Category: Homeschooling

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.





Musings on Testing

****My twins are taking the PSAT this week and I am looking at tips and strategies for them.  It’s only practice for them as they are only Sophmores, but we are starting to look at SAT/ACT/AP Test prep so it’s starting to loom again.  This post helps to remind me that my kids are not defined by a test and neither am I. And while these tests can provide scholarships and college acceptances, God is still in charge and has a plan for my kids lives that aren’t dependent on a test score.  We will teach them, train them and encourage them to do their best but we’ll leave it in God’s capable hands. *****

A Word About Testing

For the umpteenth year, I am sitting in the coffee shop drinking my tea waiting for my kids who are taking the standardized test.  In our state, we have to take tests every other year starting with 3rd grade.  We do testing every year as we want our kids to be comfortable with the process long before it really matters in high school.

When my kids were younger, testing time was incredibly stressful for me.  When they were testing, it felt like I was being tested and I didn’t have any control over the outcome.  I didn’t sleep, I stress ate and I was a general mess.  It felt like my entire worth and job outcome was in the balance.  Now, however, I look forward to it.  I get to sit and drink tea, read a book, and relax.  Yes, relax.  You heard me say it, relax.

I think there were a couple of realizations and events that changed my attitude about testing.

– It’s just a momentary snapshot  in time.
When the twins were in third grade, we got the test prep book, like I do every year, learned how to fill in the bubbles (because we don’t ever do that in our homeschool), got the feel of reading the test book, made sure to read all the directions twice and check every math problem.  The day of the test arrived and I hugged and prayed over my kids and went and proceeded to bite my nails for the next several hours.  When I picked up my kids, they were ready for the after test ice cream and I asked how it went.  Connor and Collin said they the thought they did fine and I asked Caileigh about her math test and she said in her little cute voice, ” It was easy peasy, Mommy!”  We happily went for our ice cream and I impatiently waited for the results.  I got the results back and found that the boys did really well and I was very pleased.  I opened Caileigh’s test and all her LA and reading tests were very high and most of her math tests were great but then there was one at 18%.  18%? How in the world could that happen?  I took a deep breath and called Caileigh.  She bopped down the stairs with a smile on her face and then I asked in a non-smiling, irritated voice, “Caileigh what happened in your test?” Her sweet smile faded and she took a breath and replied, ” I was bored with the test so I filled in the dots to make a pretty flower.”  Horrified, I asked, ” Did you even read the questions?” “No, Mommy, I just made a flower.” “A flower? You made a flower?” Her big brown eyes filled with tears and I was stunned by both the fact my daughter scored a 18% by just filling in the dots and that I had handled this all completely wrong.  I had no words and I sent her to her room. I have had to spend many years undoing the damage I did in that moment.  I had to come to realization that a test is just a small moment in time and the results can be changed by a whim (like making a pretty flower pattern), an upset stomach, a headache or even just uneasiness in the surroundings.  That’s all it is, a moment in time.  It doesn’t really test what they know, it tests how they test and regurgitate information.  It has its place, but very little real weight should be placed on the results.

-A test or a grade doesn’t define who you are.
My best friend tells a fantastic story about her mom and her brother.  When the son was little, he struggled with reading and learning problems and came home with a failing report card.  He was so sad and felt so dumb.  Taking a look at her son’s face, she took the report card and set it on fire out on the grill and looked at her son and told him, “A grade doesn’t define who you are.”  That boy is now a Professor at a University in Arizona.  I love that story, and those words have been what I have used to help undo the damage I did with Caileigh.  I used those words with Connor when he had a panic attack right before the SAT’s because he forgot his Scientific Calculator and we had to rush to get him a new one and it left him so flustered that he bombed the test.  “This does not define who you are. This is a snapshot in time.  You are a beloved child of God who is a genius with Computers, writes amazing piano compositions, a great teacher to underprivileged kids and well loved by your family. Not to mention you can take this test two more times. No sweat.”  Those tests also don’t define who I am as a teacher.  I am a beloved child of God, a well loved wife and mom and a hard working teacher who wants the best for her kids and my kids scores do not define who I am or even a good reflection on he job I am doing with my kids.  They don’t show my kids character, they don’t show what great writers my kids are, they don’t show the diligence my kids have when facing a hard math problem.  They don’t show how well my kids understand the cause and effect of history, or how deeply they understand their reading. They show how well and how quickly they can regurgitate information, just like Google or Siri can.

So why test at all then?

We test every year for several reasons. One, it trains my kids in how to take a test which is an important skill for high school and college.  Two, it gives me a guide in picking curriculum and spotting weaknesses.  If all of my kids were all lower in mental math then I can work on that.  Sometimes, it shows that I need to spend a little more time focusing on punctuation.  We realized with Connor that while he scored really high overall in everything, his pre-algebra  skills were his weakest test.  He passed AP Calc with flying colors but his lowest score was on fractions.  So, we reviewed those before he went to college and have the twins doing more daily review of past topics. I use it as a tool to help me figure out their weak spots.  That’s all they are, a tool.

We have found that having academic goals each year and then working on tracking those goals each year are a much better litmus of how they actually are doing.  It’s also a much better litmus test on how I am doing as a teacher.  Am I meeting their needs, shoring up their weaknesses and helping them soar in their strengths?  Is my relationship with them strong?  Can they take constructive criticism, am I teaching them diligence and perseverance?  Am I helping them to meet their goals?  Am I pointing them back to Christ? All of those questions are a far better test of my teaching ability than whether they picked out all the wrongly spelled words.

How to Stay Sane and Homeschool Too!

Ecc 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Balance – A state of which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

Homeschooling is hard.  It requires us to be even more than a wife and mother, which is hard enough.  It makes demands on our time, our energy, our focus, our social life, our me time and our money.  When we decide to homeschool our children it is like signing a job contract for at least a year, if not the next twelve years.  It is a job, make no mistake about it.  If our children went to a traditional school, they would have teachers whose job is to educate our children.  We would expect them to have our children as their main focus, that our children’s education is that teacher’s main priority.  Those teachers are expected to be on time and ready to work when their students arrive.  We expect them to be prepared, have lessons planned that are interesting, fun and above all, meet the educational goals that we have for our children.  We don’t want them to answer the phone, check their e-mail, post on Facebook or pay attention to anything other than educating our children because that’s their job.  When we decide to homeschool, it is our job, not our only job, but for a certain time of the day, our main one.  We should be able to schedule at least 20 hours a week toward that job.   To do homeschooling successfully, we must have this as our mindset.  However, we also have many other priorities that press in on our time and attention and that’s where it gets tricky.

As homeschooling Moms we have to find balance.   We have to be a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a Sunday School Teacher, a laundress, a maid, a gardener, chauffeur, a chef and if that’s not enough, we also have to be a teacher, a curriculum designer, and a school nurse.  We  pressure ourselves to do all these things well and feel like failures when one of these things fall to the wayside.

Whew, what a load, no wonder we get stressed and feel over worked and meet our husband at the door and tell him that he’s in charge and that we’ll be back when we find our sanity.  I remember in our early years of homeschooling telling  my husband that I was going to go join the circus because it would be less crazy.

My husband has always liked to go to conventions with me and one of his favorite things to do is to pick workshops for me to attend. One particular year ,he picked a session that talked about scheduling.. There was a reason my lovely husband wanted me to go to that particular seminar.  One of my failings is that I consistently think I can do everything and I want to do them all well.  I am a little bit crazy that way. So, I over commit and then I  do everything in my power to make sure I get it all done, often times sacrificing sleep, rest, health, sanity and quality time with my husband.   It had also started negatively affecting my health and it was becoming a real problem. When he saw a session on scheduling, he was determined that this was the session for me.
I am not the most naturally organized person in the world.  I want things to be organized and well planned but I would much rather have someone else do the organizing. I have a tendency to forget things that might not be on my priority list.  You know the unimportant things like fixing dinner  or having the laundry all done before we run out of underwear or his personal pet peeve, not putting lids back on  properly or at all. Details, details.  This is also why my husband or my best friends never give me the movie,or play or museum tickets. I am thinking important things and can not be bothered by where I put the tickets.  Combined with the over-commitment issue, my dear husband had enough so I went to the seminar.

Through the stress I was placing on my family, my  feeling l like I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing and the seminar, I took away several things.  Firstly, I needed a schedule. Secondly, I needed to start treating homeschooling as my job and I needed to dedicate uninterrupted time to my kids but then when that time was up, I needed to move one to my other tasks.  Thirdly, I needed accountability.  I needed people in my life who weren’t afraid to say, “Are you sure you have time for that?”

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan. ” Margaret Thatcher
Make a Schedule
Before you make a schedule, I want to talk briefly about the value of “ish”.  Don’t let the schedule become a tyrant, it is a tool for you to use to meet your goals and only that.  There is no schedule bouncer who is coming for you if you don’t do it exactly.  Give yourself that freedom.  This is a guideline not a mandate.  Depending on your personality, some may have more flexibility than others and there is nothing wrong with that.  Make a plan that you can actually do – not just something that you think you should do.  A plan that you can and will do, not one that if you were your sister’s best friend who always has it together, does.  God made us unique and our schedules will be unique too.  I always think of my schedule having the value of “ish”.  “ At 12 ish I will do this or that. “  My value of ish is 10 – 15 min plus or minus, except hard schedule items like piano lessons or Dr.  appt.  The value of ish applies to my internal, house schedule, not my external house schedule.   I have to do that to out smart my self,  I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, even my schedule so I made it work for me.  You need to make your schedule work for you.  If you are highly unscheduled then start slowly and just have a week where you get up at the same time, the next week add meal times and then add homeschooling.  You can do baby steps if you need to, don’t get hung up on starting everything right away.  If you were planning on running a marathon, you wouldn’t start by running the 26 miles the very first day.  You would maybe run a mile or two and slowly add additional miles as your body became accustomed to it.  (This example is only hypothetical, I would never run a marathon.  That would be crazy talk)  The same thing with a schedule, to make it successful make small goals and as you make them a part of your day and week and new items.

Isaiah 32:8, “But the noble make plans, and by noble deeds they stand.”

The Weekly Schedule-

The first thing to do when making a schedule is to write down all the things you do in a week.  You might write them all down on stickies so you could move them around if you needed while making your schedule.  I just wrote it all down on a piece of paper and then added them to my schedule with a pencil and a really big eraser.

Things to plan Weekly:
School, Lesson Planning, Meal Planning, Laundry, Weekly Cleaning, Daily Cleaning, Date Night, Library Visits, Kid Activities, Church Activities, Grocery Shopping, Yard Work, Cooking, Quiet Time, Exercise, Time for Appts., Bedtime,

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  – Stephen Covey

The school schedule – 

This is the schedule that is posted on the frig and my  kids have had input on this schedule.  It seems like it changes several times during the first couple months of school.  For instance, my oldest came to me and asked if he could start his school day with piano practice.  He felt that the could put more attention to it and do a better job if he did it first.  The twins wanted to do history, science and bible back to back at the beginning of the day because then they could work on their independent work at their own pace and not be waiting on me to finish school.  So I moved my shower time to later in the morning.  If you come to my house before 11, you will find me in my pajamas or work out  clothes with my hair in a pony tail and I may or may not have brushed my teeth.  Be warned.

Daily lessons plans-

I make individual lists for my kids for what they are to do daily or weekly for independent work.  If I have done my lesson planning on Sunday then I have this in a lovely chart by day for the twins because that is all the info they can handle and a weekly chart for my oldest because he likes to do his work in larger chunks.  I like my kids to have a checklist and then we both know what they are supposed to do.  I have them show me their chart and pages done before they are able to have free time. If I haven’t done my lesson planning, which happens more often at the end of the year, then I use sticky notes.  I also know of some who have white board lists everyday and this seems to work.

Adding Activities-
Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
1. Count the Cost in Time and Money
2. When moving or adding activities have a plan for when you will get the original job done.
3. If you struggle with this, have an accountability partner to help you count the cost.

“A system doesn’t necessarily mean rigid structure, but it means setting up organization that works for you.” Sue Shipman
1. Remember to leave room in the schedule for the unknown.
2. Give yourself the freedom to occasionally depart from the schedule
3. Keep the “ish” factor in mind. This schedule is guideline, a tool to be used but not meant to be a dominant tyrant.

Down Time-
Have a time for down time, date time, quiet time and play time.
Down time – make time to sit and be, to go play with the kids to sleep in, to go shopping with a friend.
Date time – this is vitally important to the health of your marriage, your family and your homeschool.  Make a deal with a friend, trade off kids, take a walk, make a quiet dinner for the two of you.   Your marriage must be a priority.
Quiet Time with God – this needs to be in schedule if you are anything like me.  I am more likely to do it if I have planned time for it.

In the end we need to find balance in our lives and schedules.  Yes, homeschooling is important and should be a priority but we cannot let it take over all of our other responsibilities. We must find balance.

Ecc 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Categories: homeschool, preschool, elementary, middle and high school