Category: Homeschooling

The Thanksgiving Tree

We started this several years ago  and loved it so much we left it through the holiday season.  During this season, I wanted my kids to focus on our blessings each day.   I wanted us to focus on more of those little blessings that we take for granted.  The blessings that if they were taken away would affect us greatly.  Like quiet moments reading out loud or the blessing of a dog who snuggles on my lap. 

I Thess 5:18 says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It is God’s will that we are to give thanks.  To help remind us, I got window markers and drew a tree without leaves on our sliding glass door and put this verse on it.  Each day we each put one “leaf” on the tree with the thing that we are thankful for.  By the end of the month, the tree is quite full and we can count our blessings one by one.  I can also point a kid to the tree when they are being unthankful or greedy.  It is a great visual reminder of the countless blessing God gives us.  As a bonus, the kids love to draw on the window!

Last winter, I painted our pantry doors with brown chalkboard paint because there’s always room for one more chalkboard. So, for this year’s Thanksgiving Tree, I drew the tree on the pantry doors.  I love it there as it is more prominent and is more of a visual focus in our kitchen and family rooms. I find that when we focus on our blessings, our attitudes are much better and we don’t tend to focus on the annoying or negative aspects of our day. 













Categories:

Practical Meals – Breakfast

We have had three sets of company in the last three weeks as well as a Family Reunion and school is in full swing.  Problematically, the people appear to need to eat, not once, not twice but three times a day!  And since I don’t have a personal chef or a maid or a laundress ( which is what I really want) it falls to me to feed the people.  I don’t mind cooking, actually I rather enjoy it when I have the time.   That’s the problem right there, the time. Time is commodity I don’t have a ton of, so I have had to learn to make meals that are healthy, easy, and can feed a crew.  I thought I might share some of them with you.

Breakfast –

I usually have a large thing of granola made at all times.  My daughter and I use it to make greek yogurt parfaits with lots of fresh fruit, while my sister was here, she ate it as a cereal and my boys eat it as a snack. Dawn’s Granola

Let’s chat a bit about Crockpots.  I have two and I use them ALL the TIME!  I use them for all three meals as well as to make stocks, apple butter, apple sauce, etc.

Here’s my main crockpot.  I got it a couple of years ago and it is a workhorse and also travels well.  I take it to parties and to feed the robotics team.  As a side benefit, it was also pretty inexpensive. Dawn’s Crockpot

I am also looking at getting a pressure cooker like I got my Dad a couple of years ago.  I hear there is tons of new “instant pot” recipes. Pressure Cooker

For breakfast, I have two main crockpot recipes.

In the winter I like Steel Cut Oatmeal and then everyone can doctor their oatmeal to their liking in the morning. I use Alton Brown’s recipe but I don’t add the dried fruit. ( I don’t like dried fruit of any kind, including raisins.  Some think this is a character flaw.) Overnight Oatmeal  I then use any left over oatmeal to put into my homemade bread.  It adds a nice flavor and texture.

We make Hashbrown Casserole for Bible Bowl Nationals but it also works for dinner for the Robotics team.  I get organic frozen hashbrowns and line the bottom of the crockpot ( usually about half a small bag) salt and pepper them and then put a layer of diced green chiles on the potatoes.  Mix up 10-12 eggs with about 1/2 cup of milk, pour it on top of the potatoes.  Then I layer cheese on top and let it cook for 6-8 hours on low.  This can get overcooked. so its important to have a crockpot that will change to warm after a certain amount of time.  Sometimes I serve this on its own but I also serve this with tortillas, salsa, cheese and sour cream.  Any leftovers, I make into breakfast burritos and throw them in the freezer for on the go days. This can also be baked in the oven and is easy to make ahead of time and thrown in the freezer.

Hard Boiled eggs

I usually have hard boiled (or baked) eggs made and ready for easy protein laden snacks or for a quick breakfast.  I bake my eggs and it is so easy to do while I am cleaning the kitchen or if I have the oven already warmed from something else. Baked Eggs Recipe

Mini Egg Frittatas

Here’s another recipe that I may make for a breakfast (or dinner ) and I make extra to freeze for Breakfast sandwiches.  I heat the oven to 350 and spray a 12 muffin pan with olive oil and put maybe a TBSP of kale or spinach in each cup.  I mix up 8-12 eggs, a 1/2 cup of milk and a 1 1/2 cups of cheese and pour it over the veggies.  I bake for about 20 min and then I have beautiful little individual frittatas.  We usually have the first round with fruit and maybe banana bread but then I freeze the individual ones for the kids to make breakfast sandwiches with.  I have frozen turkey sausage patties and either whole wheat bagels or english muffins available.  Healthy, quick and inexpensive!

Baked Oatmeal

Last but not least, Baked Oatmeal.  This is great because you can make it the night before and just throw it in the oven in the morning.  Easy to do with company and it is delicious.  I haven’t met a child or adult that dislikes this recipe.  I like to add fresh blueberries to the top while it is baking but my kids like it without the fruit and served with milk and butter on top.  Sometimes, I make several of these up at a time and buy disposable pans and put them in the freezer for busy weeks or for when we have company. Baked Oatmeal Recipe

 

 

The Best Mission in Life


Several years ago I took a very in depth Bible Study/Class on discipleship.  We read the Bible, we read Bonhoeffer and we even read a book by a Communist detailing how to pursue people to make disciples.  Through the six week class we had to pray and really delve into God’s mission for each of us and to develop into disciple makers.  By the end of the class we were to enter into 2-3 mentor relationships.  At the time all my kids were little and I was struggling with God’s purpose for me.  It seemed like all I did was say, “No” and clean up messes and teach basic reading.  I didn’t feel used for anything important.


Through out the class I still felt less than, as the other members were VP’s of major corporations or Professors at a local University.  I learned something that changed my outlook on life.  God revealed His purpose for me, to make disciples of my three children.  My job was to enter into a teaching and mentor relationship with my three kids and that’s how God was choosing to use me.  My very important job was to prepare them Spiritually, Emotionally and Academically for whatever God would have for them as they leave our home.  I felt appointed by God for this very unique position that only I could do.  It could only be me.  It was up to me to dedicate myself to this task that God gave me.  I wrote out my Mission Statement, my Objectives and Goals and have kept them close to me ever since.  There were days that I longed for a more glamorous task, an easier task, a task that allowed me to hire out the cleaning, the laundry and the whining.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done but it’s also the best.  So Moms who are in the midst of the hard days, let me encourage you to spend some time in prayer, figure out what God is calling you to do, write it out and post it where you can see it, and then put your head down and get it done.    Every day I have to choose again to get out of bed, even when my back is out and it takes my 30 min of Pilates just to be able to leave my room and do what I am called to.  It is hard but it is oh so worth it.  I am grateful for every day I have been able to disciple and teach my kids.  I can see the fruit showing up in the lives of my kids and I know that Jesus gave me the best purpose ever.


Categories:

Homeschooling with Chronic Pain

I woke up in the middle night in pain.  I rolled into a different position and pain shot down from my back into my leg and foot and I thought, “Uh oh, that’s not good.  Tomorrow’s the first day of school. ” I got in a more comfortable position and went back to sleep knowing that it was going to be a harder day.

I have Degenerative Disc Disease, basically arthritis in my back.  I have had two bulging discs, steroid shots, back surgery and seemingly endless physical therapy but at the end of the story it just means that I deal with pain in my back, sciatic nerve down my leg and burning pain and numbness in my foot almost every single day.  Some days are better and some days are worse, that’s just how it is.  I have chronically been in pain since the twins were babies, which means our entire homeschool career, I have dealt with chronic pain.  I am not saying this to gain sympathy as when anyone gives me sympathy, it makes me grumpy.  I would far prefer for everyone to just forget I have pain and just let me deal with it so that no one ever knows. However, I was recently reminded that others may gain hope and benefit from my experience in managing chronic pain and homeschooling successfully for 14+ years.  This much sharing makes me grumpy as I like to pretend that, “I am fine”, which is my standard answer when anyone asks me how I am feeling. I have a fun book all planned out to read just as soon as I finish this post to help me be less grumpy about this much personal sharing.

How I deal with it –

Completely ignore it.  No, that’s neither true or helpful but it’s what I would rather do but here’s what I actually do.

1. Take Care of Myself.- As a Mom this bugs me,  I should take care of everyone else first. However, the truth is that to be able to take care of anyone, I have to take care of myself or I will be laid up in bed or have to have surgery again, none of which I want to do. I had to learn this the hard way.  Spending much of Connor’s K year teaching from bed hammered this point into me.  I must take care of myself to take care of them. So, I get up every morning and I do my Pilates.  Pilates helps me to be able to move and function throughout the day. When my kids were little, they did it with me.  I bought them cheap plastic balls to do the exercise ball with me.  They learned how to do the downward facing dog and stretch their lower back.  They thought it was great fun.  I have 5 videos that I trade-off. I keep my weight down as more weight equals more pressure on my back which is bad.  We pay for massages every month to keep my muscles and nerves from tensing up.  My beloved husband insisted we buy a really good memory foam mattress with a moveable frame.  I can take pressure off my lower back and it feels like heaven.  I also have a set of really great Lazy Boy chairs which I sit in to do school, read, write, type, drink tea etc.  I rest every afternoon and “go flat” for at least 30 min a day.  This is one of the reasons we still have quiet time.

2. Use pain killers sparingly but use them if needed. – I don’t like the feeling of being out of control so I just didn’t take the prescription pain killers.  However, after I got yelled at by my Doctor, my husband and my Mom, as I was actually causing myself more damage by walking weird or making it hard to live with me, I did some research and found pain meds I was okay with. I like arnica pills and arnica creme.  They take away the majority of the pain but don’t make me tired or make feel like I have narcotics in my system.

3.  Give Grace. – I have had to learn that sometimes I might be extra sharp when I am in pain so on those extra hard days, I tell my kids that I am not feeling well and then I give everyone around me an extra measure of grace.  I work hard to stop and think about whether this is really an obedience issue or if I am just extra cranky.  This is when it helps to have the house rules clearly posted.  It also helps to have consequences thought out and posted ahead of time.  When I am in pain, I am more likely to be harsh so consequences thought out ahead time helps me to have a measured response.

4. Lesson plans done ahead of time. – Using an open and go curriculum and having all lesson plans done ahead of time allows us to do school even on bad days.  I can sit in my chair, open up my TM and just jump in. When my kids were young, I had notebooks labeled for each day of their week with their independent work so that they could get to work even if I needed to take a little extra time stretching or soaking my back.  As they got older, I made sure to have daily lessons written out for their independent work.  School is my very first priority and it needs to get done no matter how I feel.  ( Barring trips to the hospital, fevers over 102* or throwing up, we do school.)

5. Scheduled Down Time. – I must schedule down time daily and weekly.  This allows me some wriggle room in our schedule and time to rest.  I have to schedule it or I won’t do it.  I am a completely type A personality so I would rather go, go, go but I just can’t and I need to be wise and know my limitations.

6. Let Others Help or Even Know I am in Pain.-  This goes against everything in me.  “Nope, I am fine” is my mantra but there are a select few that know my ‘pain tells’ that I am mostly comfortable to go to for prayer and for help. They include my husband, my kids, my Mom, and my best friend.  They also have the freedom to tell me to go lay down, ask if I need pain pills, get me a cuppa tea and/or ask me if I need to cancel something on my schedule.  That last one I don’t handle well at all but I work hard to try to be reasonable.

7. Planned Crock Pot or Freezer Meals – My pain level is usually the worst by 3 or 4 so standing up and cooking can be torturous.  Having meals in the freezer or throwing something in the crock pot helps to alleviate that and gives me time to rest before all the evening activities.  When my kids were little I went to one of those places that you put 12 freezer meals together in an afternoon.  It was worth the extra cost for someone else to do the shopping, planning and chopping for dinner as it was way more expensive and less healthy to go out to eat.  I think now they just deliver the meals to you.  Now that my kids are older, I just have them help in the prep or I do it earlier in the day.

8.  Be organized! My cousin has dealt with chronic pain/chronic illness all through her kids growing up years and I learned a valuable lesson from her, organize like mad.  Her meals are planned, her kids schedule is planned and her house management is planned.  Her chore chart is a beautiful thing.  I aspire to be her but since I am not as naturally organized, I have a looser schedule but I have one none the less.  I make sure we straighten up each day, school stuff put away, dishes done, kitchen straightened up, some laundry done and some household chore each day.  My kids know how to do a “15 minute clean up” which is basically when we rush through the house putting everything in its place.  If we do this everyday, the house stays basically tidied.  We do a five days of school in four so that on Fridays, we sleep in, have fun cereals for breakfast, watch some cartoons and then clean the house.  We do bathrooms, dust, vacuum, clean the kitchen, our bedrooms and I have us focus on one room or area each week to go a little deeper.  This schedule also helps as my daughter has to take her very nasty autoimmune drugs on Thursday night and she needs extra sleep the next day. I try to do one extra cleaning thing each weekday so that Friday doesn’t get too long.

9.  Tea.  Having tea helps everything.  Oh, and a good book.  Tea and a good book almost solves everything.  Okay, it might not be tea and a good book for you but having something to reward yourself with helps to get through a tough day.  I shamelessly reward myself with tea and a book when I have done all the things I needed to.

10.  Recognize that Everyone Has Issues – Sometimes it can feel like I am the only one that has to deal with this kind of pain AND homeschool.  Sometimes it just seems like everyone has it easier and does it better but that’s just not true.  Everyone has something.  Paul talks about having a thorn in his side and I just figure this is mine.  I want to give it to God and let it help me be more patient with others as I don’t know what’s going on in their life.  I think God uses it to help me to remember that people are more important than getting things done.  If I just need to sit and have a cup of my tea with my daughter or watch a movie with my husband then maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.  I don’t think I would slow down enough to recognize that my loved ones need me to just be with them otherwise. It helps to give me perspective and patience and empathy.  None of which are natural strong-suits of mine. I am grateful for the learning lessons that it affords me, I am also grateful that this is not my forever body and one day looking down at the water I just spilled and wondering if I could just leave it because bending down might just kill me, will not be an issue.

Stepping on the Moving Sidewalk

*** throwback post*** God continues to amaze us and how He is choosing to use Connor.  This summer, Connor is an intern at the MIT Media Lab in Boston and is doing really well.  

I am really looking forward to doing Experiencing God with the twins. I can already see God’s hand in their lives and I look forward to seeing what He has in store for them.



This past year Connor and I went through “Experiencing God” together.  One of the things that struck Connor and I was the picture that God is always moving, He always has a plan and we need to move to where He is moving.  So often we hear, “Well, you should wait until God shows you where you are to go.” and while that may be true in some cases,  Connor and I were convicted that sometimes we just need to get on God’s moving sidewalk.  God is already moving, He already has a plan and sometimes we just need to start walking in whatever direction God seems to moving towards.  It is far easier to steer someone who is moving than to steer someone who is at a complete stand still.  Since Connor was a baby we have told him Jeremiah 29:11, 
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.””  

And sometimes following God’s plan for our lives require us to make a move trusting that God will stop us or direct us differently if we are going in a way contrary to His plan. 


We have always wanted our kids to be excited and challenged by the plans that God has for them.  We have told them Isaiah 32:8, ” But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.”  We have told them that they can do the hard things, they should strive for the impossible, they can change the world for the better, for God says that all things are possible through him.  We have tried to prepare them spiritually and academically.   We have asked them to be excellent in whatever they do because we want them to be prepared for when God’s plans start moving them.


I always thought this was to prepare them for college and beyond.  You know, for when they aren’t kids.  To properly prepare them for when they are adults.  You know, many years from now.  Not now.  For the future, very distant future.  You know, for when I was ready, umm, I mean when THEY were ready.


Apparently, God had other plans, good plans.


God’s sidewalk started moving for Connor this spring and it was moving fast.  Through out the past 5 or 6 years, we have noticed that one of Connor’s passion has been for programming.  We have done the best we can to help him follow that passion through coaching First Lego League teams to catering his education to buying even his birthday and Christmas presents in mind of his interests.  Connor started learning programming through a program called, Scratch, through MIT.  http://scratch.mit.edu/  Through the years, he has become a Curator, then a BETA tester and has become known to the creators of Scratch.  He met the creators of Scratch this spring in Denver and they gave him a challenge to find a way to use Scratch and SNAP! to control hardware, like the LEGO NXT, WII Remotes, Leap Motion, and others.  Connor managed to do that and was asked to speak at an International Scratch Convention in Barcelona, Spain.  He worked really hard to prepare 4 different talks to Computer Science Educators around the world.  He had some ups and some downs but more than anything he showed who he was and what he was capable of.  

Connor and I talked a lot this spring and summer about choosing to get on God’s moving sidewalk.  We didn’t choose the time frame but we firmly believe that God did.  Connor willingly choose to take the very brave step of following God’s lead and then working very hard to do it well.  


More than anything else, I am so proud that Connor was willing to put himself on the line to do something extraordinary but scary.  To be willing to be open to failure but trusting that God would not let him fall.  To be willing to step on to God’s moving sidewalk even though he didn’t know where it would end.  


I can’t wait to see what God has planned for my boy but in the mean time, I am going to ask him to work hard and achieve more than he thinks he can because who knows what God will ask of him next.


Click to see one of Connor’s Projects
Click to see one of Connor’s presentations.

 Connor at a famous church in Barcelona

Connor in a panel discussion on integrating software and hardware


Connor leading a workshop


Parent Kids Early = Loving the Teen Years

I surprised my wonderful 15-year-old girl today.  She looked at me with shock and a little dismay.  She asked me if she was allowed to do something and I responded with, ” Well, that’s probably not up to me anymore, that’s a decision you should make.  Should you do that?” The first time I said that to Connor he responded to me with, ” I would rather you just tell me what to do.” I laughed and said, ” Yes, that would be easier for you but it is now your job to decide and to step in and follow God.”

Part of the reason my kids are so surprised by my stepping back is that I have been the driving force in their life.  I am an obey the first time, ‘but Mom’ has been banned in our hours for years, be kind or you will answer to me, I don’t threaten, I promise, kinda Mom.  I am not a yeller or a screamer but break the rules and the posted consequences will happen.  Whine and complain and you will have a taste of apple cider vinegar for not using pleasant tones.  Complain about being bored and I will find a toilet for you to clean.  I believe in working hard and then playing hard, but if you forget the work hard part, you will not be playing.  If I say no, I mean no. If I say yes, I will do everything I can to make that happen.  That’s the Mom I decided to be years ago.  We run a tight ship during those young years.

I firmly believe that in those early years, it is our job as parents to make clear rules and follow them.  I believe we should teach our kids the Biblical or moral reason why we do the things we do.  We need to make the Bible the clear answer to why we do the things we do.  We speak kindly and pleasantly because Proverbs says, ” Pleasant words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  We treat others things with respect and even better than we treat our things because the Bible says we are to ” Love your neighbor as yourself”.  We obey right away because it says in Ephesians, ” Obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

We work hard in those young years to hide God’s Word in our heart and we work hard to not merely be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word.

There comes a time, though, when we need to loosen the reigns and start letting our kids lead.  In our house, it seems like it starts happening around 15 or so.  Puberty is mostly over, their hormones start settling down and they start living what they believe. Then it’s my job to back off and let God.  I become an advisor, not the leader.  I am the coach on the sidelines. Will they make mistakes?  Yes.  Will they have some failures?  Absolutely and I think that’s good. It’s hard but it’s good.  I want those first mistakes and failures to happen while they still live under our roof so that we can help them mitigate the consequences and teach them how to get up, shake off the dirt, deal with the hurt and try again.  I also want the chance to be able to see is there are any major gaps in their learning and have time to fix that.

It reminds me a little of how I educate my kids.  When they are in grammar stage ( earliest learning – about 5th), I teach them straight facts, yes and no, make sure they know their math facts, their phonics, know their grammar rules.  In the Logic stage ( Middle School), I start teaching the why’s of all those facts, we start to make connections, they decide what they think about those facts, they start taking baby steps in independence.  In the Rhetoric stage, ( High School and beyond) they take what they know and make it their own.  They not only know what they think about those facts, they have opinions and start sharing those opinions.  They take what they know and start to think about how they want to change the world.  They should be managing their time, their assignments and books.  The early years I have the reigns and the plans but by high school, I need to be letting go and letting them take the lead.  The key to this is to teach and discipline when they are young.

There are a few resources that were helpful to us when our kids were young.  I need to note that I didn’t follow any of these things 100%.  I took everything and tested it against the Word of God. I also took everything and thought about it and tested it against what I knew of my children and their personalities.  Personalities do matter when training your kids.  Our expectations of each of our kids have always been same but not how we get there. Having twins with opposite personalities trained this into us fairly early.

****clicking on the colored links will take you to the Amazon page for that resource.  This helps me to fund this page. Every resource I recommend I have used and I own, in several cases, I own multiple copies.

I Want to Enjoy My Children – I worked through this book when Connor was an infant.  It was the very first parenting book I ever read and it really spoke to me about the parent I wanted to be and the desire I had to enjoy this whole scary parenting thing.

Hints on Child Training – I originally bought this book because the author is the grandfather of Elisabeth Elliott and I loved the story of her life and had read many of her books.  However, once I got into it, I really appreciated his perspective.  One of the things that struck me was how he spoke about the fact that every time you ask your child to be obedient they do have a choice.  They can choose to obey you or they have the choice not to.  I am not taking away their choice, I am just following through on my word.  This thought helped me think through my opinion on Love and Logic parenting.  Some of the wording is a little archaic but it’s worth it.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart – This book really helped me when I was dealing with a very strong-willed girl.  It felt like we butted heads every single day and I was very concerned that I was going to ruin my relationship with my sweet little girl.  The idea that I needed to look at heart training versus behavior modification was life changing.  It helped me to pick my battles and focus on what really mattered.  As a cautionary note, the author promotes the idea that spanking is the only viable discipline technique and it is one I found completely untrue.  Spanking was NOT the most effective technique in our home.

Everyday Talk – This book changed me.  I realized that how I spoke and thought about everyday things affected my kids.  As I am very verbal and my tongue is my biggest sin issue, this book helped me to further tame my tongue and to think about what I said in context of how it might affect my kids.

Creative Correction – This simply was a great book to help me think of ways to provide consequences for my kids.

Spiritual Parenting – I helped teach this book in a parenting class at church this spring and I found that it closely aligns to my own ideas and thoughts in parenting.  It didn’t always give the most practical how to’s to accomplish those ideas but as a foundational philosophy of parenting, I found it pretty right on.

Babywise  – I hesitate to recommend this series of books because I have found far too many parents take the series and use it far too legalistically.  However, this whole series has really practical tips.  Self Control hands?  Genius.  The Umbrella of Obedience?  Really helpful visual tool to help my kids understand that stepping out from our covering and the covering of God’s protection is not in their best interest.  Take the tips and use them but don’t fall into the trap of making this your parenting Bible.  Your only parenting Bible should be the Bible.

 

First Day of School Sanity Savers


There are a couple of things that I have found to make our transition back into the school year easier for all involved.  Including me because I like sleeping in, going to the pool and playing with our friends but alas, responsibility calls.

  1.  Start the school schedule early.  I start easing us back into the school year a couple of weeks early by getting us into our school year sleep schedule.  I have found that the I am, I totally mean the kids, are in a much better frame of mind when the first day of school isn’t also the first day they have had to wake up early all summer.  This makes no one happy.
  2. Clean and prep the house.  Before school starts, I make sure I have a ‘clean slate’ to start the school year.  Bedrooms have been cleaned and gutted, everything is dusted, floors mopped, I have binged and purged in an effort to make school year cleaning easier.  I also usually have one or two bigger projects that I just don’t even attempt in the school year.  This year, I am officially getting rid of the classroom in the basement and making into a guest suite.  A Geek inspired suite that only we true nerds will appreciate but my in-laws will appreciate because they will get their own room and bathroom even if all the geek touches go unnoticed.  (Tardis blue walls, Captain America red curtains etc) Last year, I redid our bedroom and repainted the front room and dining room.
  3. Plan meals.  I like to have a list of meals prepped and ingredients in the pantry and freezer.  If I am really on my game, I will have several meals in the freezer.  I have a great list of about 10 – 15 Crockpot meals that I make sure I have everything for.  I am not someone who likes to list out a meal chart for each day (what if I change my mind, what if I don’t want to eat that?  It’s too confining) but I do have a list of all the meals I have either in the freezer or have the ingredients for.  Apparently, I need to feed the people 3 times a day, 7 days a week, so annoying and having a plan makes that easier.  I also prep breakfast by having a fresh batch of granola, breakfast sandwiches in the freezer and breakfast burritos frozen and available. Lunches are leftovers, sandwiches, veggies and hummus and lots of fruit, it’s an every man for themselves around here but I try to have everything well stocked and ready to go.
  4. Behavior check.  It’s important for everyone to know that there will be no whining or complaining, we obey right away and we are kind in our words and actions.  Start tightening the reigns when you start the sleep schedule, it is not a good plan to start behavior training on the first day of school.  Trust me, been there done that. One year, I started school two days after getting back from England and Scotland after leaving the kids with Grandparents for two weeks.  It was not my best plan.
  5. Start school slowly.  We do math and LA at least 3 days a week during the summer when we are home but once August hits, it will be everyday.  The next week, I will add Science, the week after that, Bible and History, then Foreign Language.  It may take me a month to add it all in but it vastly improves everyones morale if the beginning of the school year doesn’t take us forever.  Easing into it also allows us to slowly finish as well.  It is so great of a boost to know in April that you started finishing books and allows that extra boost to get it all done.  For my high schoolers, I start the most vital subjects first so that if the end of the year gets too crazy I can start drop kicking some of the less important subject.  With World’s for Robotics, Tournaments and Nationals for Bible Bowl, AP Tests as well as ACT and SAT’s, the end of the year can be crazy and if we can have some of the more difficult subjects successfully accomplished, we all win.
  6. Make the first official day of school FUN!  When my kids come down for the first day of school, I have homemade poptarts waiting and a pile of goodies for each kid.  I have each of their favorite candy bars ( which they can eat right away or savor throughout the day – wanna guess which kids does what?), fun pens and pencils, a fun new book to read, a fun t-shirt (we used to tie dye t-shirts but my kids stopped liking that when they were about 10 and 13) and fun bookmarks.  If you have preschoolers and toddlers, make sure they get something new and fun too, a brand new coloring book or activity book with brand new crayons and maybe a new learning toy.  Even our little ones need to know that we do this school thing together, it’s something our whole family does, we learn together.  My husband tries to go into work later so we can take pictures, have breakfast together and then he prays over each of us.  Most years, I make sure the first day of school finishes at lunch time and then we hit the pool.  Make it a day to look forward too, not enter grimly.
  7. Plan a couple of dates.  I know that the beginning of the school is going to be hard, it just is, and it usually takes several week or months to get into the full swing of things and I know that I will need a break.  So, I inform my husband that we will need to go out and in years past, I planned babysitters ahead of time and booked them a month in advance.  I also plan date days with my friends.  I know that I will need time to decompress with my best friend (and now that she’s moving an hour away, I really will have to plan.  Noooooo, don’t leave me!), my Mom for her ever present, “It’s going to be okay and they are really great kids.” and with my sister who will take me to silly movies and make me snort laugh.  I take the lead and ask and plan the dates.  They are vital for my sanity and the children’s well being.

As with everything that’s hard but worth it, a little preparation can go a long way.

Plan Your Work and then Work Your Plan


“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan. ” –  Margaret Thatcher
Every self help guru will tell you that you need to set goals, have a plan and work steadily toward your goals.  Homeschooling is no different.  In fact, what could be more important that training and educating our children?  With something so important we should have a plan and work towards it daily.
Before we started homeschooling we were challenged to have goals for our home and our children and they have helped us stay the course.

Goal planning

“Know where you’re going or you’ll end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra
I’m sure all of us have a saying or two that our parents used on us as kids. You know the one that you can never get out of your head, that if you say it, it immediately brings you back to your childhood. One of the things that I heard often as a child and as a teen was, “Know where you’re going or you’ll end up somewhere else.” I heard this all the time and in so many different situations. I heard it when I left my homework until the last moment or when I forgot to write down my science fair needs on the grocery list and my Mom had to make a special two hour trip. I heard it when I started driving and I needed to merge into the turn lane. “Know where you’re going or you’ll end up somewhere else.” was a refrain that was quickly burned into my brain.

Now, as a parent, those words still haunt me with their truth. It’s now become so much more important that we have a plan, that we are intentional and that we use the time and resources God has given us with our children for a purpose. Proverbs 22:6 says, “ Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of the definitions of training in Websters is , “the act, process, or method of one that trains.” Usually, when one trains there is an end goal in mind and the trainer has a process or methodology for that training. When we are training our kids we should have an end goal in mind and a way to get there. as a homeschooling parent, the lines between educating and parenting are blurred and are often confusing so it is imperative to know what your goals are and stick to them.

“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. Jeremiah 29:11

Having a plan gives a focus for Both Parents and Kids

A focus, or a main puropse, helps us to know what we need to work on. It helps us to be intentional. It helps us to communicate to our children what is important to us and then to be deliberate in teaching and training them to our children.

Having a plan gives us the ability to pick and tailor our curriculum. I find this to be really helpful in helping us narrow down our choices. I bring my goals with us to the convention every year. I ask vendors. “ Will your curriculum help us to achieve these goals?” If the answer is yes, we’ll look further, if not we move on. It also helps us not be swayed by every new thing on the market.

It can help us judge activities based on our goals. My wonderful husband is much better at this than I am. I get excited by the thought of something new and different. I am sure I can fit everything in. I don’t need to sleep. He’ll ask me if this activity helps us meets our goals and more often than not, they don’t, so we refrain from adding it to our schedule which keeps us from being overbooked and me from losing my mind.

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

I want you to start to create some goals.  This is an all play.  I find it much more helpful if I immediately write things down as then I have a beginning and I can refine later.  I would like you to take a moment and pray before you start this process.  God knows what He needs our goals to be and He can guide you through this.  “Commit to the lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3  Proverbs clearly tells us that God wants us to have plans and as a matter of fact, He will also establish those plans.

Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” He is more than happy to give you the wisdom you need to really think though this process, see your family clearly and give you the wisdom to discern  your children’s needs.

Family Purpose

Your Family Purpose should be for the long term. This purpose is for long term whether you are pre-kids, you have a house filled with kids or your kids have grown and you are now and empty nester.  This is a life time goal, it defines what you want to be known for.

Here’s some questions you can ask your family and talk about together as family to help define this..
a. What does God want for us as a family?
b. What do we want to be known for?

Write an overall purpose statement for your family, making sure it reflects the morals and values of your family.
Start with “Our purpose as a family is….” Make your statement as precise and simple as possible.
Example : “Our purpose as a family is to bring glory to God through the love and choices we make as individuals and corporately as a family.”
Take a moment or two for you to jot down some basic ideas that can be refined later.

Objective

Objectives are more detailed than the family purpose statements and speak to the phase of life that you are currently in. For most of that would be the child rearing stage. This is a big picture of how we want our kids to be raised and what we (in a perfect world) would like them to become.  This will take some thinking as we need to imagine our kids graduated, or married and on their own.  We need to imagine what and who we would evision them to be.  I am not talking about careers but the character of our children and what you envision them to stand for.
State in a phrase or sentence an objective in fulfilling your purpose statement. Begin your statement with “to…” and complete your statement in such a way that you would see your purpose statement fulfilled.

Example : “To raise our children to be Godly young men and women filled with integrity and joy, who will be leaders for Christ in their homes, churches and country.”

Some questions to ask yourself are:
a. When my children are going to college what do I want them to be known by?
b. What characteristics are most important for my kids to have when they are grown?
c. Ultimately what kind of people do I want my children to be?
Take a few minutes to answer these questions. You can refine these later but for right now, write down what first comes to your mind.

Goals

Goals are the “how to” to get to our Objective and ultimately our Family Purpose. These can change weekly, monthly or yearly depending on need.

Goals for our Home School Journey

My husband and I started fighting, I mean discussing passionately, our children’s educational options while we were still engaged. We believe in having pointless discussions long before they are necessary.  You should hear us about college options.  Anyway, I had been homeschooled and Scott had been Private Schooled.  Neither of us wanted our kids to be Public Schooled so that atleast narrowed our choices.  Once we had Connor though, the discussions became far more frequent and neither of us were backing down so when Connor was 2, I peruaded Scott to come with me to a convention.   He was bowled over by the curriculum options and by the Science equipment but wasn’t completely convinced.  After the convention, we decided to write down our goals for Connor’s education which would allow us to make a better decision.  In hind’s sight, it was a good thing that we did the work sooooo early as we had twins the next year and lengthy discussions and debates gave way to midnight feedings by both of us and a serious lack of sleep.  God is so smart.

 We have three overriding goals that we made before our children even started school. These can encompass what you want your children taught, how you want them taught and what you want them to know when they leave our home.  We made a list of our highest priorities and refined  them to three.

As an example, our goals are:
Bible integrated curriculum.  We didn’t want the Bible to merely be a subject in the day.  Both Scott and I felt that this was lacking in our education.  We wanted to talk about God in History, in English,  in Science.  We wanted our kids to see how God is involved through out History, how He invites us to join Him and then we wanted them to put it into practice.  He is the Creator and is intimately involved and we want our kids to know that.

We want to teach our kids how to love to learn.  We want them to enjoy the process.  This really was Scott’s heart.  He wanted to make sure that the kids became life long learners and that the best way of teaching that was to make it fun and engaging.  To be excited about learning ourselves and to pass that on through to the kids.  To make it hands on and real.  we consider this one of our saftey nets.  We know our kids will have some gaps, but if we teach them that learning is enjoyable then they will continue to learn their entire lives.

Academically rigorous.  We want our kids prepared for whatever God has for them whether that be a phd in linguistics to translate the Bible or a stay at home Mom. This is really important to both of us but it is where my heart lands.  I want our kids to change the world, to affect the next generation, to be God’s hands and to go go when and where He calls them.  To do that, I believe that they need to be well educated.  I don’t know what God has planned for them but I want them to be able to confidently able to say “yes” to God because they have a firm academic platform under them.  I believe that we can have kids who are Godly and well educated and that is my end goal.

 These goals have steered us through our choice of where to educate our children as well as what to choose to educate them with. We don’t go to a convention or buy curriculum without these firmly in hand.  If a curriculum doesnt meet atleast 2 out of the 3 then we dont buy it.

Carefully consider individual goals for each family member. In the summer before each school year starts my husband and I start thinking about these goals and then make goals in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic and have three goals per area. Before you start thinking that I have this formal process and my husband I go away and have a weekend away to set these, we don’t.  Sure, it would be great, but life happens at the speed of light around here and it usually happens far less formally.  It might happen as we are driving home from dropping the kids off at Bible Bowl or piano or karate or whatever and I say , ” So, honey, it’s that time again.”
“What time?” he asks.
“Time to set new goals for the kids.”, I reply.
“Really?  I thought we just did that?”
“Nope, that was last year.  It’s time again.”
“Okay, let me think about it and I will get back to you.”, He reluctantly says.  “I could have sworn we just talked about it.  Are they picking up their rooms without being told yet?”
“Not by a long shot.” I complain.
“Let’s put that in the list.”  he states.
“Okay, but that’s been on the list since they were 3.”
“Well, hopefully, this year they will finally get it.”
“Can I put you picking up your socks on the list too?” I ask ever so sweetly.
” I thought we were talking about the kids”

We might brainstorm for a day or two and then we will formalize them and type them up.
Example : Here are examples of a past goal list for our oldest son.
Spiritual – self control over his emotions and tongue Gal 5:22-23
Personal – maintain responsibility over belongings (coats, piano bags, sports equipment) Eph 6:1-2
Academic – have multiplication and division tables memorized through 12

Carefully consider these goals and make sure they meet these criteria:
1.Are they biblical?
2.Do I have a verse or moral reason why to support these?
3.Do they fit out purpose as a family?
4.Do they bring glory to God or glory to us?
5. Are they achievable? We don’t want to exasperate our children. (Col. 3:21)

Rewards for Goal
At the beginning of the school year my husband and I set new goals for the kids and then on the first day of school we show them to our kids and allow them to pick one goal per area to work on. I have them write them down and post them in an area where they can been seen regularly. Through out the year we periodically pick new goals to work on as the previous ones are accomplished. When a new goal is accomplished the kids may pick a reward. This may be an ice cream date with Mom or Dad or a trip to the toy store for a new toy (within reason, of course) or to the bookstore to pick a new book out. The reward doesn’t have to be large but it is important to make sure you reward your kids for accomplishing their goals. It will make them want to continue and keep reaching those goals. It makes it fun and exciting to reach our goals.  I know when I complete my goals, I like to get a reward.  When my husband accomplishes his goals at work, then he is rewarded.  Making the goals manageable and attainable and then rewarding our children will help them the rest of their lives in being deliberate. What a gift that will be to our children, to know how to write goals, and to achieve them.  “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Prov. 3:27


Categories:

10 Practical Things Every Homeschooler Should Know

An oldie but goodie… This blog is as useful in my life today as it was when I wrote it years ago.



I have been talking to and seeing on message boards homeschool Moms discouraged about their first weeks of school. The kids are whiny and complaining, no one likes their curriculum and all the Mom is doing is putting out fires, not teaching. This is especially true of new homeschoolers. Where are the idyllic days spent reading with their child or making amazing lapbooks or crafting an amazing project based on what they are reading in history? They have heard about other homeschoolers getting all of this done and more. Why does it seem like it is a constant battle just to get math and Language Arts done? Why don’t the kids seem to be enjoying the great projects that Mom has loving prepared? What has happened to the beautiful lessons plans that Mom has slaved over

Homeschooling is hard.
Don’t worry and take heart. The first weeks of school are always the worst – sometimes even the first two months are bad. It takes everyone awhile to get used to this new regime. For a regime change has occurred especially if the child has previously been in a traditional school setting. Life has changed and there are new rules in place. 


Don’t change curriculum in the first two months for it may be less about curriculum and more about character training. It is more likely to be more about testing Mom than in a bad test score. It may be about seeing if Mom is really serious about this schedule than about whether the new schedule works. It may be about expectations, both Moms and the kids. So don’t jump ship until the seas stop rocking and then you can take a serious look at what’s working and what’s not.
Here are some practical things that I have found to be helpful:
1. There is absolutely no whining or complaining in school. period. Teach your child Phil. 2:14-16. God doesn’t like it ( and neither does Mom) so don’t do it.
2. Have consequences pre-planned for whining and a lack of diligence. If you whine in our house or are not diligent in your work – you get more work but if you are, you get a marble in your jar which at a certain level will reward you with a special treat of some kind. This method works great with older kids, try a treasure box with pre-K – 2nd, filled with cheap little toys. Make sure and find something to reward your child with daily.
3. Have realistic expectations. A child will not sit quietly and let you read to them for hours. I learned this hard way. Let them play quietly with legos or color or draw while you read, it will go better.
4. Start school slowly. Add in the basics the first week, then slowly add in everything else. You will all be happier – trust me.
5. Plan fun things if the kids have been diligent. If the kids work diligently then take them out for an ice cream or better yet wait until Dad is home and give him the good report and then Dad can take them out while you have a bath.
6. Don’t compare your homeschool with someone else’s. Your friend, who homeschools, does not always have her act together either. Her house is not always clean and her husband does not always come home to a well-prepared dinner and her children do not sing like the VonTrapp’s.
7. School time is sacred. Don’t take phone calls, don’t plan Bible studies, don’t answer the door. It’s your number one job for that time period. Limit outside activities during school hours. I don’t do anything in school time, not co-op, not piano not anything. That’s what the afternoon is for.
8. Have an ending time. School ends at this time – no matter what. Pick up where you left off the next day. Do your most important subjects first. I have a four day schedule so that I can use Fridays for pick up subjects.
9. Schedule time for cleaning and laundry and dinner prep. Most of my housework happens on Friday. Look at flylady.net for help in scheduling housework. Check out allrecipes.com for great slow cooker recipes. Dinner is done and you don’t have to worry about it.
10. Make time for yourself and your husband. Schedule dates and keep them. Go out with your girlfriends or even just call them (after school of course). Have a mandated quiet time each afternoon, everybody goes to their room for atleast and hour – including you.
Homeschooling is hard but so is every good thing. Parenting is hard, marriage is hard, being a Christ-follower is hard but they are worth all the pain, sweat and tears I put into them. Homeschooling is the same way. More than worth it. There is nothing that I would rather do then to train and teach my children so that they will be ready for whatever amazing plan God has for them. 

Our High School Homeschool Plan

I am hoping that by this point you have read Why Homeschool High SchoolPassion led High SchoolStructuring High School and Middle School Vision Casting.  Those posts are the philosophy of why we have chosen what we have.  They are also the reason that we have a different high school journey for each of our kids.  We start with what our kids and ourselves think is possible for their future.  We start with the assumption that our kids are going to go to college.  Why?  We believe that our kids should be prepared to go to college because it is much harder to change the assumption from not going to college to going to college mid stream.  I have heard far too many stories of kids who changed their mind in their Junior year and have had to play serious catch up which is very difficult. Even if our kids don’t go to college, they will be very well educated which will hold them in good stead for whatever God has planned for them.  After that assumption,  we start talking details.  What kind of school are they looking at?  What are their passions?  Where do they see themselves in 10 years?

We start with a basic structure with all of ours.  This is the foundation and the absolute credits that have to be completed by our kids to graduate from our homeschool.  These are not state minimums, these are our homeschool minimums based on our kids goals.

I want to give a quick caution, my kids are looking at selective Colleges and Programs and are going for some high level scholarships.  I am not saying that every student should follow this path. I don’t think that would be a good plan at all.  Homeschooling is all about meeting your kids where they are at.  One size does not fit all.

We use My Father’s World for our base curriculum and then we change or modify it as needed.  MFW is a good, solid, college prep curriculum for History, Bible and English.

Bible4 credits  We feel very strongly about MFW’s Bible integration and the Bible scope and sequence.  MFW has students read the entire Old Testament in 9th grade and the entire New Testament in 10th.  They then study Worldview and Apologetics in 11th as they should have the Biblical understanding and foundation from the first two years and then finally, in their Senior year, they learn the 5 habits of a strong faith.  It is well planned out and goes into a lot of depth.  Our kids know their Bible and have a good working knowledge of theology, worldview, and apologetics.

Modifications – We send our kids to Summit Ministries for an intensive two week camp on Worldview and Apologetics.  We sent Connor twice although the second time was much more worthwhile as it was right before he went to a Secular University.  He more than held his own in classes like Astronomy and Psychology and his faith was only strengthened.

History3-4 Credits (including Economics and Government) We like MFW’s base of History and like the way it is integrated into both Bible and that it is Classical in nature and teaches it Chronologically. Connor used MFW’s History pretty much as written and did well and was well prepared for College.  However, we don’t really like Notgrass as a spine and needed to schedule some more time for test prep.

Modifications – I substituted Susan Wise Bauer’s, History of the Ancient World and its Study Guide for the twins instead of Notgrass.  The twins really like History so they liked the more difficult text.  Make no mistake, this was a lot more work for them and for me.  Had I other kids to homeschool, I probably would have just had them do MFW as written.  I also will substitute other texts for World History and then just move to BJU when we hit Exploration and make the class more of a “American History in a World Context” similar to what MFW does in its earlier cycle years.  This gives me some space to schedule some test prep into their Junior year.

I will also probably substitute Sonlight’s Government and Economics program as it contains Thinkwell Economics which will help us prep for the AP Economics Test.

English – 4 Credits We use MFW as the base for our English program.  I love the way it ties Bible, History and English together.  My kids have had some amazing, thought provoking papers because of this integration and I believe that integration produces a lot of critical thinking in my kids.  However, my kids are serious readers and want more to read than what MFW provides and I like mine to take the AP English test their Junior or Senior year and while MFW is college prep, it is not enough for the AP test.

Modifications – We use Susan Wise Bauer’s, Writing With Skill 1, 2, and 3, through Middle School and High School, half a book a year.  I have them do the majority of MFW’s writing projects (because I like the integration) but add in WWS every other week.  We also add more Grammar review with, Easy Grammar or Editor in Chief but sometimes these are only done during the summer as review or skill maintenance.

We also add Sonlight’s reader packages.  We like to read and although there is some overlap for the most part, my kids have enjoyed the extra readers.  This is not necessary and should only be used for serious readers.  Caileigh reads all of the books but neither Connor nor Collin read every one but pick and choose accordingly.

Science – 4 credits – My kids are serious science geeks and are all destined to go into STEM fields so they need 4 years of Science.  We like Apologia for the most part but switched Chemistry to Discovering Design with Chemistry.  It is Jay Wile’s new Chemistry book and has more experiments and I think, better flow than Apologia’s.  All of my kids do at least one AP Science and that depends on passion and likes.  Caileigh is also doing Apologia’s Marine Biology this year because she loves Biology but needs another year of math until she can do AP Biology.

Foreign Language – 4- 5 credits – We have our kids do at least 1 year of Latin for the vocab and for the foreign language foundation.  We then do Spanish with Homeschool Spanish Academy.  We love HSA!  HSA has both one on one classes and semi-private classes.  Students have a Skype class with a native speaker in Guatemala.  Connor did 4 years with the same teacher and learned how to speak, read and write in Spanish.  He also formed a great relationship with his teacher which also helped with outside recommendations for both scholarships and college.  HSA is accredited and has its own rigorous curriculum so you won’t need to get any other materials.  It’s also nice to have a subject that I don’t have to be involved with at all.  They even provide an online report card which is great.

Math – 4 credits – As my kids are looking into STEM careers, they need 4 years of math which should go through Calculus.  I have 3 different kinds of math kids.  Connor basically reads it and understands it but cant be bothered with the little details like, you know adding.  He can easily do Calculus but can’t remember how to multiply fractions.  Collin is detailed and methodical and is just naturally good at math.  Caileigh struggles with math but because she has goals that require math, works really hard at it.  When she doesn’t get something, she buckles down and keeps at it until she does.  I believe that we should always have two math curriculums going at all times as they help cement, review,  and introduce  topics differently and I find great value in that.  So, depending on the child we use a combination of Life of FredThinkwell and Art of Problem Solving.  I will honestly say that math is one subject that I am more than willing to hand over to either the video course of Thinkwell or Art of Problem Solving or the online classes of Art of Problem Solving.  However, I am currently doing LOF Geometry with Caileigh.  When I say doing, I mean doing every single problem and comparing notes as Caileigh needs someone to do it with her.  I will either be stronger for this or dead.  It’s still a toss up.

Whew!  I think I will have to write another day on electives.

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