nap because he was grumpy after all that work?  (She was clearly remembering  all the times I would ask if she was tired and needed a nap because she was grumpy.) I always say, ” No, God didn’t need a rest.  He was showing us how to live and He knows that we need to rest.”  God patterned a work week for us. Six days of work and one of rest. He created us and knows what is best for us.

When we were doing Creation to the Greeks, the curriculum scheduled us to have a true Sabbath as we study about the Feasts and Festivals of the Jewish Nation.   So we cleaned the house on Friday, made a big meal for Friday night and prepped all the food needed for Saturday.  We had dinner by candlelight and watched as the first star came out.  The next day we ate, played games, took a walk, and watched a movie together.  What a lovely day it was.  We laughed, played and enjoyed each other and I was reminded that God’s Fourth Commandment was to remember the Sabbath.  It is directly between the commandments about our relationship with God and our relationship with man and I think that’s on purpose. When we rest, we have time to focus on God’s blessings but it also allows us focus on our relationships.  Without having to worry about whether the house needs cleaning or the laundry done, we can just focus on our family. We are going to be more patient, loving and kind if we submit to God’s plan for our lives. Note that the Sabbath pattern also plans a time to work hard and then rest.  God knows us and He knows that we are probably not gonna rest if our house is a mess and food needs to be made.  I love that about Him.

If you were sitting with me right now drinking tea ( okay, you can drink whatever you want, I will be drinking a London Fog tea), I know the next thing you would say is, “That sounds wonderful but how in the world am I gonna do that?  Do you know how busy we are?”  Life is busy and homeschooling can be crazy busy but it must be scheduled.  Do I plan this kind of Sabbath every week?  No, I don’t because Soccer and Bible Bowl and Robotics and Driver’s Ed have to happen.  However, I do plan it every month or two.  I take some time and look at our schedule and plan it every month or two.  I put it on the calendar and then I say, “NO!” to anything that pops up after that.  We are busy that weekend, we are resting.  We watch movies, stay in our pj’s, eat fun foods, play games and rest and we are better for it.

Daily rest must also be scheduled.  Quiet time should happen in each and every homeschool home.  It’s important.  Quiet time still happens in our house and I have teenagers.  Whenever we are done with school ( usually 2:30 or 3:00) we usually scatter to read, relax or nap.  By 4:00 we are rested and ready for all of our afternoon and evening commitments.  When mine were little, I mandated a two hour QT.  They could read, listen to books, play quietly with Legos but they must be on their beds in their room, being quiet.  For the first hour, I would clean, do laundry, prep dinner etc and the second hour I would read, watch a show or nap.  Then we would get up, have a snack, watch a Veggie Tales and get on with the rest of our day.

Rest makes our days much calmer and all of us much more patient and loving.