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.

***full disclosure*** there are affiliate links and reward programs on this page.  All of these are items that we actually use. I am trying to make this blog pay for itself or even pay for a portion of the cost.

Wisdom and Foolishness

Summer is a terrific time to read Proverbs and work on character training.  I love that God gave us His Word to guide us in raising our kids.  Throughout the years reading and memorizing Proverbs have held us in good stead.  This is another old post but a good reminder for us all.

I have been reading Ted Tripp’s new book, “Instructing a Child’s Heart”. My poor children, I read a book and then they have new training. It’s a wonder they don’t sit down and cry each time they see me with a new parenting book. Anyway, Mr. Tripp was writing about the difference between wisdom and foolishness. He mentioned a verse in Proverbs which started me off on a hunt in Proverbs. I decided that I would read a different verse to the kids each morning to help remind them that they have a choice in how they respond to instruction – with wisdom or with foolishness. I challenged them to think about what they would rather be known by, their wisdom or their foolishness. I told them that I would use those words when I saw either behavior in them.

So far we have read,

Proverbs 1:77 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 9:7He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
9Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
We did have a brief talk about who they took instruction from and that we need to be wise in those decisions as well, but that they have a choice in taking instruction to heart whether in school or in everyday life. Our children can choose to be fools or to be wise boys and girls – oh and that appropriate consequences follow each decision.  Caileigh does NOT like to be told that she is making foolish decisions so she made much better choices yesterday! I don’t think the boys like it either but they weren’t near as vocal about it.


“Let me fry you an egg”…

****Throwback post ***** I still find this advice invaluable.  This year, with Caileigh on all of her different medications which really affected her, I needed to be aware of giving a her a break when necessary.  Taking a moment away from the emotions can also really help to diffuse a situation and be able to look at things with clear eyes.

This spring, I heard Susan Wise Bauer of the Well Trained Mind, speak at the Midwest Homeschool Convention on the things that her parents did really right and did not do as well. One of the things that caught my attention was how her Mom dealt with melt-downs. We all have them and sometimes, our kids have them. This is different than continual whining or complaining which needs to be disciplined. This is the, “I just can’t seem to get control and I know I’m in the wrong but I just can’t do it” melt down. All three of my kids had one of these today. I knew it was coming because we are three weeks into school and hadn’t had one yet so we were due. Susan Wise Bauer’s mom, Jessie, used to ask her kids, ” Do you need a sandwich? A walk? A shower or do you need to take a nap?” when they were in the midst of a melt-down. Growing up, my dad used to ask if he could “fry you an egg”. Either way, sometimes we need to take a moment and help our kids learn to handle these melt-downs. Taking care of our physical needs can sometimes put a screeching halt in these melt-downs.

For younger elementary kids, tell them “We need to get self-control over our emotions and then we’ll take a break for a minute” Maybe go outside and run around for a couple of minutes and then get them a snack and try school again. For older kids, ask them to get self-control and allow them to go to their rooms to do that if needed, have them take a walk or a run, have a snack and maybe move on to another subject for awhile and then hit the hard subject after a bit. Connor often needs a walk outside and success at something else then he can look at the subject with a clear head.  Don’t forget to give them a hug and let them know that it’ll be okay.

I found this to work well on hard discipline days too. Sometimes we just need to break the cycle and get control.  A step away from the emotions can often be exactly what we need to calm the situation.

I needed a nap today. Caileigh needed a hug and a snack, Collin needed a hug and to play with Holly and Connor needed to go to his room then switch to something different for a bit. We all made it and school ended on a successful and positive note. Whew!




STEM Activities for Girls

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Caileigh and I just finished a Girls in STEAM Camp for our Robotics Team.  I was so proud of Caileigh as she designed, planned and then taught a camp of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities that were also Artistic for girls in upper Elementary.  It was a wonderful camp and the girls learned so much and had so much fun.  One of the things that I heard from several of the Moms was that they were so thankful for an all girl camp of these subjects because these girls are usually surrounded by boys doing boy type of activities in these subjects.  The girls enjoyed the all the color, the pretty flowers and that they could still be girly while also being scary smart.  One Mom remarked that it had been so hard to find a place for her daughter to belong.  That is one of the joys of homeschooling.  My girl didn’t know that she was unusual or that she had different interests than most girls.  She was and is free to be the amazing girl that God designed her to be.

All kids, girls and boys, need to be introduced to STEM activities while they are little.  Science is amazing and the design and care that God took shows in things like math are awe inspiring.  However, the tendency is just to get boys building or engineering toys. One because many of the toys are packaged for boys and sometimes because our girls aren’t naturally drawn to them.  However, I think we need to be purposeful in introducing those topics


We were browsing in one of our favorite toy stores today and came across some new books and activities designed for girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and I was so excited about them that I not only wanted to share them with you but also put on mu to buy list for the girls in our life for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.

Structuring High School

Spend some time with your teen dreaming and talking about their dreams and plans for life after high school. We need to be realistic but we also need to make sure we are planning for whatever plans God has planned for our kids. We need to spend some time with our teens talking about their goals and aspirations and helping them to see what is possible.

I personally think that we should plan for college. Even if your kids don’t end up going to college, the academic foundation that you can give them now will hold them in good stead all their lives. Not to mention that I am seeing and consulting with far too many parents and students who didn’t plan for college and in the student’s Junior or Senior year they changed their mind and end up desperately scrambling. It is much harder to play catch up than to plan for it in the first place. I also believe that we, as parents, need to be vision casting for our kids that all things are possible with God and we need to be planning for as many eventualities as possible. I hope my kids get married but if that’s not something that God has for them, my boys need to know how to cook, clean and do their own laundry. If my daughter doesn’t get married, she needs to be able to maintain a car, mow the lawn and have a job that can support her. I work hard at preparing my kids for whatever God may have them so that when that day comes that God asks them to follow Him, they can feel as confident as possible in their abilities. My job is to prepare them as well as I can and that includes planning for the possibility of college. Far better to be over prepared than to be under prepared.

Start planning by finding out what your child needs to get into college.  

Most colleges want to see at least –

3 years of Math (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry) STEM majors need 4 years, if possible through Calculus.

4 years of English

2 Lab Sciences (Biology and Chemistry) STEM majors need at least 3, if not 4. Physics if possible and and Advanced or AP class.

2-3 years of Foreign Language. Colleges generally like to see all the years in the same language.

2 years of History. 1 needs to be US History

1 Semester of Government

1 Semester of Economics


If my child is going to be a STEM major, they need 4 years years of math and preferably, Calculus. Working backwards looks like this:

STEM Majors need 4 years, preferably Calculus.

12th – Calculus

11th- Trig and Pre- Calc

10th- Geometry

9th – Alg 2

8th – Alg 1

7th – Pre- Algebra

By working from what they need in College, you can easily figure out what courses they need in high school.

Carnegie Credit

Per its original definition, the Carnegie Unit is 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year at the secondary (American high school) level. Strictly speaking, this breaks down into a single one-hour meeting, on each of five days per week for a total of 24 weeks per year. However, knowing that classes usually meet for 50 minutes yields a value of 30 weeks per year. A semester (one-half of a full year) earns 1/2 a Carnegie Unit.[1]

To graduate, most students need between 20 – 22 credits

To have a General College Prep High school students need 24- 28 credit

For a Rigorous College Prep High School students should have 26 – 30 credits

***For a good breakdown on this you can goto the HSLDA website to print out their brochure on Homeschooling Through High School


I can give you a general idea of what colleges want but I highly recommend that you visit different colleges websites to see what each college wants to see in a high school graduate and then what they want for scholarship applicants. I had quite the spreadsheet when my kids were in 7th and 8th grade which helped me prep for high school. As Yogi Berra said, “Know where you are going so you don’t end up somewhere else.”  

Picking Electives

My kids usually have 6 main credits a year (Bible, History, English, Math, Science and Foreign Language) and then 2-3 electives and 2 extra credits.

We have our kids take atleast 2 years of Physical Education, in our case Karate because I feel much better with all of my kids well versed in self-defense.  We also have them take atleast 2 years of music or music theory and atleast 1 of art or art appreciation.  It is important to us that our kids be well rounded and have a foundational knowledge of the fine arts.  We believe that they bring much joy and beauty into life and want to encourage our kids in those outlets. 

Health is an elective we take, generally only .5 credits and includes nutrition and good habits.  Many of the electives we have our kids take are less about the academics and more about training our kids the best we can for adulthood.  We also have them take atleast 1.5 years of Logic and a year of Philosophy as we are training them to think and to be prepared for the world around them.

We have our kids also pick electives that they are passionate about, things like computer programming, art history, psychology, C.S.  Lewis Literature,  Guitar, Piano Composition etc. 

Since our kids were young, they were allowed to pick 2 extra curricular activities.  They have been everything from Bible Bowl, Robotics, Irish Dance, to Soccer, and Baseball. As these are extra curricular, if they don’t have all of their school work done by a certain time, they don’t go.  School is their priority and everything else is dependent on their school work.

This year, the twins 9th grade year looked like this –

Old Testament Survey – 1 credit

Honors Ancient History – 1 credit

Honors English 1 – 1 credit

Algebra II (Collin) – 1 credit

Geometry (Caileigh) – 1 credit

Honors Chemistry – 1 credit

Spanish 1 -1 credit

Intermediate Music Theory – 1 credit 

Formal Logic – .5 credits

Karate – .5 credits

That gives them a total of 8 credits for their Freshman year.  If they continue with 8 credits a year, they will have 32 credits which puts them in range for Highly Selective Colleges. 

***Just a note, not all kids can or should take this hefty of a load.  You must meet your kids where they are at, and as I have said many times, each student should have an individualized path based on their goals, abilities and strengths.  My kids are strong academically but have weaknesses in other areas.  God creates each child and has a wonderful plan for each of them and they should be encouraged in that path and not made to fit in to a one size fits all mode. I can’t sew, knit, crochet or embroider but what I can do is teach, speak and plan curriculum. I would love to do all those beautiful crafts and I so appreciate those who can, but I am going to be content with who God made me to be. We must help our kids be who God made them to be, we strengthen their strengths and help them to overcome their weaknesses not try to fit them into a mold they weren’t created to fit into.  Someone once tried to fit me into a crafty, domestic mold because they thought that’s what Godly young women should be and I managed to break a very expensive sewing machine, horribly burn myself, made me question my entire existence and the apron that took me 40 hours to make, remake and remake again fell apart in the first washing. Many were very concerned (including me) that I would not make a very good wife and mother.  After 20 years of marriage, 3 kids and a house that is mostly clean, I realize that there is no one size fits all.  Don’t do that to yourself or your kids. Train up a child in the way THEY should go…

Weighted and Unweighted GPAs

I know many are going to ask how I define Honors classes and what does that mean? According to the College Board, Honors courses are tailored for high achieving students, covering additional topics and are in greater depth. They are not necessarily AP courses which must be approved by the College Board, although many of our Honors courses are designed to prepare for the AP test.  I plan an Honors course by take the average credit worthy class of 120-150 hours to take 30 hours longer and adds more books and workload. For instance, to take our curriculum’s English course and make it an Honors English class, I doubled the writing projects and added 10 more books to their readings.

Weighted Transcripts and Unweighted Transcripts

When determining a student’s GPA ( Grade Point Average) each letter grade is given a corresponding number. A= 4, B=3, C= 2, D=1 and F=0. If my student had  4 As, 3 Bs and 1 C (this pains me to type as if my student got a C, they would be redoing the course for mastery) which is a total of 8 credits.  I would add the numerical values of the letters which is 27 and divide by the 8 courses to get an average, or GPA of 3.38. This is an unweighted GPA.

Honors or AP courses are weighted differently. A = 5, B = 4, C = 3, D = 2 and F = 1.  Using the previous example the weighted GPA would be 4.38. You must know both and probably have a transcript reflecting both as some schools want unweighted and some want weighted.  Connor got an extra $10,000 in scholarships because I could easily send the school his weighted transcript.

Character and Academics Matter

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 except 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.

I Love Homeschooling 

Pathos.com – Notes at the End of a Long School Year

Hmmm, I have some mixed emotions about this blog.  First, I really want to take this Mom to tea.  She sounds exhausted, as we all are, at the end of a School year.  I know, personally, how hard homeschooling can be.  It is hard, it is draining, no question about it. However, it is my favorite thing to do and I love it.  Not every moment of every day do I love  but for the vast majority of my days and overall, I completely love it.

I also understand what the author is trying to say about the world. The world is a scary place but so was the world when I was homeschooled 25 years ago. We were facing the Iraqi war, terrorism was beginning to effect the world and the economy was in bad shape.  During WWI and WWII the world was a scary place, during the Reformation or in Ancient Rome, the world was a scary place.  We should not base how we happy we are or the joy in our home on how scary the world is.

Homeschooling is hard and the pressure to make sure our kids are learning what they need to know is huge.  It feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.  However, I do my homework, we write our achievable goals, research the best curriculum and we step in and work hard at it.  We work hard, we are diligent and we give it to God. I do my part, make it my priority after my relationship with God and my husband, and then I let God do His part. I actually do feel confident in what we do with our kids and I don’t have a teaching degree or a Master’s in Education, I am just a Mom who works really hard at it. I think we can feel confident in what we are doing with the understanding that no one’s perfect, except Jesus, and my kids are not going to be super stars in everything and I don’t expect that.   I find that if I keep my eyes on God and what we are doing, refrain from comparing myself to others and keep realistic expectations, I stay pretty confident.

I think that if we surround ourselves with people who also keep God in the center of their lives and we can help and support each other in this crazy life and can keep a good sense of humor, we’ll be fine. The majority of my Homeschool friends are also pretty happy and confident in the job they are doing.  We help each other and provide a listening ear when necessary. 

I am going to go out on a limb and say that we can have those idyllic Homeschool days.  Maybe not every day.  Some days may be  a ‘terrible, horrible, no-good’ Homeschool day.  If we have a plan, keep a schedule, keep up with our academics then on that horrible day we can just snuggle in, have a cookie and just read our read aloud that day. I think if we plan something fun everyday, even a little craft or a fun snack, and keep our outside commitments to a reasonable amount then we can find joy in our school.  It is possible and I want to strive for that. 

Breaking the Pattern

There are times in parenting that I wonder about the feasibility of a certain child still being around by the time they are 18.  Sometimes I wonder if I will survive.  We can have weeks of great behavior and then, bam!, we are in a horrible pattern and every day is painful and horrific.  Nothing they say or I say or do is right.  At times like these, homeschooling seems like more of a liability as there is no way we can get away from each other and have a little distance.  Everything becomes a challenge, school, chores, meals – everything.  What’s a Mom to do other than join a traveling circus?

When I hit one of these patches with my kids, there are a couple of things I have learned to do to break the pattern.

1. Pick your battle!  Keep the most important thing the most important thing.  Pick the battle that you are going to go down on and then let everything else go.  I generally pick first time obedience or respect, in deed and tone, to be the battles I am willing to go down on.  The fact that they are wearing holey jeans to church or that they left their piano bag in the car or haven’t done their hair today, may not be the most important thing  and I may need to let it go so that we can focus on the bigger battle.  Let your child know what your main expectation for them is, and then clearly outline positive consequences for meeting these expectations are, as well as what discipline will be used when they fail to meet these expectations.  Make them clear so that there is no question about what will be done, then be consistent on both positive and negative consequences.

2.  Remind them that you love them, unconditionally!  Say it, say it, and say it again.  Know their love language and show them in no uncertain terms that your love never wavers no matter what conflict you are in.  Little notes telling them of your love, a special treat or just a long snuggle on the couch depending on your child’s love language are effective ways of showing your love.

3.  Say something positive!  When I was a teenager, my Stepmom made a concerted effort to say something positive each and every day no matter how big the conflict was and trust me, they were plenty huge.  She might only say, “I like the outfit you picked today, you look beautiful” as I left to go to school but it made a huge difference.  Don’t let your child leave the house or go to bed without something positive along with an, “I love you no matter what!”.

4.  Spend more time with your child, not less. I have often found that by spending more time with the child I am in conflict with, the battle fizzles out pretty quickly.  I may take this child with me to the grocery store, out to lunch or just hang out in their room.  After the tension has let up, which may take three or four outings, I can then ask them what is really going on and I may find out that someone is teasing them at church or they are embarrassed to ask a question or they reveal they are really struggling with something in their faith. Then we can really get to the heart of the matter and start fixing things.  To get to this point though, I really need to give them a quantity of my undivided time before I get to quality time.  Sometimes I realize that they just need me to be available and as my kids get older, this becomes so much more important.  I find that hang out time in their rooms before bed has become really important to do once or twice a week.  It’s amazing what confidences they give me in hang out time in their room.

5. Be honest.  At times, I have had to say that their behavior is hurting my feelings or that I am really not feeling well so I may not react in the best way right now.  This kind of honesty usually softens all of our hearts and the tension level drops.

6.  Be willing to say sorry.  There have been times that I haven’t handled a situation well and I need to say, “I am sorry for yelling, please forgive me” or “I am taking this personally, and I shouldn’t, I am sorry.”  When I take respinsibility for my part in the conflict, they are more willing to take responsibility for theirs.

We all have times of conflict but a family is the best place to learn how to deal with them.


Why Homeschool High School?

Anyone who is thinking about homeschooling their High School student feels nauseous, frightened, and more than a little worried.  Seriously, anyone in their right mind would.  It’s downright scary.  Now it matters.  If you, as the parent, mess up now, it will permanently affect your kid’s future. No pressure.  

The temptation is to homeschool during the younger years and then put them into a more traditional school setting during high school because high school can seem so daunting.  It matters now because I need to G35C2270have a transcript and each class needs to be creditworthy.  I know when my oldest was in 7th grade I went to the convention and went to every class on preparing for high school.  I started noticing that there was a small herd of us that seemed to be going to all the same classes.  Finally, I asked the person next to me what grade their child was in and the whole room of us realized that we were all parents of students that were going into 7th or 8th grade and we were all terrified of making a mistake. It actually made me feel a lot better to see a whole room of parents that were as nervous as I was.  Now 7 years later, I can tell you that it was a good idea to prepare then, but I didn’t need to have so much fear.  My kids are thriving in high school and indeed, beyond into college.  It has been worth every sleepless night, every panicked call to my best friend, every hour spent on their transcripts to see who they are becoming and how they are stepping in to God’s path for them.

In High School you finally reap the benefits of all those other years of homeschooling.  I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my kids and the high school years are when you start to reap the benefits.  I never thought I could say this with a straight face but high school has been a wonderful blessing and some absolutely great years.  There are some real quantifiable benefits to homeschool through High School.

  • Better Academics – Just as in the younger years, in High School we can tailor a child’s education.  We can meet them where they are and that will show in their test scores.  They are also more likely to attend college.  Statistically, 76% of homeschool students had taken college courses versus 46% of the same age group of 18 – 24 years olds.
  • In 1999 Stanford University accepted 27% of homeschooled applicants which was twice the acceptance rate of publicly and privately schooled students.
  • MIT states on their webpage that, ” they have a long history of admitting homeschooled students and these students are successful and vibrant members of our community.”
  • Studies show that in testing, homeschooled students score significant higher than either their public or private schooled peers. If these stats don’t convince you that you can provide an academically strong education through High School, I dont know what will. National Home Education Research Institue
  • Biblically Strong – The ability to mentor and disciple our children.  After high school graduation, homeschooled students are statistically shown to internalize the values and beliefs of their parents.  We spend two years reading and studying through the entire Bible so we know what God’s Word says and then we spend the next two years studying Worldviews, Apologetics and learning how to answer challenges to our faith.  We study philosophy and psychology and learn to be Bereans by taking every theory and testing it against what the Bible says.  We study Logic and Rhetoric so that we have the skills to defend our faith.  We work hard to develop habits like everyday Bible reading, daily prayer, accountability and keeping fellowship with others so that when our kids leave home they know how to and have practiced the habits that help them to keep their faith strong.  We are so blessed that homeschooling has allowed to spend this kind of dedicated time to disciple our kids while still having time to give them a strong academic foundation.
  • The ability to help your child find and develop their passions.  How To Be a High School SuperstarDo Hard Things and Start Here are three books that changed our homeschool and allowed Connor to follow his passions through high school and are now helping Caileigh and Collin to do the same.  I know I talk about this often but I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about it.  My kids are learning who God made them to be and to follow His leading in their lives now.  Get these books and read them now before you even start planning the academics.  
  • The time to Volunteer – We have told our kids that they must accumulate a total of 100 hours of Volunteer hours to graduate from our High School.  Volunteering has helped our kids start changing the world now.  Our teens need to know that they can change the world around them right now.  It helps them to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  It helps them to follow James’ mandate in James 1:22, “ But prove yourselves doers of the Word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  We require our kids to pick a place to serve in church by the time they are in 7th grade.  It’s an easy place to start, most churches desperately need the help and they can serve alongside us.  My kids, depending on their interests, have done sound, manned the computer, helped in the toddlers class, led small groups, cleaned up the church grounds etc.  Once they get in High School our kids have branched out.  Connor taught STEM classes to kids around the country via the internet, flew to California and taught kids in inner city LA and has moderated and mentored kids in the SCRATCH community.  Connor volunteered more than 100 hours in the summer between his Jr and Sr year alone.  ( One of the unexpected benefits of this was major scholarships because of his dedicated volunteer work ) Caileigh mentors a group of third grade girls during our churches Princess Classes.  She helps to teach and shows them what modesty and purity really look like.  The 20 minutes she spends with those girls are far more powerful than anything I say.  Collin co-leads a weekly small group of 4th and 5th grade boys.  Those two teen boys who lead that group of rowdy boys are a Godsend and are changing the lives of those 15 kids.  The twins also volunteer through their Robotics team teaching STEM camps, deliver meals and this fall I think we, as a family, will lead a First Lego League team.  We need to teach our kids to the value of volunteering while they are young.  Now, the downside to all of this is that I have to drive them to all of these things but I can see the growth in my kids and the lifelong learning they are getting so I am willing to step into that.
  • One of the real benefits that I didn’t expect, was the fact that my kids have had the freedom to be who they have been created to be.  They have had very minimal “peer pressure” to fit into a certain mold.  I have a College student who confidently wears bow ties, composes beautiful piano pieces, has spoken at conferences around the world and still likes to Geek out about the newest Rebels cartoon with his siblings.  I have a daughter who dyes her hair blue in support of her Robotics team, draws beautifully, can program,  plays the guitar so sweetly, can wield power tools and still loves to play with her 4 year old cousin.  Collin confidently teaches 15 boys a week, can machine a part, consistently wins the “Most Christlike” award at Bible Bowl but can also wipe the floor with his Dad on video games.  They are happy to be who they are and are confident in that.  I don’t see that same freedom in most kids in more traditional school settings.  That is a huge benefit in my mind.  They are in the world but not of the world.  They are not isolated but they have been protected from the worst of peer pressure until they are old enough and mature enough to handle it appropriately.


I know the thought of homeschooling through High School is daunting but the benefits are so very worth it.  In the next couple of weeks, I will get into the nitty gritty of structuring and planning along with a list of my favorite resources, but I feel like the first place to start is the benefits and motivations of homeschooling through high school. It’s so very worth it, if I can survive it both as a graduate of homeschool and now as a parent of a homeschool graduate, you can too!

Make sure you have read Middle School Vision Casting and Passion led High School!